To all spoon makers, past or present and known or unknown, throughout the world for providing us with basic utensils that may feed our body but are also often beautiful small sculptures that feed our mind and soul. You bring beauty to our lives.
–Norman D. Stevens, Dedication for A Gathering of Spoons (2012)
In the early 1970s, librarian Norman Stevens and his wife, Nora, bought a wooden spoon from Dan Dustin in New Hampshire, the first of many. More importantly, he learned things from Dan that led him to develop a deep and sensitive appreciation for things made with the human hand, especially wooden spoons. As Norman relates in his book, “Thanks in large part to Dan, wooden spoons now have, for me, by far the greatest tactile appeal of any craft object.”
Through the mid-eighties, Norman continued to attend craft shows and purchase spoons, meeting and befriending spoon makers such as Norm Sartorius and Barry Gordon. They helped connect Norman with other spoon carvers as he continued to add to his collection.
In 2005, after exploring the idea with Barry Gordon, Norman decided to focus on building a collection of nine-inch spoons “representative of the state of spoon making in the world in the first part of the twenty-first century.” That collection has now grown to over 350 spoons. And, as we know, the state of spoon making in the world continues to expand.
A few years ago, I was asked to make a spoon for the collection. About the same time I was carving the spoon (seen above in my poor photos), Norman was putting the finishing touches on his book A Gathering of Spoons, featuring exquisite photographs of over 200 spoons from his collection. The spoons represent a wide range of styles from the highly imaginative to the simple utilitarian beauty of a yew wood spoon by Bill Coperthwaite.
Last month, Norman announced that he has made arrangements to bequeath his collection to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. The PEM’s trustee Collection Committee was fascinated by the variety of forms and decoration as well as by the international representation in the collection. This collaboration between Norman and the PEM will allow this vibrant and meticulously documented collection to inspire and enlighten people for generations to come.
Now in his eighties, Norman would like to continue to add to his collection before donating it to the museum, and welcomes suggestions about carvers whose work is not yet represented in it. He is especially interested in spoons made from an unusual wood, or from wood with a story behind it. Spoons for this collection should be signed/marked and dated, and be nine inches long. Norman loosely categorizes these as “teaspoons” or “eating spoons.” He would appreciate information about the carver’s work, images, and a price range.
Here is a chronological list of Norman’s 9″ spoon collection up to this point in time including the name of the carver, year, and wood type:
Norman has invited people to contact him directly:
Hats off to you, Norman.