Spoon making has a long tradition all over the world, with different regions tending to produce quite distinctive output. On local shores, Brisbane’s ‘spoon scene’ is thriving! We’re pretty sure that woodworker, Carol Russell, has something to do with that. As well as hand carving her own spoons and bowls, Carol runs regular workshops to share her skills with others.
Once a self-confessed ‘machinery girl’ focused on producing furniture, Carol Russell has recently simplified her woodworking practice. She now uses hand tools almost exclusively to carve small batches of spoons and bowls, working out of her home workshop in Windsor.
‘Spoons feel warm to me,’ explains Carol. ‘They are a common, often unnoticed item. If made well though, they can evoke real emotion in people. I love that a spoon is a simple, useful kitchen tool that has its origins in a forest, and can be passed down through the generations of a family.’
Carol draws much inspiration from the forest landscapes of Australia: ‘Every terrain has its own timber that reflects the local landscape, be it the vibrant desert timbers, or the lush rainforest species. Each timber has its own nature.’ Growing up in the late ’60s and ’70s amid the vibrant craft movement of Launceston, Tasmania, Carol spent lots of time exploring the local forests with her family. Upon finishing school, she joined the crew of a yacht sailing north to New Guinea. But she disembarked early on Queensland’s southern beaches and made her way to Brisbane instead.
Here she gravitated toward the local craft scene. ‘I met a woodworker who showed me how to make a Shaker-style table, and it was like a magic trick being revealed.’ She honed her craft working with traditional cabinet makers, antique restorers and old school craftspeople in all sorts of factories and workshops. For a time, she also worked for a tool company called Carbatec, where she created their woodworking school and ‘developed wonderful associations with some very fine craftspeople.’
Over time, Carol fell for hand tools, and the idea of making small timber objects with no noise or dust. A friend introduced her to carving spoons, and Carol left her job to develop this personal practice. Carol’s workshop is set up with the requisite tools and machinery, all set up in the undercroft of her Queenslander-style cottage. It is here, amid the wood shavings, that Carol happily carves her wares, either making a small batch of the same shape with slight variations, or making one-off pieces that follow the timber’s grain contours, rather than cutting through them. ‘Following the grain contours will actually make the spoon incredibly strong, and can result in some interesting shapes’ she says. Carol has made many wonderful (and somewhat mind boggling) twisty-handled spoons using this latter approach!
Carol is currently developing her own range of small bowls and platters using traditional techniques with a modern twist, as well as working on spoons for Kara Rosenlund’s new homewares range. To see more of Carol’s spoons and workshop dates, visit her website here.