I am a professional History teacher. Carving spoons, turning bowls and making things in general is what I do for fun. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes this is a bad thing. I mentioned in a recent post that I hadn't carved a spoon for a while and felt out of practice. I've since carved three more in a week and I'm starting to see progress.
Carving in close sucsession helps you to understand the process so much better, the value of repetition in learning anything is obvious, but as an amateur (as opposed to a professional) I don't always get the opportunity to do this. Something that I've noticed about some of my favourite professional craftsmen is that they tend to repeat the same style over and over again. I imagine that this is necessary for a few reasons. Having a limited line of products would make it easier to market and sell rather than photographing and marketing each unique piece, but obviously another benefit is the skills you gain from the repetition involved in production work. This can be another challenge to the amateur. If i'm only going to find the time to carve one spoon this week or make one item, then I'm probably going to want to do something new and original, however this approach can hinder the development of skill. It is hard to learn from mistakes if you don't repeat the task.
I recently read a blog post from Jarrod Stonedahl in which he mentions a new initiative he has set up to widen the market for handmade spoons. His Greenwood Spooncarver's Collective invites fellow spoon carvers to make large numbers of the same spoon from a template. The main object behind this is to produce lots of relatively cheap spoons that can be bought wholesale from retailers. I would love to be involved, but you really need to live in North America with Jarrod for it to be practical, but he also talks about the benefit of production work and how it helps in the development of skill. This made me think about my own spoon carving development.
This is a picture of the first spoon I ever bought. It is one of Jarrod's that I got from the first Spoonfest and is still my favourite. When I got it home I drew around it to make a template and used that to produce the first half decent spoon I'd made. I've since copied it several times in an attempt to get better. As it happened my most recent spoon was also made from this template.
I can't really get involved in Jarrod's collective, but I've decided that if I really want to get better (which I do), Then I need to learn from his idea of production carving. Pick a nice, but relatively easy shape, make a template and repeat it, a lot. I'll let you know how I get on. Check out Jarrod's blog here.