words + photography DEIDRE McGRATH

Aaron Margolis and Deidre McGrath.
Photo: Jennifer Bakos Photography
Wild Cherry Spoon
with Copper Curlicues.
Bright Blue Maple Ladle.
Wild Cherry Chipcarved Scoop.
Textured Apple Wood Serving Spoon.

MY HUSBAND, Aaron Margolis, and I became spoon carvers in a rather roundabout fashion, but it all started with our move to Maine almost 10 years ago.

After an inspirational camping trip at Acadia National Park, we yanked up our roots in New York and dove headfirst into the industrious Downeast way of life. Previously, I had been studying printmaking and fine photography, and Aaron had been building steel bicycle frames and creating found-metal sculptures. We began by purchasing land through Uncle Henry’s, and quickly set up to build an off-the-grid octagonal house using as much human power as possible.

While we lovingly toiled away on this project, we learned the craft of timber framing using locally sourced, freshly cut trees, which in turn led us to the world of extremely detailed traditional Japanese woodcarving. We became enamored with the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: that imperfections found in natural materials and the finish left by the skilled use of hand tools can be a positive, beautiful sensory attribute.

Flashing forward a few years, we had moved on to a new building project: restoring a former horse barn to be used as a woodworking studio. We began reclaiming some of the materials from the barn that weren’t structurally usable and creating new items from them: shelves, decor and small furniture. We were making do and creating with the materials we had on hand, which introduced us to the Swedish principle of slöjd: clever, practical handiness.

After using up our reclaimed wood, we asked ourselves: What materials did we have on hand in abundance in Maine? Trees! Specifically, trees no one wanted that were already cut down, especially storm-downed trees on roadsides and wood from arborists. We began exploring this new medium in the form of functional woodenwares, following the slöjd tradition.

We now are full-time craftspeople who create our wares using locally sourced wood. Using storm- and arborist-salvaged Maine greenwood reduces the geographical area where we gather our materials, helping to reduce the environmental impact of our craft. We use traditional hand tools—axes, knives, drawknives, gouges and other bladed tools—and human power to create our wares. We think of our craft as functional folk art and add surface decorations using historical methods and materials such as natural oil paint, kolrosing with coffee (which is like scrimshaw on wood) and chip carving, to name a few.

We thoroughly enjoy exploring and experimenting with bygone production techniques in our work, and pass along that curiosity to others by teaching woodcarving workshops throughout Maine. We are also co-owners of SevenArts, a fine art and craft gallery in Ellsworth. In the warmer months you can find us selling our work at fine craft shows throughout the Northeast.


Favorite …
Maine view? Sand Beach and the Ocean Path in
Acadia National Park, especially during the
Drink? Maine Root Ginger Brew.
Maine restaurant? Not a restaurant, but we eat
like kings at the Ellsworth Farmers’ Market with 
Biggi’s Organic Breads from Bangor.
Place you’ve traveled to as an adult? Big Sur, California.
Shoes? Vegetarian Shoes in the UK.
Way to relax? Carving spoons on our local beach
during the summer.

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