Artist and teacher Kiko Denzer shares his thoughts on spoons, and so much more.
Everybody eats, everybody uses a spoon. Many people have favorite spoons. What makes one spoon different than the rest? Why does he like this one, and she like that one?
A handmade wooden spoon from Haiti.
In our first workshop Greg Kreibel described a favorite cooking spoon (see photo) that he’d bought cheap from an “import plaza,” w/a tag that said “made in Haiti.” He said (roughly) that “it’s our favorite spoon: we’ve had it forever, it was cheap, handmade, and we use it for everything.”
An offhand comment? Perhaps, but it means so much: “our favorite spoon” says (to me) “our most valuable spoon.” Where does such value come from? Does it come from a famous name artist? A sky-high price tag? Exceptional rarity? NO! In fact, it comes from exactly the opposites of those things: it’s cheap and common — just another spoon in an import store, hand-made, yes, but by an anonymous person just trying to make a living — someone probably more like us than different. Second, it’s useful for everything; it doesn’t just hang on the wall. And everyone likes it. It was a completely spontaneous comment about what constitutes value, which is not dollars, but love, longevity, and connection.
These basic values underly all value; without them — without spoons to eat with, and things to eat; without flowers and the bees that pollinate the fruit; without worms to feed the roots of the grass that feeds the cow, that feeds us — without such small, daily beauty — we would live lives of terrible poverty. Or we would not live at all…
We understand this only by participating in it — by growing and eating food, building our houses, and carving our spoons and bowls — for ourselves, and for others — because one can’t participate alone — because beauty, skill, and knowledge must all be passed on, from eye to hand, from hand to heart, to anothers’ hand — from parent to child and from teacher to student. And while we may all eat with our own individual, private spoons, we all ultimately take our nourishment from one vessel, shaped out of earth, cooked by the heat of the sun, cooled by the breezes, and celebrated as part of a shared story…
These are the roots of culture. So a spoon begins with a tree, and the tree takes us back into a garden that we share with all creation.
Charlene and Kiko at the spoon carving class.
Richard and I first met Kiko at an earth oven workshop he was leading in the Corvallis area 12 years ago. A year after that, Kiko led a Slow Food Workshop here at Nana Cardoon, where we built our earth oven.
Since then Kiko and I usually attend The Grain Gathering Conference, held annually at the Mount Vernon Extension of WSU. It was there we started talking about presenting a spoon carving class here on the farm as part of our focus on traditional and artisan cooking tools.
Kiko is an artist above all, in philosophy, in sculpture, and in how he lives life. We have enjoyed being with him and his family on several occasions.
He is a treasure on so many levels, and the opportunity to work with him personally is a true gift.