Erik and Michele Vevang – Teaching mindfulness through spooncarving

Ingebretsen’s presents classes on crafts, cooking, needlework, knitting, and Nordic culture. Periodically, our blog will feature profiles of our teachers. Today, we focus on Erik and Michele Vevang, who teach Introduction to Spoon Carving. 

The Vevangs in their studio
Michele and Erik Vevang in their northeast Minneapolis studio

Erik and Michele Vevang were each led by very different sources of inspiration to the same conclusion – wood carving is an enjoyable activity, well worth the time and effort.

Erik spent idyllic childhood summers on the family farm in Norway, “mostly chasing cows,” he says. There, he was surrounded by handcrafted items. “People [in rural Norway] had to be resourceful and innovative. It’s a woodcarving style rooted in necessity,” he says. Erik developed a deep appreciation for previous generations’ ability to find materials and craft them into useful, and often beautiful, items. As a teenager, he tried to carve an oar for a boat. It wasn’t beautiful, but it worked. That was a good start.

Vevang tree burl
A tree burl, which will become a bowl

Michele’s love of carving began when she wanted to relax from the stresses of owning a hair salon. The handcraft therapy worked. “You have to completely focus yourself on your work when you carve. It forces you to concentrate and think of only one thing,” she says.

A number of years ago the Vevangs decided to carve spoons, something they hadn’t done before, as weddings gifts for Erik’s brother and his wife.  The end product “looked like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble spoons,” says Erik. However, the recipients appreciated the gifts. Now expert carvers, and eager to see the wedding couple use better spoons, Michele says, “We plan to make them anniversary spoons. “

The Vevang’s developed their skills through taking classes, following along with YouTube videos, working their way through woodcarving books, and constantly carving. Michele practiced while at her salon and customers were intrigued by what she was doing.

Michele collaborated with rosemaler Rosann Jorde to create the 2018 Ingebretsen’s Christmas ornament – mini lefse sticks

The customers’ response to Michele’s carving showed that there was an interest in the craft. Erik and Michele knew that they wanted to teach, so they designed a class that would be appealing and accessible class for first-time carvers.

“It takes time to develop strength in your hands,” Michele points out. “We decided to create a half-day workshop so people wouldn’t get too tired, but they would still have a carved spoon at the end of the class.” To find a format that worked, the Vevangs ran practice classes on friends and family. After making adjustments and refinements, they took their show on the road in 2013.

Students who have taken their class at Ingebretsen’s have found, just as Michele did when she had her salon, that carving is very calming. “I’ve had people tell me at the end of class that this is the most relaxed they’ve been in months,” she says.

Students also develop an understanding of the time and skill that go into handmade objects. Erik and Michele believe that people that have tried carving, whether with them or with other teachers, are much more appreciative of all handcrafts afterwards. “Taking a handcrafting class is a good way to make people more thoughtful about the items they buy and use,” says Erik.

In a world where there is very little emphasis on working with one’s hands,  and no survival need to do so, students have found the process of spoon carving fascinating and a source of confidence. After a recent class at Ingebretsen’s, a student showed her spoon to one of the staff members there. “Look at this. I made this,” she said with a smile.

To see when the Vevangs have their next class at Ingebretsen’s, click here.

Hand carved dessert spoons by Michele and Erik Vevang