This Designer Has Carved a Spoon Every Day For a Year

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By Alex Ronan / Published by Dwell
For almost a year now, Stian Korntved Ruud has set aside some time each day to carve a wooden spoon.

The Norwegian designer, who has interned with Tom Dixon and shown work around the world, settled on the project to explore the organic qualities of wood and improve his skill. He told us why he picked spoons as a subject, what it’s like to come up with 365 different designs for such a simple utensil, and how much he’s learned along the way.

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“I’m getting close to the end, which is sad, but also exciting. I’ve been posting all my spoons on Instagram so people can follow along with my progress.”

How did you settle on spoons as a subject?

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“This spoon explores how seamless a transition from bowl to handle can be. It’s made of walnut and took me about an hour to complete.”

It was important to me to choose an object that everyone could relate to. The spoon has a pure simple function and has a practical size. It’s also easy to come by wood blanks in this size, so I knew I’d be able to experiment with lots of different kinds of wood.

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“Apple wood is nice to carve; it’s soft when fresh. The shape of this one is controlled by the tree’s growth pattern. It took a lot of sanding.”

What’s your daily process like?

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“Sometimes I have a idea and find a type of wood that fits the shape. Otherwise, I draw for a specific type of wood to accentuate a property. This handle exploration was made with apple wood.”

I often make a spoon before I leave the workshop/studio at Carl Berner in Oslo, once I’ve finished my work. A spoon often starts with a sketch from the subway trip home the evening before. I definitely don’t always succeed on the first try, so a sketch often results in several spoons. I also find twisted pieces of wood where the design is implicit. They seem to make themselves; I just follow the grains and patterns.

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“Growing up in Norway with a Scandinavian heritage has influenced me. This project focuses on function and material exploration rather than decoration. Honest use of materials is important to me.”

One of the original intentions of the project was to enhance my woodcarving skills. I still mainly use handheld tools in order to actively cooperate and interact with the material. In modern industrial production, the machines overwrite the natural growth patterns of wood. When using manual hand tools, I collaborate with the wood during the forming process. That underpins the uniqueness of each spoon.

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“Made of Douglas pine, this one is shaped, burned, and brushed with a steel brush to remove the soft parts of the wood and emphasize the wide growth rings.”

How long does it take to make each spoon?

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“This one happened pretty quickly. I turned it on a lathe and then carved it. I’ll miss making spoons every day, but it’ll be nice to have my free time back.”

It takes anywhere from half an hour to three. It really depends on how complex the shape is, if it needs to be sanded, and if everything goes according to plan. Honestly, I thought that it would take less time the further in the project I got, but the result is almost the opposite.

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“The bowl is apple wood and the handle is cherry. I’ve been pushing myself to improve my skill in joinery.”

Do you ever worry that you'll run out of spoon ideas before you hit 365?

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“I gather most of the wood myself, so I also have the opportunity to carve in fresh wood and see how the properties changes in the drying process. This handle is Caoba wood from Nicaragua. It was actually donated by my aunt.”

Not really. No spoon is perfect, so there is always room for improvement. Some of the most enjoyable moments have come when I had a specific shape idea and then the spoon manifests itself as something totally different but even better.

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“I love this maple wood one. I was playing around with the way two half circles could morph together almost seamlessly.”

You're now nearing the end. Do you have a favorite spoon?

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“When working with a new type of wood, I usually try to make a basic spoon to get a feel for how it behaves. This ash wood spoon was steam bent. It took an hour and a few failed attempts.”

No favorite, but I do like some more than others. 

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