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Currently Coveting: London Artist Sophie Sellu’s Functional Wood Sculptures

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Currently Coveting: London Artist Sophie Sellu’s Functional Wood Sculptures

September 2, 2020

Sophie Sellu’s wood carvings straddle the line between utility and sculpture. Based in London, the Manchester School of Art graduate took a summer course in wilderness survival skills, and came away with a passion for wielding axes and whittling spoons. In her parents’ garage, she continued working with wood and interest in her shapely creations led to the founding of Grain & Knot, her one-woman business.

An uncle who renovated period houses supplied her a while back with enough scrap timber to supply her for years. She was also helped by a loan, classes, and a business mentor from Prince Charles’s youth charity, The Prince’s Trust. Sophie gave herself six months to make a go of it; that was several years ago, and she now has such an avid following @grainandknot that every month or so, when she restocks her online shop, everything tends to sell out overnight.

Just before London&#8
Above: Just before London’s lockdown, Sophie had a pop-up shop in Islington Square.
Sophie&#8
Above: Sophie’s now lives and works in her own home in South East London’s Crystal Palace. Thanks to tree surgeon friends, some of her wood comes from storm-fallen trees that require air drying followed by time in her wood kiln.
Try this at home: in a bedroom converted into her office, Sophie artfully displays her designs on a wall. (For more ideas, see  Ways to Display Wooden Spoons, Artisan Edition.)
Above: Try this at home: in a bedroom converted into her office, Sophie artfully displays her designs on a wall. (For more ideas, see 10 Ways to Display Wooden Spoons, Artisan Edition.)

Each item is cut on a bandsaw, then hand-carved and finished. Sophie often finds herself in the position of having to ask buyers to be patient: “I can only carve for a few hours each day; it’s very tough on my body and I need to make sure I rest.”

When sawdust became a part of her daily life, Sophie started carving brushes with bristles of plant-based fibers. &#8
Above: When sawdust became a part of her daily life, Sophie started carving brushes with bristles of plant-based fibers. “I wanted to make brushes that are nice to look at—and that can happily sit among art but also be functional,” she tells us. “It took a year of research and trial and error: there is very little information about brush-making, so I had to practice a lot before I was happy.”
Scraps don&#8
Above: Scraps don’t go to waste: finding herself with “piles of random, seemingly useless piece of wood,” Sophie started transforming these off-cuts into vases for dried flowers and stems.
A collection of Sophie Sellu brushes. See more in the Grain & Knot shop—everything is currently sold out but new pieces will be offered at the end of the month: watch for the alert @grainandknot. To appreciate her process, watch Sophie making a wooden spoon here.  
Above: A collection of Sophie Sellu brushes. See more in the Grain & Knot shop—everything is currently sold out but new pieces will be offered at the end of the month: watch for the alert @grainandknot. To appreciate her process, watch Sophie making a wooden spoon here.  
Hand-carved vases made of ebonized wood: a sampling of what&#8
Above: Hand-carved vases made of ebonized wood: a sampling of what’s coming next.

All of Sophie’s wood carvings are finished with food-safe organic flax seed oil. Over time, she advises retreating them with a food-safe wood wax or oil, such as walnut, flax, and coconut (but not olive oil: “it can go rancid”).

Sophie and her whippet, Stanley, at her recentl Islington pop-up. Photograph by Mariell Lind Hansen.
Above: Sophie and her whippet, Stanley, at her recentl Islington pop-up. Photograph by Mariell Lind Hansen.

More display-worth household tools:

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