Sycamore Salad Servers––Form Follows Function

When form and function unite, a perfect harmony of design rests in completeness. The cost of producing such beauty becomes legitimised and there is no more to be said of their validity. I have owned these salad servers for about 40 years now. I bought them from an antique shop in GB because of their beauty in craftsmanship. I also wanted to save them for fear such workmanship by a man might be lost to us. Whereas companies mass-make often unbeatable wooden spoons from solid beech that are well shaped, fully suitable and then at an affordable price, a handmade work of art would never be ascribed to the product they make. They end up piled in bins like these or are treated most commonly on supermarket shelves with signs saying buy one get one free. Such soulless merchandising is the way of the day we live in and that’s why a spoon carver on a street in Oxford or along a woodland path is such a prize to us. No doubt, because such products are cheapened by the modern methods to mass-make, we more readily accept anything that moves towards our undervaluing of the wood as a whole. Such spoons may well end up in the landfill. I doubt whether anyone with any soul would throw these salad servers away, but they might. Such possibilities worry me because such things as these are no longer being made. People wonder why I dislike certain stores but it is not the stores so much as what they represent and how they have become established the modern-day answer to need. Luddite? I don’t think so. That was the word I learned in school, from a 25-year old teacher who never made much of anything, to derogate people who liked the idea that not all things made by hand with care were opponents to progress.

When I first saw them in the shop window I was more bemused by aspects of how they were made, but then realised that the whole process involved elements of woodworking such as heat bending, carving, fitting, shaping, tapping and dying and such things that developed the form from determining not just its functionality but how it would function. The scalloped spoon was for me the epitome of refined woodwork in sycamore as was the fork with its splayed outer tines curved to greet the fore edge of the spoon perfectly. Of course we’ve seen these in plastic, or at least I have. But they were cheap, nasty, stamped out, spring-loaded trash-versions, artlessly produced in plastic injection moulds by the thousands.

Making something like these is a few hours of skilled workmanship. It would have been a man that made them most likely and I cannot help but admire his sensitivity throughout the task of forming them so meticulously Perhaps four to six hours went into them from beginning to end. Imagine paying the equivalent of only £70 for such work. I’d pay that willingly for such craftsmanship. I don’t know if people would though. You see I think a man and a woman should be paid well for such work; perhaps double even that. Something they could live on and have a some put aside. Will we see such days? Are customers there to pay for this type of work? Personally I think they are. But then some will say I’m nuts. I know how to make them and can make them. I might use a variety of woods including sycamore and the skills a man would learn for future use are several. I’ll save these for a future video series and then a blog series too perhaps.

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