The Grass so little has to do –
A Sphere of simple Green –
With only Butterflies to brood
And Bees to entertain –
And stir all day to pretty Tunes
The Breezes fetch along –
And hold the Sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything –
–Emily Dickinson, The Grass so Little has to do (1862)
Spring has inspired me to be a little colorful, like with this birch spoon I’ve just finished. After carving the words, I diluted some mixed artist’s oil paints with a little citrus thinner and applied it to the handle like a stain. The letters naturally appear darker. After that dried, I painted the sun and “stir” with a golden color. Once dry, the entire spoon was soaked in flax oil for a couple days.
I’ve experimented with different types of paint. There is something unique and versatile about oil colors, and they hold up well in use. I’m not concerned with any potential toxicity in some pigments, as I only use them on surfaces not really in contact with food. A beginners set of small tubes is reasonably priced and will go a long way. Any color can be created through mixing. Thinning allows the wood grain to show through and increases penetration into the wood.
Lighter, neutral-color woods like birch and maple, offer interesting possibilities for paint. Below you can see some more examples, including some in which I carved through the painted surface to reveal the natural wood color beneath. Mix it up and have some fun this spring.