Meet the maker: Hatchet & Bear

Hatchet and Bear carving a spoon Decorator's Notebook

Can you remember the moment you discovered woodworking?

My earliest memory of carving wood is being nine years old and using a penknife to shave bark from a stick in the garden. It took another 20 odd years and a lot of strange shapes, before I started turning wood.

How did you learn your craft?

I have always been a maker of things… I spent many years being a Jack of all crafts and makery. I studied Arboriculture with the Royal Forestry Society, then I studied Product & Furniture Design at university. I still had no idea where I was going. The turning point was when I caught flu and was bed ridden. I was delirious, got out of bed, ran to the garden, snapped off a tree branch and took to it with a Stanley knife, exclaiming that I needed to carve a spoon. That day ended with a cut finger, but it was also the start of something good for me. I took it as a calling, put everything together and here we are.

What’s the meaning behind the name Hatchet & Bear?

A Hatchet is a small axe, something I use every day, and Bear is my middle name.

Carving a wooden eating spoon step by step Hatchet and Bear

Hatchet and Bear eating spoons for Decorator's Notebook shop


Talk us through your design process when you begin work on something new…

An idea will come to me and I’ll write it down on the ideas list. The ideas list is actually called ‘Woodstuff’. It’s called Woodstuff, to remind me not to go too far with other materials. Wood must be the primary material at all times. Woodstuff is a very long list. Ideas for products get moved up and down the list for many different reasons. An idea at the top of the list will be sketched and prototyped until I’m happy with it – then I’ll test it. Testing it means I’ll use it in my world to determine if it works, how pleasurable it is to use, how lovely it is to look at. The test will end with me trying to break it.

Is it important to you to follow tradition in your tools and methods?

Tradition is very important to me. I use it to learn about tools, techniques, materials and design. Tradition is the foundation of your learning. Once you understand it you can use it as a springboard, bounce off it into the air and then come crashing down on all of it and break it up – create new things, in new ways.

Hatchet and Bear spoons Decorator's Notebook shop

Fireplace in Hatchet and Bear workshop Decorator's Notebook

How would you describe the Hatchet & Bear look?

Honest and Useful. It’s about simplicity by design and allowing the wood to do the work. Really, I just take parts of a tree and shape them into useful things. It’s all about the wood.

Describe your workspace…

It’s tidy: everything has its place. I spent a considerable amount of time stripping the walls back to Victorian red brick. I don’t understand plaster on brick. It just seems very unnecessary. There is an open fireplace and in the cold months I burn all the shavings and scraps to keep warm. I have an enormous, canvas map of the world on one wall, a large desk, various machines and tools – all concerned with working wood in some form or another. There’s almost always wood shavings on the floor. It can get quite deep. My dog lounges about, napping amongst them.

How do you get to work?

My workshop is located downstairs in my house, so it’s an easy journey to make.

Hatchet and Bear workshop

Hatchet and Bear wooden bowls Decorator's Notebook


Spoon carving by Hatchet and Bear Decorator's Notebook

What’s the most satisfying part of your work?

A new product being ready to go into the online shop feels good. Sending a product off and knowing it’s going out into the real world to be used by someone is great. But nothing beats the feeling of carving fresh green wood, with a razorsharp knife.

What makes a piece of wood good for you to use?

The wood I use comes from a managed, ancient forest in Frome, Somerset. I use the wood from hardwood trees that are native to the British Isles – ensuring incredibly strong and very characterful utensils and bowls. I only really know what a particular piece of wood is good for after I start cutting it up. I work with the wood – using and exploiting natural curves, bends and grain direction, to get the very best design out of it.

What’s your favourite type of wood?

I love them all. Beech, Birch, Lime, Ash, Sycamore, Wild Cherry and Walnut are all ones that are readily available to me. All make amazing bowls and utensils.

Hatchet and Bear wooden bowls and spoons outdoor

Hatchet and Bear eating spoon Decorator's Notebook

If someone hasn’t eaten with a wooden bowl and spoon before, what would you tell them?

You haven’t lived! Ok. Maybe you have, but your life would be so much nicer if you ate a meal from a wooden bowl, with a wooden spoon. It’s quieter. It’s a lovely sound. When we put our wooden plates and bowls away after washing up, there is no awful noise. The same at breakfast time. I like the thought of my child eating from something that is directly from our earth, having undergone the most minimal process.

What’s your next creative milestone?

My spoon carving courses, starting in spring. It will be a big creative milestone – inventing different ways to teach new skills so others can go and make their own utensils.

Order Hatchet & Bear products and book courses online here.

{all photographs Hatchet & Bear}

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    • says

      Lovely isn’t it. There’s just something so special about hearing someone who is passionate about what they do telling you about their craft. There’s such a simple beauty about EJ’s work – her traditional methods and the raw material she uses.

  1. says

    I just think it is amazing to see stuff like this, humans work for money to pay for things but I think it is natural for us to craft the things we need and live from the wild. I love handcrafted work, its the best. nice post and thanks for sharing it.

  2. Mark - Queens Park says

    The work you do and to think it is all handmade is incredible, watching your interview and seeing how you are making the spoons and bowls is amazing. Stuff like this is worth the money just because of the hard work you can see is put in to a SPOON????

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