Founded by Barnaby Carder (Barn the Spoon) and Robin Wood, Spoonfest, is an international gathering of spoon carvers, held annually at a basecamp nestled between the hills at the gateway to the Pennines in Edale, Derbyshire.
Why spooncarving? Is this just a quirky hobby of folk with too much time on their hands? Or is something else taking place? As was heard in moving testimonies and shared stories at last year’s gathering, this mindful craft offers many other benefits: the concentration and focus required to safely and deftly use a hand axe and knives- creating a meditative flow, building hand-intelligence and calming a restless mind; attention to the human-production of a simple utilitarian object; the surrounding supportive and encouraging community; co-operation and gentle competition to create more beautiful spoons; the sharing, the gifting, the links with woodlands, the natural world and nourishment in all its forms. Connection and community, production more than consumption, a counter to balance the weight of the modern world.
There is a recognition within the world of health, that we are suffering in many ways from the driving effects of commerce and industrialisation and that a more creative and holistic approach is needed to address the resulting rise in dis-ease. The NHS is encouraging a pivot towards more ‘social prescribing’ : supporting patients to rediscover their potential and agency through engagement in meaningful activities: making things, gardening, growing food, being in the natural world; building more personal and interpersonal resilience through working together.
We are delighted that the medical world recognises other productive and creative ways to health in addition to traditional treatments and procedures.
We as spoon carvers have always known the benefits of what we do. We call it “going into the spoon zone”… even with a group of carvers… silence settles…this happens because the tools are dangerously sharp and many decisions must be continually made when working with greenwood. Is it resistant? does it yield to your intentions? How does the grain grow, straight or twisted? what form will it take? what sort of spoon… for the mouth, the pot or the honey jar?
In the making, a transformation happens; from the tree to a spoon, an embodiment of an idea, something to hold and use and more significantly, an object that can reflect back the good and healthy part of its creator. It is powerful and restorative and when it works it is like magic.
Much discussion about mental health is about talking.. as help and cure…. and little is spoken about making and doing. We spoon carvers know that recovery and improvement can be rapid with engagement in a garden or woodland. Talking is often difficult and impossible for some, but with the earth, a seed, a plant, a tree, some greenwood, the relationship is uncomplicated; familiar and ancient.
We are a community of spoon carvers, we enjoy carving together, sharing ideas and reaching across boundaries
This exhibition arises as a collaboration between Spoonfest, the work of Barn the Spoon, Deborah Schneebeli- Morrell, artist and spooncarver, Daniela Sikora (Gardener for the British Medical Association) and Dr. Jane Myat, GP and founder of the Listening Space, a social prescribing project based at a busy London general practice. The exhibition opened at the British Medical Association’s Chelsea Fringe Event 2019 and was well received at Spoonfest 2019.