A hobbit’s favorite tool is his own hands, whether working in his garden or knitting a sweater, carving an intricate design in the curved lintel of his hobbit hole, or chopping vegetables to go in a stew. Welsh artist Giles Newman knows the joy firsthand of working with his hands to create something out of raw material, but his hobbit-like methods result in intricately carved pendants and spoons, works any elven king or queen would be proud to use. Newman chooses logs of wood from the forest of Coed Tegid in North Wales and, sitting by an open fire in a clearing, begins his journey with a small ax, cutting into the wood in seemingly random directions. He eventually replaces the ax with a knife, and the shape of an ivy vine, a dragon wing, the arched curve of a horse’s neck, emerges from the wood.
Newman had childhood dreams of becoming a ranger or woodsman, and when his office job in the city as a graphic designer became too overwhelming for him, he escaped on the weekends to the small forest his father owned. He would wander the woods, clearing the streams of debris, making sure paths were clear, and enjoying the opportunity to be in an environment that brought him such peace. He began to gather small pieces of wood and whittle with them, cutting points. It wasn’t until a weekend gathering with friends in Lancashire, when he saw them cutting wood into spoons and using them to eat food cooked over the campfire, that his own fire of fascination was lit.
His first spoon more closely resembled a spatula, Newman says, but he persisted. He filled a sketchbook with designs for spoons and pendants and used up all the “good” wood in his woodpile in his first attempts—he refuses to cut good wood from a tree for a project—so he was forced to turn to the misshapen and odd pieces. He completely altered his artistic process when he realized that the wood should tell the artist what it wants to be, rather than vice versa. Stunning organic leaves and trees, deer antlers, and foxglove bells emerged from these pieces of rejected material, and the intricacy of his work soon caught the attention of admirers.
Newman set up an Etsy store and sold all his wares. Soon he found himself unable to keep up with demand for his work while maintaining it as a weekend hobby. With some nervousness, he put in his notice at his office job and followed his forest-loving passion. Interest in his work continues to grow, as the joy he feels creating each new piece translates to a growing audience. His Instagram account now has almost 60,000 followers, and each Etsy update sells out almost immediately. In an increasingly fast-paced society, Newman has stepped off the grid and into another time, a slower pace. Hobbit or no, his work is filled with Middle-earth magic.