Ethics important for Hamilton Hill artisan

Hamilton Hill's John Barton. Photo: Jon Hewson. d494016 communitypix.com.au.
Hamilton Hill's John Barton. Photo: Jon Hewson. d494016 communitypix.com.au.

JOHN Barton is conscious of his impact on nature when creating his bespoke wooden spoons.

The Hamilton Hill artist only uses repurposed wood or that which has naturally fallen off a tree when carving out his creations, saying the decision not to harm any trees himself had been important.

“Traditionally spoon carving is done with green wood, wood that has been freshly cut from a tree because at this stage wood is much softer and easier to carve with hand tools,” he said.

“I’ve done this, and it’s a joyful occupation, but makes me uncomfortable ethically.

“I decided I would only make my spoons from wood that wasn’t cut for me, if a branch happens to fall in a storm, or if someone else cuts it and puts it out for verge collection, I’ll do some greenwood carving.

“The rest of the time I use wood from fallen trees, offcuts from other woodworkers, recycled wood from demolished houses, and even furniture that has reached the end of its life.”

He said every spoon had a story, with many coming from a piece of wood with some significance.

“I grew up on a farm in central NSW, near Griffith, the trees there are old and tough and there was a particular Belah tree that I used to climb, that has this big dead branch low to the ground off to the side,” he said.

“25 years later I returned to this tree and found this branch had fallen on the ground.

“It was about 30cm across, and I decided to cut a section from it to see what I could make from it, but this was much more easily said than done, as by some ratings, Belah is the 25th hardest, and 5th densest timber in the world.

“After a lot of struggle I finally broke it down into spoon sized pieces, which were stunning, with complex patterns and unusual colours and from this I made a set of spooning spoons as a present for my partner.

“I added some special features to this set by embedding a set of copper nails in the end of the handle which were hand forged by a blacksmith in the early 1900s and then spend 100 years underwater in a wooden bridge in Bega, on the south coast of NSW.

“I almost find these spoons overwhelming when I look at them, just knowing how much story they have to them.”

Mr Barton is one of a number of Cockburn and Fremantle artists who will be involved in next month’s Made on the Left markets, where more than 80 WA artisans and designers will sell homemade goods like artworks, jewellery, and candles.

The Made on the Left markets is at the Esplanade Hotel from July 13 to 14.

Other locals involved

-Tamsin Richardson (Munster): home, giftware and paper goods

-Fleur Barrett (South Fremantle): handmade candles

-Tess Kauffman (Fremantle): artwork

-Tatiana Massara de Almeida Bispo (Hamilton Hill): jewellery

-Kristi McNulty (Fremantle): hand-printed shirts, tea towels and calico bags.