Occasionally, I will visit a certain well-known internet product retail website and have a read of the customer comments regarding my book, "The Fine Art of Carving Lovespoons". One comment in particular always gives me a good chuckle, even though it is a bit scathing in its condemnation of my artistic abilities. It refers to a couple of my more 'simple' pieces, generally spoons where I have let a particularly beautiful piece of wood do the talking while I stay in the background supplying only a few selective cuts and some elbow grease at polishing time. To my eye, these are some of my most beautiful spoons, to my critic, they are a failure to do something worthwhile with my carving abilities.
The picture to the left is the one that I think is responsible for the largest lashings of my critic's vitriol. As he/she describes it, "it honestly looks like a block of wood." To me it looks like one of the most beautiful pieces of figured broadleaf maple I have had the good fortune to have encountered. Now I'm a pretty good carver, but trust me, there is nothing I could have done to this wood that would have made it any more beautiful than it already is. I put an elegant bowl and a little heart on it and called it a day, content that this was one of my most beautiful lovespoons!
THIS is a perfect example of the adage "Less is more".
Unfortunately, we carvers are an odd lot and many of us are motivated by a desire to be as complicated as possible...we equate complexity and difficulty with beauty and art.
Too often, carving which is 'simple' is looked down on as it is viewed as a failing of the carver's artistic skill and his carving abilities. But it aint easy to make a really simple spoon that looks as beautiful as some of these ones you see here today. I'm not bragging or showing off, but I have to confess that making spoons like these is every bit as difficult as coming up with one of the Celtic knot eye-poppers I am more known for. These spoons are the Stompin' Tom Connor (ZZ Top for my American readers) tunes of the spoon world! They are little 3 chord beauties with a catchy hook and easy to remember lyrics that seem so simple that anyone could do it...but which very few actually can.
Could I do this without many years of experience? Certainly not consistently. I might get the odd lucky bounce and make a good one by accident, but it has taken me long time to learn enough carving and art skills, enough self-confidence and most important, enough restraint to take spoons like this on.
Honestly, these aint no blocks of wood!