a spoon is more than a spoon

When we were in graduate school, if my studiomate Corey was having an off day, she would go into the hammer room and forge a spoon. Translation: She would disappear with a length of silver stock and reappear a while later with a spoon perfectly capable of stirring hot cocoa or eating soup.

Eventually, Corey had a small collection of spoons that she kept in a handmade ceramic mug in her cabinet.

When you’re in graduate school for art, you pretty much live in the studio. As a result, each of us had our own small collection of dishes and utensils for eating meals throughout the day.

But inevitably, if anyone had something that required a spoon, you’d hear “Corey, can I use one of your spoons?” To which she always reply “yes.”

There was something about using one of Corey’s spoons that was different. Each one was unique, and while none of them were fancy, each seemed to elevate lunch time to a special occasion, even while sitting in my dirty studio apron at my messy desk.

There was something about the experience of using one of Corey’s spoons to which my regular studio spoons, purchased in the leftover section of the Oneida Limited outlet store, could never compare.

If stuff didn’t matter, if it didn’t effect who we are and how we experience the world, if it didn’t, in some small way, connect us to others, then it wouldn’t matter what spoon I was using. The experience of eating lunch would be the same regardless.

A spoon would be a spoon would be a spoon.

It’s really easy to pretend that stuff doesn’t matter when you view every object as an interchangeable cog in our lives. When you look at things only as serving a very limited function, then questions of style and lineage don’t matter. You don’t have to seek out special silverware because it’s all the same.

But it isn’t all the same.

I have seen firsthand how a single spoon can transform the simple act of eating lunch.

I have seen how excited someone could get when they got to use one of Corey’s special spoons. And I have felt the disappointment when I realized that Corey’s spoons were locked away in her cabinet and I wouldn’t be able to use them that day.

When I think about why stuff matters, I don’t think about the mass. I don’t about stuff as one big, slightly out of focus blob. I think about the individual objects and the stories that go along with them.

And it is these stories that help me understand just how much stuff matters.

Above image of spoons by Corey Ackelmire, via her incredible spoons board on Pinterest.

Below image from the exhibition 1002 Spoons via Sheryadi..

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6 responses to “a spoon is more than a spoon”

  1. Melanie

    I just found this site and this was the first article I read. It really touched me. It’s true, a spoon that was made by someone you love and which is unique is always cherished more than one that you bought in bulk and is the same as all the other spoons in your cutlery drawer. There is another way to look at it. My family doesn’t have all fancy schmancy cutlery that all matches. We have moved around and have built up a cutlery drawer that is ecclectic and unique. Maybe other families would get rid of the mix and match cutlery, but we embrace the fact that no two people at the table will have the same forks and knives and spoons! And in my family, there will be favourites among the cutlery. It is not uncommon to hear my sister shout out “This is not my knife!”
    I will never understand people who thrive to have all matching all the same things, bought in bulk and maybe even similar to all the other stuff that people have.

  2. Arrie

    I am loving your blog so far! Every post I’ve read has made me all, “yes, this!” This story of the spoons especially resonates with me. I remember growing up and always wanting to eat my ice cream with a long, delicate spoon made for stirring iced tea, and if it was dirty, the ice cream just didn’t taste as good. I don’t have a special spoon anymore.

    I am inspired now to start giving my friends single spoons, from thrift stores or flea markets, along with a note about uniqueness and how easy it is to make a mundane activity more special. Thank you for this!

  3. Jo-Anne

    Like your blog very much, I have a special wooden spoon that is handmade by a 2nd generation wood carver, from recycled timber, bought on holiday in New Zealand and used nearly everyday to make my family dinner (in australia). I also use a carving fork passed down from my great, great grandmother and many other ‘tools’ that have been used by my family in past generations. This kind of stuff has great meaning, it’s shaped by the use and hands of my family, ie the carving fork tines are shorter on one side than the other. I also use inherited tools for woodworking and sewing / patternmaking. I was quite distressed when my great grandmothers tracing wheel (very industrial -victorian and spikey) broke through at the axle this year after my using it for 20yrs, I could not bring myself to buy the plastic handled, less spikey modern version. it had no soul. I found an early 1900’s tracing wheel on etsy, in america, hardly used in its original box. my heart sings with delight when I use it. It will be a story for another generation.

  4. Karina Mitchelson

    I just read your story in the latest Frankie magazine. My immediate reaction was relief. I come from a family of hoarders and though I have vowed not to clutter my life with stuff, I find it very difficult to part with things from my childhood. I love vintage items and I have long benefited from my family’s hoarding. Belts, Glomesh jackets and fur coats.

    I have clicked through to this story to check out your blog and your story above reminded me that I love eating dessert with teaspoons. The smaller the spoon, the longer the dessert lasts. My mother and mother in-law gave me their piles of collectable spoons. These are now my favourite dessert spoons as not only can I savour each mouthful of dreamy goodness but I can ponder over the location the spoon represents.

  5. Miro

    Dear Megan,

    As a struggling minimalist aka rightist I think I have a little more grip on the situation since reading your post. What the minimalist movement is proposing is that consumerist, me too or I’m feeling crapy so I’ll go blow some cash types of stuff is what we are better of without. That 30th shirt in not that special design or cut or quality we can do without. That latest mobile phone or whatever we can do without and I agree. It leaves room for that special spoon that your friend made or that jumper your daughter knitted for you. This s the stuff that I think you are referring to and I agree this is the stuff to keep cause it matters to us and our hearts. I doubt strongly that anyone s suggesting you toss your son’s awesome 3rd portrait of his sister sleeping but rather that made by the truckload mistake of a purchase or that I have to get you a present purchase of cheap ill thought out cookbook with recipes you already have…but even if it isn’t particularly cheap if you already have 3 dinner sets…. Why not free up the room and keep the one that means a lot to you. What do you think?

    Best wishes

  6. Very Cool Responses on Why We Collect | From the Attic of CollectibleCool

    […] of the members pointed me to the StuffDoesMatter website, which focuses on our relationships with our belongings. In the blog, A Spoon is More Than a Spoon, […]

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