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"A Gathering of Spoons"

by Norman Stevens

Gathering of Spoons cover

Steve Schmeck

Sue Robishaw

When Steve and I started carving spoons 40 years ago in our small hand-built cabin in the northwoods there was certainly no hint or grain of idea that we would one day be corresponding with and sending spoons (and from Steve, bowls) to one of the top collectors and sincere supporters of artisan wood carvers. When we look at this book and realize anew that each of us has a spoon in its pages (and more importantly, in Norman's collection) along side of this incredible line-up of carvers, well, to say we are honored is an understatement. It is the kind of compliment that sustains anyone working in the world of art and craft and keeps one going forward.

The book has a wonderful introduction and explanation of how the collection came to be from Norman's end. The story is as interesting as the beautiful photos. But for Steve and I (and a handful of other spoon carvers who Norman also knew) it started with a simple email in October of 2005: "I'm looking to acquire up to eighteen wooden teaspoons (OED teaspoon: a small spoon of a size suitable for stirring tea or other beverage in a cup) ... The only requirement I have is that the spoon be 9" long so that I can properly describe the lot as a set."

What a fun idea! I emailed back. A set of spoons to be set on the table when guests arrived -- to be used with their tea and ice cream. That was what came to my mind, being more toward the practical frame of mind and not the collector's. We each chose our wood, Steve a piece of buckthorn a friend from North Dakota had given us and I a piece of wild pear I'd recently pruned from our orchard. Steve's wood cooperated and he made a wonderfully simple, useable thin spoon with a little loop at the end. In spite of the vision in my mind, the wood I chose had other ideas and while the spoon that resulted would be OK for stirring, it wouldn't be much for politely eating your ice cream (why I was thinking of ice cream in the middle of winter I don't know). I went with it anyway, and we sent our spoons off, happy and honored to be included with other spoon carvers as part of this little project.

But it didn't end there for Norman and hundreds of other spoon carvers. Seven years and more than 200 spoons later --  an incredible collection and undertaking -- resulting in this book. Had we but known what company our spoons would be keeping! But I'm glad in many ways that we didn't because we might have carved something different. I'm even more happy that Norman continued with this amazing project and let it grow, then took on the very large commitment of creating and publishing his book. Diversity is essential to life and this representation of Norman's collection shows a snapshot of life that is not only inspiring, it is downright fun, a reflection of the man as much as of the carver's he (and his wife, Nora) have encouraged.

Update February 2016 -- And it hasn't ended yet! The collection now numbers over 350 spoons from carvers around the world. Norman has decided to continue adding spoons from carvers not already represented in his collection. He has also made an agreement with the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts to bequeath to it the collection, related correspondence, and a substantial related book collection. We join the hundreds of other carvers in our appreciation of the incredible gift Norman Stevens has given to the world of spoon carvers and the public.

Buy the Book ...   
     "A Gathering of Spoons" by Norman Stevens was published December 2012 by Linden Publishing. This is a beautiful 8 1/2" x 11" coffee table quality book with over 200 visually stunning photographs by Tib Shaw. We wholeheartedly recommend it (even if our spoons weren't in it!). The book makes a great gift. Buy it from your favorite bookseller (ISBN 978-1-610351-30-0) or from Amazon.