Anneliesse Gormley shines at the junction of big style and small business
Anneliesse Gormley grew up the tail end of five sisters in Lexington, Kentucky. The recipient of a lot of hand-me-downs, she learned how to redo all those clothes to her taste. “You don’t get a lot of new things, so it’s your job to make the old things your own,” she says.
In high school, she got a job working in a clothing boutique owned by two women. “It showed me the impact of a small business and what it can bring to a community,” she recalls.
These experiences began to coalesce during her college years, when she visited an older sister living in Asheville.
“I felt like I had to be here,” she recalls. When she got an apartment in 2009, her grandmother came to Asheville bearing gifts for her new home, among them a quilt made from her grandfather’s old work jeans and a wooden spoon that could be traced back generations. “It was a moment in my life I recognized the importance and value of objects holding a story, being passed down and then holding new stories.”
That spoon sparked her curiosity to learn how to carve one herself. “Thank the Lord for Google and YouTube,” she says with a laugh. “I saw a video of someone using a hook knife, so I ordered one, and once I got it, it was failure after failure trying to get it into a piece of wood.”
Eventually, she succeeded, and friends began asking her if they could purchase one of her spoons, a development she was unprepared for. “I had no clue; I was like, ‘Sure. How about $5? Is that too much?’” At her first market, she sold all seven of the carved spoons she brought and sensed a certain potential.
A business coach encouraged her to set a timeline on leaving her dependable job at a wine bar, so she weaned herself away one shift at a time, and in 2016 launched Spoon + hook. “It’s one thing to be a maker, and another to run a business,” she notes. “I’m lucky I didn’t dive right in without knowing my worth.”
Her spoon carving segued into bowls, and then she added charcuterie boards so unique these bespoke pieces are now featured in several local restaurants. Gormley uses resin to make “half-and-half boards,” where the top part is wood and the clear portion is set with dried flowers. Commissions ensued, with brides reaching out to see if she could incorporate their bouquets into a board. Others asked the same about funeral flowers. “It’s so special to be trusted with something so precious,” Gormley says.
On the land in Leicester she shares with her husband, Gormley has a wood shop separate from the house for her Spoon + hook products, including the hand-carved walnut fork-and-spoon gingko set that earned her recognition in the craft category of Garden & Gun’s 2021 Made in the South awards.
“I began Spoon + hook with maybe 30 spoons, but with the full conviction that I am a woodworker. I wholeheartedly feel that if you have a deep passion, you should embody it.”