MM 11: Hope in the Woods
Luke Hope / Hope in the Woods / Wooden Kitchenware / Woodcarving
Having studied design from a young age, Luke Hope took an inadvertent 20-year design detour before returning to his inevitable creative path.
Specialising in wooden kitchenware, Luke harmoniously hand carves an array of whittled wooden spoons, bowls and scoops. Further to his utensils, Luke’s ongoing story and ever humble commentary has captivated a mass social following.
“I studied design straight out of school, but then ended up doing other things… for 20 years. Recently I’ve started to draw and design again.”
Hope in the Woods could well be described as design in it’s quintessential form. There are few better ways that exemplify the resultant value from the application of applying a process to a raw material.
The charm of Luke’s work is comparable to that of pottery or glass blowing. It’s intoxicating. Material taken from its primary source made into a product; it’s an age old recipe delivered for us all to see via our iPhones.
‘Hope in the Woods’ accurately pictures Luke’s inquisition. He reports regular visits to varying forests to gather the timber for his wooden utensils. Tasks of sourcing the wood, the carving, smoothing and finishing processes are all narrated in captivating and engaging discoveries.
Having been absent from design and making, Luke has regained a path of creativity which has led him to create his unique collection.
“I studied design straight out of school, but then ended up doing other things… for 20 years. Recently I’ve started to draw and design again. Having always enjoyed working with wood, I started creating wooden spoons by hand. I love the calm of the process… working with an organic material, revealing natural form and creating and blending new lines and shape.
I’m grateful to have found my way back to designing and making. My name is Luke Hope and ‘Hope in the Woods’ is my journey from an office, where I’ve spent most of my working life, out into the woods”
Each utensil begins life from sketch or elevation drawing. This determines the basic form which the timber piece will take. From these drawings, each form is then applied to the lumber section applied from the sketch.
The intended use for each piece varies vastly within Lukes range, as does the carving process. Seen below is an array of timbers each having been plotted with the same design for a large-headed serving spoon. Wonderful simplicity is seen at this stage, each spoon starting from primary geometry.
With the design having been plotted onto the subject material, the utensil begin it’s transformation from lumber to spoon. Design dependant, the order of process varies from piece to piece. Seen above the ‘bowl’ of the spoon has been carved prior to it’s outline cut.
Using a bandsaw, Luke manually cuts each form from it’s donor section of timber. What may seem like crude lines and facetted edges will later be lovingly sculpted into smooth, fully functional instruments.
“I love the calm of the process… working with an organic material, revealing natural form and creating and blending new lines and shape.”
Using what is known as a crook knife, Luke gouges the bowl section of each spoon from the timber. He comments on his approach to this as Luke prefers to manually hold the material rather than fixing it via a clamp or vice.
“I carve in hand, rather than clamping the wood to a bench. It means I can easily switch between using both a crook knife and gouge when shaping the bowl.”
Aerial views of Luke’s work effectively depict his working mood, letting you see into his working habits and routine. Seen amongst his social media feed are photos of his workbench and more humorously, the footwear he may or may not be wearing at the time.
You can’t help being reminded of the cartoon, Tom and Jerry, only seeing the feet of the female proprietor in view. Similarly, you catch secondary glimpses of Luke’s feet shrouded in woodchips amongst his workbench activity.
“Having always enjoyed working with wood, I started creating wooden spoons by hand. I love the calm of the process… working with an organic material, revealing natural form and creating and blending new lines and shape.”
Luke uses an array of hand tools to whittle each utensil. Further aerial views feature his workbench and the stages of the carving process. Once the outline of the spoon has been cut on the bandsaw, Luke then makes a series of sculptural cuts as part of the ‘roughing’ stage.
These cuts are used to carve and ‘feel out’ the basic contours and curves of the handle. Organic slivers and curls of timber scatter the floor and make for dramatic and creative workbench scenes. Luke comments about the relationship and reflective nature of the carvings. Each slice is a story, told by the chips that surround his work stool and bench.
The curls and chips show the way in which he used the knife to carve each facet at that moment.
“The curls in this shot represent and celebrate, probably the most satisfying part of the shaping process for me, in the moment, at the moment.”
“I’ve recently become a little obsessed with shavings. I love the lines and shapes, how each one is unique and represents a movement of the knife.”
After the roughing has been carved and spoon has it's shape, Luke progresses to the smoothing stages. Using various knives including a gouge knife and crook, Luke patiently smoothes the facets to achieve the smooth surface finish he wants.
“Once I’ve shaped the back of the bowl, leaving the facets, I then move on to shaping the handle. This is done with nice long shallow cuts. Cutting towards myself in this shot, moving slowly up the stem. I use my thumb on my cutting hand to guide the line I’m shaping.
Each type of wood will behave a little differently and also each side of the wood can cut differently too. Even with a properly sharp knife you can rip or tear the wood on a shallow cut. So I gently test which side is good for an up and which side down, before making the cut. Once I’ve got that sussed, then it’s a case of slowly rotating the handle and switching from an upward motion, cutting towards myself and downwards, away from myself.”
“The final stage of making, involves sealing the pieces with a homemade mineral oil & beeswax balm”
The finishing stage is one of excitement. The making process has come to an end to reveal the grain and natural lustre of each type of wood. Luke uses various natural sealants including different oils and waxes.
Each detail and feature of Luke’s work is highlighted by the oil whilst protecting the surface of the utensil.
“A very enjoyable part of the process. Partly because it means I’ve finished the piece, but mostly because you get to see the colour and grain come out.”
Luke offers an array of utensils via his online shop. Ranging from coffee scoops to jar spoons, each piece is made from various timbers.
Whilst being objects of function, they possess simultaneous ornamental qualities. As seen previously, Luke’s process follows a form developed from a sketch which he pursues throughout the making stages.
Sometimes, however, this is not always the case and material characteristics often force unexpected results. Each piece of individual timber has it’s own set of qualities and grain. This has resulted in some unusual discoveries which Luke openly discusses online.
“I cut a circular scoop too thin near the neck of the handle, and so modified the shape.”
Value and knowledge can be found from each mistake. The ‘trial and error’ approach is something that is unavoidable in the work of a maker and is very much a part of the making process.
Empowerment is gained from mistakes and is what makes things the way that they are. Fear of mistakes is something that many people could be accused guilty of. Yes, it is a time-sapping process but if the drive is there, the knowledge gained from these mistakes is irreplaceable.
Each piece that Luke produces emits huge personality and craftsmanship. No two alike, Luke’s kitchenware makes you question each corner of your kitchen. Where you will use your new spoon and more importantly where will you display it.
These spoons aren’t to be stored in a drawer away from sight. They are to be celebrated and used with the same care they were made with. The long stem spoons wouldn’t fit inside a drawer anyway!
We wish Luke all the best for the coming year and we thank him for his time.