Memet Kadir and his son Enwaer Memet were born with a wooden spoon--an ancient carving craft passed onto them from Kadir's father.
The duo in Kalpin County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have followed the family tradition after the best spoon maker in their village taught all he mastered to Kadir's father.
Every spring, apricot trees do not just bring beautiful blossom to people in Kalpin. They also add flavors to their meals every day, not by offering the delicious fruits, but by offering the wood to make the best spoons.
Thanks to the vast apricot forests here, people in Kalpin have been making and using apricot wood tableware, especially spoons, since more than 2,000 years ago.
However, as modern mass production brings in plastic and metal commodities, the art of making wooden spoons is fading. Memet Kadir and his son Enwaer Memet are the few craftsmen who are still making spoons with apricot wood in Kalpin.
Memet Kadir (L1) and his son Enwaer Memet (L2) make wooden spoons.
Despite the small size, making a good spoon requires various tools, including a saw and an axe. Kadir says patience and carefulness are important when making a good spoon.
There are four steps in making a spoon.
- Cut the wood into blocks of 15 to 20 centimeters long and 7 centimeters wide.
- Cut the block into a smaller cuboid. Then carve one end into a hemispheroid.
- Carve the hemispheroid into a bowl.
- Carve the other end into a handle. Polish the woodwork.
It usually takes them 20 minutes to finish a spoon. Each of them can make 20 to 30 spoons a day.
Wooden spoons are still the most popular tableware in local Uygur households. Kadir sells their woodworks in the local bazaar every two weeks. Their spoons always sell out within two hours.
Kadir began to make spoons with jujube wood as locals began to grow more jujube trees in recent years. But the new products are not so popular because jujube wood has a stronger odor and a lighter color, says Kadir. Kalpin people still prefer to enjoy scooping food into their mouths with the time-tested, fragrant apricot wood spoons.
(All photos by Zhao Chunhui)