Saturday 21 September 2019

Objects of desire

The handmade spoon gives architect Roisin Murphy pause for thought

Wedding spoons, POA, by
Wedding spoons, POA, by

Roisin Murphy

I love my food. But I also want the things I eat with to be as vital and essential as the food on my plate. As an architect and artist, the accessories I've stockpiled over the years have all the usual designer names, Villeroy & Boch, Arne Jacobsen, Muji...

I have lots of coveted second-hand pieces too. A vintage set of bone-handled butter knives. I'm very proud of my classic '70s stainless steel Newbridge knives and forks. And a set of Sabatier knives sit proudly in their kitchen block, never ever having seen the inside of a dishwasher.

Beech spoon set, €150, by
Beech spoon set, €150, by

So up the mountains one day, on a trip to joiner Gerry Farrell, I spied a handmade wooden spoon in his workshop.

It was mesmerising. It had a thick bowl suitable for the proper work of stirring, with a flourish at the end of the handle and a hole for a leather string to hang from a hook in your kitchen. The distinctive feathered strokes of the chisel nibbled out the wood to leave the mark of the maker.

When I asked the price, Gerry said it was his favourite spoon. But eventually we exchanged euros and the beautiful spoon was mine. I hope he made a replacement he felt the same way about.

Provenance - the chain of ownership you might see quoted in an art auction catalogue - is a thing of beauty. And it is just as important in craft.

Medieval eater, €32, by
Medieval eater, €32, by

Design can be expensive. It changes our lives for the better but it can come at a cost to the planet. But there's a shift happening. Now we're more interested in where and how 'things' are made.

Making objects - the slow, careful crafting of a spoon, say - is a thing again. And a thriving community of independent makers in Ireland is developing.

That beautiful wooden spoon sparked an interest for me in the cult of the handmade spoon. I discovered Hewn, set up by 31-year-old eco engineer Eamonn O'Sullivan who fell for a spoon that was gifted to his mother. The maker unrolled his knife holder and showed Eamonn the special angled carvers need to fashion out the spoon bowl.

There is a surprising amount involved in getting the angles and depth just right. Eamonn bought his own knives and taught himself the skill. Now he makes the most spectacular hand-carved range of spoons, butter paddles and bowls and holds carving workshops. And his old day job is long gone.

It helps that like a good knife, his spoons work brilliantly - and are used in Aniar in Galway, and the soon-to-open Aimsir restaurant at Cliff at Lyons. His showstopper is the 'ultimate cooking spoon', which is designed to scrape the bottom of a pot and stir at the perfect angle.

We're waking up slowly to the need to live with less, to buy once and for life. Design like Hewn spoons has intrinsic beauty but it also makes little demand of planet earth. It creates a one-off piece that is for everyday use. Just as graffiti hijacked the art world, taking art to the streets, and making us all owners, the notion that a spoon can be a piece of sculpture, is a strangely democratic one, and a game changer for makers and designers.

And, if after all that, you want to own one, I'm afraid you may have to wait. The spoons are made to order online and only available at Coffeewerks + Press in Galway. What's more, each spoon is unique just as with a piece of art - you're buying into the moment of making.

Buying things for life and saving the planet, one spoon at a time!

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