Artisan Tom Fallick carves each individual spoon by hand, using a process more ancient than the wood itself. From a wooden hut near Thorness Bay, on the Isle of Wight, without the mod-cons such as running water and electricity, it’s a paired-back and organic lifestyle, and one which Tom describes as perfectly suited “to explore the art of spoon carving”. He describes the move across the Solent as a very positive experience, which allowed him to recognise and appreciate the “little things in life that are easy to take for granted”. Spoons may be small and unassuming objects but nevertheless they require a lot of time and care to become hand-made things of beauty.
It was the ability to create something both functional and beautiful which drew Tom to the craft in the first place. Tom uses reclaimed wood, which is mostly sourced from a local boat builder and a local joiner. They are kind enough to give him plenty of offcuts from which Tom is able to make a lot many spoons. “I also source some wood from online auction sites when I want something specific. My favourite wood varies a lot, but at the moment it has to be black walnut.”
The natural world is also a great source of inspiration for Tom and a way to overcome creative blocks. “When I find myself in a mental block about which way to turn with a new project, a walk in our local forest always puts me back on track”. Fellow artisans and makers also provide him with inspiration and he has a great appreciation for the quality of their work. And furthermore, Tom says “I never cease to be inspired by improvement, nothing spurs me on more than the knowledge that I can do something better, once a new idea comes into my head, I just have to try it out!”
Tom’s respect for nature extends from his woodcarving, into his day to day living and his family’s approach of taking each day as it comes and “treading gently on the earth”. As Tom grew up he yearned for a more simple way of life. He increasingly found himself spending his down time “being out in nature walking and running or being creative”. When he met his wife Hollie, they both “clicked” on their ideas of how life should be lived.
When they were first married, they moved to the Isle of Wight and lived totally off grid in a beach hut.
“We were without access to the simple things that we all take for granted. We learned to listen to what our hearts told us we needed, to find beauty in the little things”.
“That really set the scene for us for the kind of life we want to live, and ever since then we have tried to incorporate aspects of that lifestyle into every day, how we raise our children and make our life’s decisions.”
During the first lockdown, in May 2020, Tom set himself the challenge to document an attempt to make a spoon only using tools that are in an average household, and challenge others to give it a try through his shop’s Instagram. His chosen tools were a Stanley knife, a drill, sandpaper and a saw. The wood itself was an oak branch from their garden.
“I had been contacted by so many people during lockdown who were looking to give spoon carving a go. I wanted to think of a way to make it super accessible to everyone, and that’s how the idea for the lockdown spoon challenge started. It was great to see what people were able to make! It can be tricky to make a spoon with what’s lying around the house, but as long as you have some sort of knife, a bit of determination, and access to some wood you are good to go!”
Not only did Tom see an accessible way to introduce this ancient craft to new people, but also pointed out on his Instagram, the importance of being creative for mental health and wellbeing.
So what is Tom’s advice for the people who have acquired a taste for spoon carving whilst taking part in the Lockdown Spoon Challenge, or those who just feel inspired to give it a go?
“Don’t be put off by failures, you will ruin a lot of spoons on your journey and have a lot of frustrations on the way, but as long as you learn from those experiences, you will improve. Also practice, practice, practice, with something like spoon carving which is so much about muscle memory, it really will be the time you spend carving that makes the difference.”
Visit Tom’s Instagram and you will find plenty of advice, perfect for those wishing to learn more about the art of wood carving. He happily shares specialist insight into ‘spoon care’, essential wood carving tools and wood drying on his platform’s Instagram Highlights. It is also incredibly satisfying and rewarding to watch his carving process on Reels.
“There is nothing quite like the feeling when you are making a spoon and you see it transform in your hands from a block of wood to a beautiful, functional object; pure joy!”.