- Associated Press - Sunday, April 18, 2021

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - When his favorite spatula broke, Orran Scruggs decided to recreate it from some wood he had on hand.

“I took on the task of making it myself and it came out looking really good,” Scruggs said.

Scruggs didn’t have much woodworking experience beyond helping his friend and mentor Charlie Mato-Toyela make Native American flutes. The two met at an art show and clicked. Before long, Scruggs was helping his friend make wooden flutes and taking home the leftover wood pieces that Mato-Toyela didn’t use.

After recreating his spatula, Scruggs began playing with other utensils – spoons, double spoons, teaspoon and tablespoon combinations or even a spoon with a flat spatula on their other end.

He made 15 pieces and posted them online. They all sold.

“A year later, I’m still doing it,” Scruggs said. “It’s like therapy to me.”

Scruggs is an artist – both a painter and musician. He also does ceramics, creative marketing, photography and advertising graphic work. He had always explored different artistic mediums whether acrylics, watercolors, oil or clay. He even made jewelry for a minute. And, now, he makes and sells spoons and other wooden cooking utensils.

“It’s just like another medium to me; I can sculpt; I can do different depths, shapes; bring out different grains of wood,” the Dothan resident said. “And the grains of wood also tell stories … We see different shapes inside the grains of the wood.”

And he loves the functional use of his wooden creations. It has changed the way he looks at art.

In the year since he began making spoons, 45-year-old Scruggs has turned his music and painting studio into a woodshop full of cutting and sanding equipment and sawdust. He still has the first spoon he made, although it sometimes disappears under the newest pile of wooden utensils.

He decided to name his wooden kitchen utensil line after his grandmother and great-grandmother – the Mae Lou Collection. To him, the name represents serving and love.

“They loved to feed people and they always cooked chicken and dressing for the church,” Scruggs said.

Before he began helping Mato-Toyela and building his own wooden creations, Scruggs had no woodworking experience. He had to learn how to use all the woodworking equipment that makes his newest endeavor easier.

All of his wooden utensils are food safe, although not all his customers end up using the utensils for cooking. Some choose to hang the wooden spoons on their wall as a decorative art. But Scruggs said the spoons look better with use and only require re-oiling when they start to look dry.

The bigger spoons and spatulas sell for $35 to $45; a small spice spoon sells for $20. Larger utensils (such as a 24-inch spoon commissioned to stir a deep pot of gumbo) are priced based on the job.

Scruggs has plans to expand what he makes – he has designs for a beard comb, for example. But, he said, he doesn’t want to take the fun out of it. He enjoys woodworking so much, he wishes he had found it sooner.

When he started, he sold his spoons through an online Etsy store, but now most of his sales are by word of mouth or through social media pages like Instagram (orrangeman). And customers have also found him at Mural City Coffee Co. – the downtown business has not only been a wholesale customer but has also allowed Scruggs to set up a table to sell his spoons in the past.

It can take Scruggs more than an hour to make one piece, although he hopes to increase his production and lower his costs with some new equipment that will allow him to do more spoons and spatulas in less time.

He doesn’t have a favorite type of wood but likes using woods in different ways, such as his Unity spoons. Scruggs glues two pieces of poplar together – one piece heat-treated to darken the wood; one piece not.

“The concept is this is the same exact wood; it’s poplar,” Scruggs said. “So, this represents the brown race and this represents the white race So, I just put them together and they serve together.”

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