Meet Emlyn Glanmôr-Harris from Cornish Spoons
Emlyn Glanmôr-Harris from Cornish Spoons is, as the name suggests, a spoon carver who designs and makes hand-crafted spoons, utensils and keepsakes from his studio in west Cornwall. Working with responsibly sourced timber and using traditional hand tools, Emlyn experiments with shape and form while always being guided by the wood itself. Here he talks to fellow maker and Folksy seller Chris Parkinson from Just To Say… about his fascinating background as a professional actor and writer, and inspiration he finds in the Cornish landscape and people.
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I worked as a professional actor for many years and also wrote a radio drama series that ran for three years on the BBC. During that time, I rediscovered my joy of wood-working, renovating a Jacobean timber-framed thatched cottage…Emlyn Glanmôr-Harris, Cornish Spoons
Hi Emlyn, please introduce us to the maker behind Cornish Spoons
I’m Emlyn, the maker behind Cornish Spoons. I design and make a range of unique artisan spoons and utensils, crafted by hand from responsibly resourced timber (and locally sourced wood wherever possible), using traditional tools and incorporating sea glass, fossils and semi-precious stones.
Were you a creative child and what led you to woodwork?
My maternal grandfather was a master carpenter and wheelwright and I used to love to visit his workshop and relish the smell of freshly cut timber and to wonder at the vast array of his tools. I studied both metalwork and woodwork at school and though I didn’t enjoy working with metal, the contentment that timber gave me created a lasting memory.
After leaving school, I worked in a wide variety of jobs – carpet salesman, civil servant, plumber’s mate and tin miner – before training as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. After graduation, I worked as a professional actor for many years in repertory theatres up and down the country, in seasons with the RSC and starred in the West End, before I began writing.
I devised and wrote The Sexton’s Tales radio drama series for the BBC, which starred George Cole as the gravedigger of London’s Highgate Cemetery. The programme ran for three years and, apart from making sure I was in each episode, I worked with guest stars including Warren Mitchel and Ian Lavender. During that time, I rediscovered my joy of wood-working, renovating a Jacobean timber-framed thatched cottage and making a complete kitchen from old floor boards.
How does living in Cornwall influence your craft?
I live in west Cornwall, in a small rural hamlet perched on the top of a hill with far-reaching views, surrounded by lush countryside. In my teenage years, working as a miner at South Crofty tin mine, I spent my spare time exploring Cornwall and the diverse landscapes of the region, its history, flora and fauna. Then, as an actor, I toured extensively in the UK and abroad but continued to return to Cornwall whenever I could.
Today, I take advantage of living near to the coast, walking the coastal paths whenever I can and am continually inspired by the grandeur of the scenery juxtaposed by the savagery of the seas.
I try to be as eco as possible when creating pieces. For instance, when I’m designing a new spoon, I draw the shape on to plastic milk bottles, which are then cut up to make templates.Emlyn Glanmôr-Harris, Cornish Spoons
Your shop bio gives a sense of how important it is to you to use environmentally responsible materials. You also mention that you use traditional tools. Please can you give us further insight into these and your creative process.
Much of the timber I use is recycled, whether rescued from the wood burner or offcuts from the building and carpentry trades. The basic tools used for spoon carving are knives and scorps, right-angled gouges or chisels designed for carving and incising, and some of my tools are more than 150-years old. Victorian chisels were produced using cast steel with fewer impurities, giving a better control over the carbon content and they seem to hold an edge better than some modern tools – or it may just be the romance of using tools from a bygone age.
Additionally, I try to be as eco as possible when creating pieces. For instance, when I’m designing a new spoon, I draw the shape on to plastic milk bottles, which are then cut up to make templates.
What is it about Cornish Spoons that you are most proud of and what are your plans for the future?
My spoons are made to be used and it makes me happy to think they could be used for generations to come. I’m very interested in the history of wooden spoons and increasingly like to incorporate themes and shapes from days of yore into my work.
One of the spoons I’ve designed recently harks back to funeral spoons that were made for presentation to members of the deceased’s family during the 17th century – a memento mori object designed to remind the living that life is brief. I’ve updated my version by adding a rare Swarovski skull crystal into the finial.
Does your creativity spill over into other aspects of your life or home?
Always! I realised at an early age that as long as I was being creative I was happy. I live with a potter and our small community boasts a landscape painter, an instrument maker, a stone sculptor and a book binder, so there’s obviously something in the water. There is a strong community of craft workers in Cornwall, folk who are supportive and friendly.
Has your wood working been of particular importance to you over the course of the pandemic? If so, how?
The pandemic has meant that I’ve spent more time in my workshop and that’s given me time to explore different techniques and ideas. That said, I’m thankful that I live in such a beautiful place with a network of footpaths from my front door.
If you were granted an extra hour each day, how would you use it?
That’s an easy one to answer. I’d be out exploring more of wild Cornwall and its secret places.
Finally, what does craft mean to you?
There’s magic in handling materials with thought and care and, as I carve a spoon, turning the spark of an idea into something tangible using my own hands, a sense of achievement and pride.
I see craft as the intelligent use of materials that unites beauty with function and look at each piece of craftwork as an evocative of continuing tradition and history.
Enjoy 10% off Cornish Spoons with code ‘Folksy10’ – discount valid until 8th May 2022
Shop Cornish Spoons at https://folksy.com/shops/cornishspoons
Meet the Interviewer
The maker asking the questions this time is Chris Parkinson from Just To Say… who makes makes clever little keepsakes in crochet that are half-way between a gift and a card.
Read more about Chris in her Meet the Maker interview – https://blog.folksy.com/2022/04/13/just-to-say-crochet-gifts