I never gave much thought to kitchen utensils. My stovetop stash included a few well-worn wooden spoons, a Teflon spatula and soup ladle, and a couple of wire whisks. Until my daughter suggested a woodworking edit! Now I’m of a mind to completely start anew, and bring the warmth and exquisite craftsmanship of hand-hewn wooden cooking ware to my soon-to-be-remodeled kitchen counters.
As I searched for beautiful, eco-friendly homewares, I discovered a niche of dedicated European woodworkers, forging new paths for a modern, ethical, wood filled kitchen. I was immediately taken by their handiwork and delved deeper into their stories and varying techniques.
Today’s young woodworkers “straddle the line between utility and sculpture,” according to Sophie Sellu, a Manchester School of Art graduate who developed a passion for “wielding axes and whittling spoons.” This edit actually began with her wooden vases, works of art that elevate the everyday and could grace the finest mantle or a simple picnic table.
Many of this new wave of woodworkers discover the craft organically through a personal search for a more meaningful and sustainable way of life. U.K craftsman and teacher Yoav Elkayam sought to be a part of a “rising alternative hand-crafted and slow culture, one that puts its focus on creating simple objects, in a simple process, designed and made to be used every day.” He found what he was looking for in woodworking.
“I love the calm of working with wood,” says Michael Vermeij, who calls southern France home. “It reveals new aspects with every project … new characters, wood grains and the demand for new skills. It is an intense & serene process, seeing a raw piece of wood transforming into my own ideas.”
Every woodworker in our edit has a story to tell. We think you’ll be in awe, as we were, at the beauty and refinement that two hands can create from a raw piece of timber, most often sourced from their own backyards. Like me, you’ll want to ditch that knicked plastic cutting board asap and fill your own kitchen with the warm tones of these hand-carved pieces.
Poppy Lawman is a designer based in Oslo, whose credentials include a Masters degree in Product Design and a Bachelors degree of Fine Art in Visual Arts (sculpture). Her award-winning wood designs include sculptural body, hand and table brushes. “I focus on transparent process, locality, form and emotional design,” she writes. Her Bue brushes “dance the line of art and design” as fluid forms of raw oak bend and fold through the technique of traditional steam bending, connecting the user to a time-old handcraft. Lawman also celebrates the Norwegian spruce, stained with foraged rosehip ink, in her playful “Papirstein” table/stool.
Grain & Knot
In the summer of 2013, Sophie Sellu attended a spoon carving and bushcraft workshop in the beautiful British countryside. She returned home with with an axe, inspired by her newly learned skills. “A few cut fingers and splinters later, Grain and Knot was born,” she says. Using sustainable and reclaimed timber, Sellu carves everything from functional dinnerware and utensils to sculptural vases and art objects, all from her home studio in London.
The husband-and-wife team behind Olivewood, design and make bespoke olive wood boards and furniture in the remote countryside in Salento, Italy. The couple gather fallen or pruned branches from their olive groves, working to preserve the region’s heritage by using the wood from the dying centennial trees to create something beautiful that will last a lifetime. The boards are then finished with a food-safe mixture of local beeswax and vegetable oil.
Yoav Elkayam is a member of the Woodland Makers, a collective of artists who run workshops in Brook House woods in the UK. “Meeting some of the best craftsmen and learning from them, really made me want to take my skills and approach to the craft to the next level, making it my full time occupation.” Now, teaching the art of woodworking has become an important part of his life. His sycamore spoons, plates and cups definitely caught our eye.
“Even though we love simplicity, our creations always radiate warmth,” state Rutger and Tinta Luhrman, the team behind Woodchuck, a small Dutch family business. Woodchuck is a multi-faceted creative company that combines Rutger’s love of woodwork with Tinta’s passion for interiors and design. The Reizo shelf would be a standout in any kitchen. Handmade and hand-stamped in The Netherlands, it is crafted from Russian birch plywood and comes untreated.
Michael Vermeij’s path to woodworking was a long and winding one. He was a chef, a travel guide in Europe, and worked in a monkey conservation park. On a trip to Australia, he helped a guesthouse owner build a tree-trunk table and … a passion was born. “I love the calm of working with wood. It reveals new aspects with every project — new characters, wood grains and the demand for new skills,” he says. Vermeij lives in France with his wife and cat on a hilltop overlooking the Pyrenees. “Inspiration is always near!” We love the wooden fruit stands and bowls.
Two Wooden Horses
Terry Cullen is an award-winning woodworker based in County Wicklow, Ireland. He specializes in hand-crafted furniture and kitchen utensils, made using sustainably sourced Irish hardwood and materials. We especially love the rough hewn hand brushes made of leftover elm and old bog oak, and the olive ash chopping board with a burnt wood handle.
We couldn’t resist the perfectly imperfect shape of this sustainable hand-carved olive wood bowl from Woodlinearstore in Greece. It is both polished and rustic, with beautiful grain and texture. All of the pieces in Iurii Cipileaga’s Etsy shop are made from his hands with love. Check out the wooden vases, too.
“I am grateful for healthy hands so i can touch and feel life, especially wood that is so close to my soul,” writes Matija Rizner on his Etsy shop page. Rizner began producing handmade, quality wooden products just a few years ago. “Life is so much more than we can think of and dream of,” he says. His love for his work is evident in the array of “woodcrafts for cooking and living” he displays in his shop.
Thorne & Anchor
Tom Fallick stumbled across spoon carving in 2014, and it quickly became an obsession. “The ability to create something that was both beautiful and purposeful was a big attraction,” he says. He subsequently moved into a wooden hut by the beach at Thorness Bay on the Isle of Wight, and embraced an organic, simple way of living. Every item is lovingly handcarved from reclaimed timber. The coffee scoop is but one of his stunning creations.
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