BANNER ELK — Nestled in the corner of the shade under a tent sits a man carving a wooden spoon. His focus is unmatched as the blade sheds the outer layer of the wood. The shuffle of the local art fair, Art on the Greene, doesn’t seem to bother the man at work.
On his work bench lays a slab of wood with markings scratched across the top. Within the coming hours, that slab of wood would ultimately be crafted into a spoon.
It is uncommon to use spoons crafted by hand, but Sam Tallman has made a craft of creating ornate and functional spoons for the day-to-day. Tallman is the founder and creator of Sam’s Spoons and has created a life around this art form.
A few years ago, Tallman found himself out of work after a hectic life in the manufacturing industry. Tallman had been introduced into the world of wood crafting and originally made wooden walking canes. One day, Tallmans’ wife commented that if he was going to create something, to make something people will use.
Tallman mentioned that his first few spoons were not by any means perfect. Tallman spent time and energy learning how to craft a spoon by hand within his workshop.
“The key to crafting a spoon is to find the most efficient way to take out the most amount of material,” Tallman said.
Now, the spoons created by Tallman are a work of art and crafted all from his own two hands.
“I use all the old techniques that the spoon makers used to make them as fast as I can, while at the same time unique enough that everybody is getting their own special spoon,” Tallman said.
Each spoon is unique, with its own grain pattern causing the regular household item to appear as a master crafted work of art. Tallman has also taken the time to ensure that his spoons work best for everyone, even crafting some spoons to be specially designed for left-handed individuals.
“The idea for creating two types of handles just comes from my own frustrations in the kitchen,” Tallman said.
All the material used for Sam’s spoons are donated or a piece of material that Tallman stumbles across himself.
“The walnut I have was from a man that was sick of having walnuts in his yard,” Tallman said.
Tallman creates more than 1,000 spoons a year and sells his spoons online at www.samsspoons.com/shop. Yet, Tallman said most of his spoons are sold in person.
“I spent 25 years in front of computer screens, inside, locked in a room, and I hated it,” Tallman said. “So I spend nights in the shop so that I can come out here and create my spoons and talk to people.”
Tallman was in attendance at Art on The Greene in Banner Elk on Saturday, Aug. 31. Sam’s Spoons is a frequent visitor to many local art festivals.
“I prefer selling spoons this way because you get to see people pick up and go through the spoons. That’s why I say ‘touch the spoons,’ because each spoon is made to be different,” Tallman explained.