Hatchet and Bear
Whittling away some blissful hours in the woods...
Late this summer lovely Rosie, who´s a brilliant writer friend, and I headed into the woods with a woman that was going to leave us wanting more, and inspire us with her take on life and how she became a wood spoon carver.
We brought a basket of cheese, bread, jam and wine as you do, and spread out a blanket under the trees.
The weather might have changed and the leaves are sporting rusty hues of orange, red and yellow, but a picnic with new or old friends is always a good idea.
I hope you´ll enjoy meeting EJ from Hatchet and Bear as much as I did.
Text below by Rosie Morris
We head into an ancient woodland near Frome in Somerset with spoon carver EJ Osborne of Hatchet & Bear and sit down on the forest floor for a picnic.
Dried leaves rustle, twigs snap underfoot. EJ lugs her canvas knapsack full of tools and spoons on her back, Marie carries her camera, I have the picnic basket. Into the woods we wander.
In the clearings, knee-high ferns glow lime green in the sun’s rays. Brambles grasp at our legs. We duck under branches, although not low enough and our hair tangles. We clamber over mossy limbs and find the perfect spot deep within the ancient trunks, under a holly tree.
‘I’m down with trees,’ says EJ. ‘They have history, biology and folklore. I’m a little bit of a spoon and tree geek. I can go on and on talking about them. I wouldn’t say I’m a tree hugger but I do give trees a little stroke now and then when I walk through them.’
The picnic blanket floats down on to the leafy ground with a swish and we unload our feast: cheeses, charcuterie, apples, bread and nettle wine. Out come EJ’s turned bowls and whittled utensils. A Camembert fits snugly in one, the jar spoons poke out of pots of quince and xxx jellies, a fork stabs some ham.
Dappled sunlight peeks through the canopy and illuminates our picnic sporadically as though someone’s turning a light switch on and off. Birdsong mingles with noises of farm machinery far off in the distance.
Twiddling an elegant wooden spoon between two fingers, EJ leans against the trunk of the young holly tree, smiles, and declares: ‘I feel blessed. Working in the woods. This is what I do. If I didn’t do this, who would I be?
It’s like breathing for me.’
She pops a grape into her mouth. She tears a piece of bread, grabs the butter spreader whittled by her hands, lops off a knob and smears it on, followed by a hunk of Stilton.
We graze. We talk. We muse. We laugh. And then EJ carves a spoon.
She disappears from view and, after a moment, through the trees, she calls: ‘I’ve found something really good here.’
We find her pruning a branch off a storm-damaged holly tree. She takes a foot-long round and splits it open using her hand-forged Swedish axe, resting on the mossy trunk of a fallen sycamore. She chips away at the wood until there’s a flat, smooth surface, the beginning of a spoon blank. She takes a pencil and draws on the rough outline of the spoon, uses her axe to chop off the excess wood around it. Then takes her sharp knife and begins whittling.
We watch mesmerised as she deftly cuts away slice after slice. As she drags the knife along, slithers of fresh wood flick off and fall around her feet. Shavings long and curled collect in her lap. Slowly but surely, the block of wood transforms into a spoon before our eyes. She carves the spoon close to her chest – close to her heart.
There’s a satisfying noise as the metal knife scrapes young wood. How can you describe it? Marie has the answer: ‘It’s like perfect snow, in Norway we call it xxxx.’
Lastly, EJ scoops out the bowl of the spoon with the crook knife, blowing out the shavings as she goes. The knife leaves a beautiful, faceted surface.
‘Once we get the bowl in, she will be alive,’ says EJ. ‘At the moment she still belongs to the tree.’
And then she’s done. This spoon will last a lifetime. Pure. Simple.
We celebrate with a glass of nettle wine. We shake leaves off the picnic blanket. We pack up and make our way home, leaving crumbs and wood shavings in our trail.
A big thanks to lovely Rosie for putting pen to paper and sharing her story from that wonderful day, and for the brilliant EJ for her time and talent.
Seriously though, she carved a spoon from a branch to an eating tool in 20 minutes flat!