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April 22, 2016

Profiles
Profiles

From the Office to the Woods: The Journey of Luke Hope

Luke Hope's incredible hand-carved wooden spoons.
Profiles
Profiles

April 22, 2016

For 20 years Luke Hope worked in an office, but today he has his dream job — hand carving wooden spoons for his UK-based company, Hope in the Woods. Read about how he made the change in the interview with him below. 

Luke joined us in our London store (28 Foubert's Pl, London W1F 7PR) as an artisan in residence in collaboration with the Crafts Council. We look forward to the next time he joins us in the store. 

Before leaving his day job, Luke stayed up carving until 2 a.m.

Did you ever try to juggle both a day desk job and being a creative?

I only started designing and making things out of wood about 18 months ago. Having worked for 20 odd years doing something that I liked but didn't love, I made a change around two years ago. I left where I was and started doing consultancy, while thinking and researching about what I wanted to do next. It was during this time that I got myself some basic tools and made my first spoon. I was completely taken by the process. It felt fantastic to be doing something creative. I was still doing a day job working in offices and would then come home and stay up making until 1 or 2 a.m.

Although I’ve been pretty hooked ever since I made my first piece, at that time I never imagined I’d be able to do it as a full time thing, or to make a living from it. So it’s wonderful to me that I’ve been full time for about eight months now and starting to see that it can grow into a business and sustain a decent enough living. Above all, I’m happy that I now spend my day doing something that I love.

How long on average does it take you to make a spoon? 

Usually around two to three hours. Although, sometimes I can sit with a piece for five hours before feeling like it’s right. Overall I am getting quicker, but there’s definitely a point that you can’t go beyond, time wise, without changing the process. It would mean working with more, noisy machines and it becoming a very different thing. This isn’t something I’m interested in doing, so it’s been about getting the balance between the process and then making as much as possible without compromising the look or quality.

A glimpse of Luke at work.

What is it about spoons that make them the main focus in your work?

It’s a strange one I guess, both in the sense of why I make spoons and what I make them for.  I suppose it’s partly because it is what I started with and partly because there is undoubtedly something a bit magical about the spoon. Their basic form, how ancient a utensil they are, and the various symbolic meanings that they’ve collected along the way.

I do find it fascinating hearing about how and why some people engage with wooden spoons. Interesting, considering that it's not that common for people to eat with wooden spoons here in the UK, but it is common to cook or serve with them. Maybe this is something to do with spoons often being the first thing you eat with as a baby? So the natural inclination is to put it to your mouth. If you haven't tried eating with a wooden spoon, you should. It's a very different experience to metal. Soft and wholesome.

I definitely want many of the pieces I create to be used in the kitchen and at the table. To be part of the cooking, serving or eating process...in the heart of a home.

How do you choose which types of wood you work with?

I started out working with greenwoods, like beech, birch and apple. Partly because it was easily available and was what I’d seen people do, but mainly because it’s a great way to learn as the wood is softer and easier to shape. I now mostly use dry timber because I need to know that the piece isn't going to split and change as it dries - as I'm usually making to order and so can't sit with the pieces for that long. I'm drawn to woods that are fairly plain in pattern. I like either very light or very dark. My favourites at the moment are American walnut and pale white sycamore. I love carving green (fresh) sycamore, both for how it feels to work with and the finished look.   

View more of Luke's work, here

Meet the Maker: Small Batch Pottery produced by Ben Fiess

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