|Vertical spoon on the Growlery shelf.|
I've known Frank for 15 or 20 years. I don't wish to embarrass him, but he might be one of the most intelligent people I have ever known. Our frequent conversations are always a fun, rolling ride, jumping from subject to subject. Frank is quitting making spoons at 8:52 this evening. Locking the door on the past. Moving on. I cannot image Frank not creating things, but he says that going to the shop every day has become a drag. His work has become relatively expensive over the years. He doesn't measure anything and he's gotten pretty fast at it, guessing he has made 40,000+ kitchen utensils over the years, yet he cannot keep up with demand and feels pushed.
Frank has moved on before. He was a veterinarian at the Detroit Zoo, the Brookfield Zoo and the Minnesota Zoo. In 1988 he got tired of the institutional politics, came to a spoon in the road, made a sharp left turn, and quit his job as the head veterinarian at the Minnesota Zoo. He said he thinks they were probably going to fire him anyway because, "I was getting to be kind of a pain in the ass." The last straw may have been when the zoo wanted to ship a Beluga Whale to another zoo, which required a veterinarian's signature on the shipping permits. Frank declined to sign it because, "It wasn't in the best interest of the animal." Frank was only interested in the health of the animals, not zoo visitors and politics.
But back to spoons, following is from a insert that Frank included with each purchase.
2013 is my 22nd
and final year of retail spoon making. My
shop will close permanently on December 5, 2013 at 8:52PM, the moment I turn
65. I’d like to thank my many spoon customers and spoon shop fans for
their patronage, good will and good humor.
If you have spoons in need of rejuvenation, bring or mail them in for a
Rhubarb cultivation and
promotion is slowly, inexorably, taking over my life. That and home/shop
repairs and painting will keep me quite busy for the next couple of years.
was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1948 and my woodworking apprenticeship spanned
the 1950’s. My neighbor, Mr. Hamill, a foreman at the General Motors
patternmaking shop, kept me supplied with beautiful odd-shaped blocks of rock
maple. They flowed endlessly from the massive band saws of his artisans who
built solid wood mockups of the cars of the future. Like a little elf I
searched my pile of blocks to find the mirror image forms. I topped them
with thin boards and well pounded nails to create my idiosyncratic line of
footstools. My aunt Ida used one of these in her kitchen for 50+ years.
the beauty and utility within the discarded served me well then as it does
today. These blocks were for me what the Froebel Blocks were to my
colorful namesake, Frank Lloyd Wright, who reminisced fondly regarding their
influence on his work. I too had toy blocks to play with, my favorite being
Lincoln Logs, invented by FLW’s son John Lloyd Wright. After
a few decades of production, he sold them to Playskool who continues to
make them today.
though is about spoons, chopsticks and other utensils, my livelihood since
1992. The spoons stood immediately. I had been working on a series
of tabletop sculptures whose verticality leapt into the first spoons I roughed
out from firewood on the band saw. Had I started making spoons 3 months
earlier there is every reason to believe none would be standing today.
Just as biological genes move and recombine within organisms this design ‘meme’
of verticality moved from experimental sculpture to functional spoon. The
wonderful visual and word play made possible by standing spoons has become my
signature. If I were a bad headline writer (which I guess I am) I’d
say “Signature Sesquipedalian Spoons Stood Serendipitously”.
personal antennae for what I call ‘verticality in quotidian objects’ have
become acute. I enjoy tracking this in food presentation, in objects such
as the Philippe Starck standing flyswatter, the Koziol standing pasta server
and new instances every year. It is hard to imagine a world without standing
gather the wood I use for my spoons and utensils from mostly local native and
ornamental species. Odd logs and blocks of wood arrive occasionally
from afar thanks to friends and customers with a good eye for bits of comely
wood in need of a second career. I rarely use lumber since lovely wood from
yard, orchard, roadside and surrounding forest is enough. I have a modest
supply of exotic woods for chopsticks and other small items, much of it deeply
discounted ‘scrap’ from wood dealers acquired during my art fair travel
days. I don’t think I’ve purchased a piece of lumber in ten years.
of my work from design to completion is free hand. There is no mechanical
duplication involved. I have no ‘elves’ in my employ. I use
hand-held and bench mounted power tools extensively-- Band saws, die grinders,
drill presses, all manner of personally designed sanding, finishing, and
polishing equipment. I love power tools and have since college summers
working in steel mills and auto plants. They stand between me and carpal
be remiss if I didn’t thank Jim Huppert and his ‘abrasive nerds’ at 3M
here in Minnesota for their generous assistance to a struggling spoon-maker in
1992. Their expertise transformed menial effort to meaningful
work. Without them I don’t know how I could have designed and made such
attractive and useful utensils. Even my frugal family and friends
can afford to use and enjoy them.
work is finished with edible walnut oil and beeswax. Those clever little
green rings on my pairs of chopsticks are pure latex rubber bands you can get
for a penny apiece at your friendly farm store. They otherwise are used
to neuter various animals as well as dock the tails of lambs. They are
the last remnant of my veterinary career prior to spoon making. If you have
these chopsticks you may notice under the ring there is a light blemish.
This occurs with some woods. It is because the ring shields the wood from
the darkening exposure of light and air. Also the oil in the wood is
attracted to rubber. Despair not. Use and random ring placement
will eliminate this in time. I’ve accepted this quirk of materials and
hope you can do the same.
encourage you to use these utensils. Cook! Serve!!
Eat!!! Fondle them if you must!!!! Spoons increase in
charm and warmth with the wear and patina of use. Refer to the care card
included with them. Like many of us, some of these utensils are on their
second and third career--tree to barn beam to spoon. Service is what they
know. Occasionally bad things happen to good spoons. Should that happen
to one of yours send it back to me and I will repair or replace it. Like
people, spoons occasionally go to pieces and are always worth the effort to
many years I labored in the vineyards of retail art fairs and wholesale
marketplaces. Now I am able to retail solely through my Coffee Street
shop. I am grateful to the many art fair patrons and gallery owners who
have supported me in the past. It is a blessing to travel less, garden
more and have unhurried conversations with friends old and new. My
life is bursting with luxury. I have health, family, friends, delightful
work and a beautiful town and vibrant community to live in. It is a
wonderland of morel mushrooms, theatre, art, limestone bluffs, potluck suppers,
trout streams, books, fabulous home cooking, forests, trails, farms, cattle,
fine neighbors, and respectful visitors.
I mention Rhubarb? Lots of rhubarb! Please stop by my
workshop should you find me there on your next visit to Lanesboro.
Here's some shots of some Frank's work that Lorna and I have accumulated over the years.
Frank, an American Master? ;-)