At 260 Hackney Road, a man sits behind the glass windows of his sparsely decorated shop with a pile of wood shavings at his feet.
Barnaby Carder spends his days carving spoons, and his shop, named Barn the Spoon, has become a destination store as well as a neighbourhood marvel. Barnaby says: “I carve functional spoons from fresh wood with axes and knives, and I whack them up on the shelf and sell them to people”.
Drawn to the simplicity of the spoon and its fundamental place in human history, Carder says: “It’s the first tool you learn how to use, and its one of the most simple tools you can have.” Despite this simplicity, however, Carder has found success in continually reinventing the form with each spoon he makes. In addition to his own experiences and ideas, he draws on the styles of various traditional cultures for inspiration.
Carder, now aged 32, has been working with wood since he was twelve. Originally from Bristol, he went on to spend significant amounts of time in the woods around Herefordshire after taking on an apprentice with chair maker, Mike Abbott. During his time in the woods, Carder would cut trees, carve spoons, and make his way into cities to sell his wares on the streets. After peddling his spoons in the east end of London and saving up enough money, Carder spotted an empty store front along Hackney Road. He set up shop in late 2012.
Regardless of where he sells his spoons, Carder’s aims remain the same; he tries to impart the comfort he finds in trees to those who use his spoons. He said: “Imagine you’re in the desert on a really hot day, and you’ve been in the sun in midday for hours. You’re walking, you happen upon a tree, and suddenly you’re sitting in its shade. That’s the feeling I’m trying to impart in my spoons- that’s what it’s about.”
Carder carves his spoons from recycled wood that has been cut down for conservation purposes around parks in London. Questioning whether people would so eagerly buy iPhones if customers were shown a live feed of the factory in which they were made, Barn opts for an alternative business model. Utilizing materials that would otherwise be thrown away, Barn sits in his small shop front and carves spoons for hours on end for customers and passers by to see. Despite a lack of advertising, people have responded to the transparency of his process.
While carving spoons may seem to be a peculiar way to make a living, Carder is expresses his happiness in carrying on traditions that humans have been taking part in since the dawn of tools. The shop itself may be sparse, but Carder is living his dream. He said: “I get by…I’m not looking to save up loads of money, so that in the future, I can do what I want. I’m trying to do what I want right now. So even if I was a millionaire, I’d just buy a woodland and sit around carving spoons. “