A Spoonful of Love
I was wandering around Facebook scavenging for interesting stories when I came across John Hodge, who, as it turns out has the same birthday as my Dad.
John makes love spoons and they are incredible. When he agreed to do an interview via Messenger, I was delighted.
I have seen commercially produced love spoons and they are often very lovely, but there is something about them that doesn’t invite a good fondle. Johns work, even on an internet page, has you longing to touch. After talking to John, I understand why.
At his home in Milford – which he and his wife, Judith, built themselves and where they retired about ten years ago – he told me how he began what goes beyond being a hobby and is more a statement of love.
“My first ever spoon was a gift to my wife-to-be. I looked at some books and began whittling.”
That gift of love all those years ago became the first of many tokens he has shared with her and the family that came along, not to mention very fortunate friends and more distant relatives who have been fortunate to receive a spoon as a gift.
That first spoon John asks Judith to find and show me. Full of symbolism, it is still a treasure after 48 years of marriage.
“From then I was always whittling, any chance I got. Then when the children came along, they were a priority and my work took up so much of my time, so there was a period when I made very few.”
When John retired at 60 from a very stressful job, he picked it up again in earnest and currently has made a hundred spoons he has kept and many more he has given away.
I ask him if he sells them.
John shakes his head: “I don’t just make a spoon. I get an idea and I have folders full of drawings and I love to challenge myself, but….” John pauses to search for the right words. “I carve my spoons with love. I am part of them. I don’t want them to be part of a commercial process. When I make them for someone, they are a gift and I am delighted to say, no one has ever been disappointed.”
I ask John how long it takes to make a spoon from start to finish.
He cannot say. “ How long is a piece of string?” he jokes.
He goes on to say that he might be working on ten to 15 at a time, moving from one to another so he never gets bored or frustrated with any part of the process. There might be a theme for a while, such as hares and rabbits, or love, or religious symbols. He holds up an assortment of shapes and sizes and designs for me to see. They all look exquisite.
I want to know about the wood. Are there woods he prefers to work with?
“The commercially made ones are made from lime. Lime is one up from balsa wood. It’s very soft. I prefer yew. That’s my favourite for the incredible colour of it. But I also like ash, cherry, apple and teak.”
Where does the wood come from?
“People give me bits of wood. A lady priest where we stopped on a walk with the U3A gave me some branches cut from a yew in the churchyard. I had to saw up the branches to take home. It’s wonderful to think how old that tree is.”
He lovingly holds up one beautiful spoon that was made from wood reclaimed from Llandaff Cathedral laying out table. The wood he uses is usually at least ten years old. This is of course is much much older.
I ask John if he teaches people how to whittle?
“I have done,” he says. “I have taught my son and I have taught friends, and since I started to show them on Facebook I have had a lot of enquiries, but it’s not something I could do except one to one. I use scalpels and it wouldn’t be safe in a group. The technique involves tiny cuts, with a very sharp blade, no gouging. When I do share with friends, it’s been very successful, with them going on to create some fine work of their own.”
I admit I am disappointed. I would love to know how to make something even half as lovely as the examples John is showing me.
“Well, I have had so many enquiries, I have thought when all of this social isolation is over, perhaps I could do a demonstration. I have been a teacher and it could be something people would enjoy.”
Put my name down, John. That is definitely something to look forward to.
Watch this space.