'The Great Outdoors': Tessa Silva-Dawson

Posted: Sep 14 2014

Tessa Dawson-Silva is a London based designer and maker of unique hand carved wooden spoons and utensils, which we are thrilled to be selling in store and online throughout 'The Great Outdoors', as part of London Design Week, 2014. Tessa's work is available to buy in store, and we have a selection available online


Tell us a bit about yourself and your background

Having been raised by a carpenter, and grown up surrounded by wood, I have an inherent attachment to the material. I have been working as a freelance artist/designer, specialising in wood, since completing my BA in Interior Architecture in 2012. From then I went on to work at a 3D Design Studio, developing an affiliation with smaller scale design, fabrication, and hands-on making. It was during this time that I applied for an MA in Design Products at the RCA, which I am due to start this year. 
What's the 'philosophy' behind the product?
The product is rooted in a simple belief in quality material and honest craftsmanship. Every spoon is carefully and laboriously crafted by myself, to the point where letting them go is always difficult! They champion the variety and beauty of British hardwoods, resulting in a product that combines sculptural aesthetic with practicality. 
Where do you find inspiration?
I try to let the material I am working with be my source of inspiration. For example, the form, shape, size, and colouring of my spoons is always determined by the grain of the wood. I like to work with the imperfections of the wood, utilising as best I can the beautiful patterns of the grain, letting the wood govern my hand in sculpting it. Working like this has resulted in unexpected shapes and patterns in my spoons, which are always welcome surprises. 
Where are your products made?
I make all of my products from my small studio/workshop at home. It is just big enough for me to work in, but is fully equipped for all my woodworking needs! As it is a small space it is always kept tidy - every tool has its own hook on the wall or niche on a shelf, and every nook is brimming with some sort of carpentry apparatus. It is my Aladdin's cave!
Describe a typical day in the life of you...
A day in the life of spoon-making would start with a visit to the timber merchants, or local building/construction sites to rummage for reclaimed timber! I'll have my eyes peeled for hardwoods with particularly beautiful grain or colouring. Back in the workshop, I plan and draw out the spoon shapes. A multitude of different processes are then applied to finish each spoon, including the use of both power and hand tools. The final stages of the spoon involve a lot of filing, sanding, and polishing by hand, loud music and ample cups of coffee! 
Is there anything you are looking forward to during Design Week?
The general buzz of London Design Festival is always fun; it's inspiring and overwhelming to see the abundance of talent out there! I make sure to look out for projects by friends or colleagues during design week. Furniture designer Sebastian Cox is has got an exciting project on display at the V&A this year, which I am really looking forward to seeing. Also, 3D design studio, JAILmake, always have something interesting up their sleeve. I'll be keeping an eye out for any projects they may be planning in Peckham.  
Where's your favourite (Great) outdoors space?
I have a strong relationship with a very small and very beautiful corner of Cornwall, which will always be my ultimate 'Great Outdoors'. As a craftsperson, London can be quite restricting, especially in terms of space. I am keen to do some site visits to learn more about indigenous resources and materials, perhaps devoting a new project to my favourite countryside spot.