The Artful Wooden Spoon – Joshua Vogel

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The origin of carving predates written history. In fact, early peoples’ carvings have provided the modern record with clues about our ancient beginnings. These artifacts speak for themselves across the millennia. How early people made things and what they made have become the subject of a great amount of modern thought about ourselves and our origins. Pinpointing the very beginning of carving and our relationship with it may well be fruitless (and is also beyond the scope of this book), but further investigating the pursuit of woodcarving and better understanding its origins and employment can only help in the search for answers to the questions that do much to define us today. This supposition is not only the basis of my work and my life’s pursuit, but also suggests that making things by hand is a fundamental part of being human and not simply a contemporary craft movement. Woodcarving is among the earliest of human vocations. And, as with most enduring human practices, woodcarving is multifaceted and deeply rooted across cultures. It is not only a creative expression, but also ultimately functional. Whether wood is carved to create something beautiful, such as for sculpture, or something primarily utilitarian, as in tool making, the craft, both past and present, reflects the warm glow of the creative spirit and carries with it the larger collective genius of the human species. At a glance, an investigation of carving can help describe our relationship to the natural world and the wonderful variety of materials therein. When we use a material, we are bound to the laws of its characteristics. We develop tools and techniques to exploit its virtues and attempt to shape it to match our conceptions. The materials that we choose to use speak volumes about our particular environments at any point
in time. Our fundamental needs food, clothing, and shelter can describe categories of objects that are full of iconic forms that have come to us through our rich woodworking history. There is the spoon and bowl, the loom and spindle, the roof overhead, and even doors, which, simple though they may all be, embody our needs and the history of our humanity. While it may be easy to take some of these items for granted, it is our exploration and re exploration of their forms and cultural significance that makes these objects catalysts for moving forward as well as for better understanding the past.