February’s monthly maker is none other than our very own, Ben Evans. At Make, we have an eclectic mix of makers, from puppeteers to silversmiths and beyond. But it’s not just our residents who are using their creative skills, we have some makers in the Make team too! I sat down with our Custodial Assistant Ben, to hear all about his self taught woodworking skill. Read on to get some inspiration.
Hi Ben! Tell us what you make/do?
I make little trinkets and oddities. I started carving fantasy teeth and claws and then I moved onto carving whole jawbones out of wood. Recently, after spending time with Makes resident woodworker Keith, I’ve been carving mostly spoons.
I try to reuse small bits of wood that would usually be going to waste and make something out of it. The unusual shapes I find make me more creative with it.
My degree was in photography (Digital imaging). My favourite projects at university we’re not necessarily taking a picture, it was more about making something tangible that I could hold. One of my favourite projects was a set of prints. The story was that they’d been found in an old house and were haunted. So I made a weathered envelope for them and stained the string that they were wrapped in and wrote a story to go along with them. It was nice to work on a project with different physical elements. I’ve always been into making things that you can touch and feel and that have a story.
So you’ve already told us a bit about what sparked your passion for making, but what about carving?
I’ve always loved photography and one day I was walking past Hugh Baird College and saw a sign saying ‘enrol today’ so I just walked in and enrolled, which kind of sparked my passion for making.
For my final third-year piece I bought some craft knives to make a montage; a set of 10 images based around the theme of dystopia. Artist, Peter Kennard inspired me as he was doing a very similar thing and I wanted to try it out for myself.
I thought it would be good to put my craft knives to use and at home we had wooden star Christmas decorations, so I used my craft knives to carve a spiral into one and was really happy with how it came out. After that I started experimenting with the other ones and carved one into a shark tooth and I kept going from there. I’ve been carving ever since!
Apart from your uni projects, what has been one of your favourite pieces you’ve ever worked on?
One of the best things I’ve made so far is the spoon I made in collaboration with Make resident, Keith. Keith has set himself the challenge to carve a spoon every day for a year and has been collaborating with lots of creative people to produce some of the spoons. For my collaboration, I carved the handle and Keith carved the bowl. As I’m a big fan of all things spooky, we decided to make my collaboration the Halloween spoon, so I carved the handle into a jaw bone with monster-like teeth. Another Make resident Harry Mytton; who is a signwriter; gilded one of the molars, and it turned out great.
It was also one of the first times people acknowledged that my carving was good, so I was super proud of it! The spoon was showcased at Keith’s first 100 Spoons exhibition at Make North Docks so it was cool to see it there.
What would your advice be for anyone who wants to take up a new craft or hobby but doesn’t know where to start?
Just have a go, it’s exactly what I did. I had a basic kit and a small piece of wood and wanted to see what I could do. If you like it you’ll just keep doing it and grow. At first, I thought I was rubbish and when I showed people they thought it was interesting. If you enjoy doing it, it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad because you’re having a good time and it’s good for mental health. It definitely helped with my anxiety, it makes you concentrate on something else. I always liked puzzles but this is a different kind of problem-solving.
What are you working on next?
I’ve got three more big chunks of sycamore, kindly given to me by Keith. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with them yet, but I’ll probably make something spoon related. I still love carving teeth and claws though. Recently, Chris Wylie* showed me the teeth that he casts and paints and they are so good. He’s inspired me to step up my game a bit.
*Make Resident and puppeteer, founder of Puppetuity.
Where can people find your pieces?
You can find my oddities and artifact acts on Instagram @mister.e.curiosities