Farming didn't use to be the cool thing it is today. in 2001, when my wife put off going to college to pursue farming up on the coast of Maine, her parent's peers said oh what a shame, what a waste of a wonderful intellect. Farming was not cool.
Then Barbara Kingsolver wrote Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Michael Pollan wrote the Omnivore's Dilemma, and overnight, it seemed, farming was very cool. The farm we worked on together shortly after moving back to Massachusetts was actually in Barbara Kingsolver's book, which had just come out, and we found ourselves on the edge of a sea-change in American culture. That first summer at the farmer's market, someone came up to us and said "You farmer's are like the new rock stars!" No joke. A lot had changed in six years.
Nowadays, farming is considered a legitimately awesome way of contributing to a better future. It is considered hard, noble work. It probably helps if you have tattoos. It helps if you have a cute baby (although believe me, it doesn't). Or at least a photogenic dog.
I have a dream for spooncarving, or greenwoodworking, or sloyd, or whatever you want to call it. I have a dream that it will undergo the same sea change in perception. When I started carving, it was weird. People couldn't imagine that there was a market for this, in the same way that people couldn't understand that there might be a market for winter greens cut fresh from a greenhouse.
In the last four years, there has started to be a growing acceptance of spooncarving as a normal activity, something like knitting, a hobby, a diversion, a way to connect with your hands.
I'm speaking of something deeper.
I have a dream that one day, sloyd will be a deeply understood and respected way of understanding our humanity. People will learn how to carve in the way that they learn how to drive a car, as just a normal part of growing up. Everyone will have a basic understanding of how it works, much as we have a basic understanding of gardening, even if we don't do it.
I have a dream that spooncarving will become cool to everyone, not just those that are practicing it. People will find out what I do and say that's amazing, instead of giving me puzzled looks or laughing. People will dream of growing up to be a spooncarver.
I have a dream that greenwoodworking will become inextricably tied with the idea of forest stewardship, that people will understand that caring for a landscape and resource comes from using it, interacting with it. Spooncarvers and greenwoodworkers will unite to promote the health and continuance of forests around the world, and tie the importance of their work to the quality of the very air we breathe and the web of ecosystems that support all life on earth.
None of this will make spooncarving particularly lucrative, or easier to make a living at. It is still tough to be a farmer. That hasn't changed.
But a change is coming. I can feel it. I can see it in the varied faces of all the people who come for lessons. Old, young, men, women, rich and poor: I have taught them all. I can see it in the identities of the people who buy blanks from me. People of all ethnicities, living in all different types of communities, in inner cities, suburbs and rural areas; people of all backgrounds and temperaments. They are finding in spooncarving something that has been mostly lost in our modern culture: a connection to the most humble, everyday objects of our lives. They are learning to use their hands. They are learning to value and understand trees. They are learning the satisfaction of making something, from start to finish, themselves.
I have a dream that spooncarvers will be the new rock stars. Each of us, in our own local communities, valued for what we represent about humanity. Something ancient. Something hopeful.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.