Barn the Spoon
19 March 2014
On a typical day, Barnaby Carder can be found carving, positioned in the window of his shop on the Hackney Road in London; "I really didn't think I would like having a shop" he says, "but I adore it. Though I miss waking up in the woods terribly," he adds, "that's the only compromise I am struggling with."
Barn, better known as Barn the Spoon, has been carving with wood for almost two decades. After apprenticing under Mike Abbott at Living Wood, in Worcester, England, Barn spent three years traveling throughout the United Kingdom, sleeping in the woods, hitchhiking from town to town and carving spoons which he sold on the street.
Today, encircled by an ever-growing pile of wood shavings, he most often carves while chatting with friends and passers-by. He is both candid about his obsession with spoons and whimsically apologetic for the way he rambles on about them. "I'm a massive cynic, but spoons are cool. I really believe in them," he enthuses.
His aim is not aesthetic veneration however, rather he works to create tools that will become part of everyday life - to be held in the hand and used to stir dough or flip pancakes. "I hate when people think my spoons are too worthy to actually use," he says.
Barn's love for spoons in particular, stems from their unmistakable utility and ubiquity as a domestic object. In celebration of their pure functionality, Barn creates designs that display a deep understanding of material, technique and form. His spoons embody thoughtful design, devoted craftsmanship and beautifully executed utilitarianism - although his approach is not rarefied. He regularly offers carving classes to anyone interested in leaning the skill and is easy and forthcoming with his knowledge.
Transferring his woodland experience to a city setting, Barn has brought woodworking to a new audience and shown it to be an open access, democratic form of making. His chosen material - local wood - is both easy to find and to work with, and his tools - a knife and axe - are easily procured and handled.
For Barn, carving spoons is a gateway to a greater understanding and appreciation of trees and, more generally, of nature. "In my opinion you will never be able to create something out of wood that is more beautiful than the tree it came from," he describes, but, when working with wood, "one is not trying to 'outdo' what was there before, but rather to highlight and impart a feeling or message."
The message that Barn's work seems to passionately impart, is that through working with ones hands, in harmony with raw materials, it is possible to build a greater relationship with the natural world around us.
Find out more about Barn, his shop and his evening classes at http://barnthespoon.blogspot.co.uk/
Barn's first wood carving kit, How to Make a Spatula, was created in partnership with SMP CoLab and is available below.
The accompanying instructional film, commissioned by SMP and made by Sapphire Goss of Planet Caravan, shows Barn in action and is an essential companion to anyone attempting the spatula project.
Images by Robin Mellor & Sapphire Goss