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If there’s one person making the time-worn art of woodcarving cool again, it’s Sophie Sellu. Since launching East London-based Grain & Knot, the concept designer has been at work crafting handmade kitchen utensils and cookware from reclaimed wood, selling to the likes of Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson (who will be using Sophie’s wares in her newest cookbook).
After leaving her job at a trend forecasting company, Sophie went on a single-day woodwork course in Sussex and fell instantly in love. “The next day I went and bought an axe and tools. I started doing it obsessively, it became like therapy to me. Suddenly friends were telling me they would actually spend money on the things I was making! Everything just slotted into place at the right time.”
After honing her skills in the garage of her parents’ West London home, Sophie won funding from The Prince’s Trust and launched Grain & Knot’s online shop in 2014. Since then she has hosted workshops alongside porridge company 26 Grains, taken a flood of commissions via Instagram and decorated a number of influential food blogs, including The Boy Who Bakes. Those bloggers do love a good walnut scoop.
I feel like the wooden spoon has been a bit neglected in the cooking world
Sophie greeted us at her Mile End studio in overalls (obviously) and quickly unearthed her newest works, a set of butter knives created from an old-school gym floor. “I always think, why throw something so solid and high-quality away when you can make something useful from it?” Sophie tells us, as we turn the little artworks over in our hands. “I just like making things that I would want in my own home. My kitchen’s full of cast-offs – all the bits that didn’t quite make it. I like the ones with character.”
Her pieces sell out almost immediately online, particularly her intricate, silky smooth spoons. Have you ever actually eaten your porridge with a wooden spoon? It is, as we soon found out thanks to Sophie, a delight. “I feel like the wooden spoon has been a bit neglected in the cooking world,” Sophie tells us.
She now works full-time in the studio, with more demand for her pieces than ever. “It is pretty labour-intensive on my hands,” she says. “But I love it more than ever. I like the immediacy of woodcarving. I can have a piece of material in the morning and end up with something beautiful and practical by the end of the day. I can’t think of anything more satisfying.”
Grain & Knot is giving woodcarving a whole new face. Its mounting popularity proves that the labour of love is still appreciated. As for Sophie being a young woman in this industry? “Woodwork is very traditional. It’s typically an old man’s retirement hobby, really,” she tells us. “Sometimes when I go for meetings people are waiting for someone else to come in, and they’re surprised when I come through the door!”
With plans to open her own store and expand the range to furniture, hand-dyed table linens and tabletops, Sophie has many a whittling day ahead of her. Look out for her at her upcoming pop-up workshops across London, where you can make your own porridge spoon. Take it from us; once you go wood, you never go back.
More at thecuriouspear.com
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