Friday, October 31, 2008

David's First Concept Sketch

Welsh lovespoon design sketch

To support the development of the Left Coast Eisteddfod next year, I am donating a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind Welsh lovespoon which Americymru will raffle off to help raise needed funds.

I'm proud to be able to contribute to the creation of the Eisteddfod and to help highlight Welsh people and their culture here in North America. Everyone knows the Scottish and Irish and it is through events like the Eisteddfod that people will come to know the Welsh.

The lovespoon will be carved from a single piece of wood which has been reclaimed from a walnut bar panel. The spoon will be very modern in design but it will retain a traditional feel. The Welsh dragon will be the foremost feature of the spoon, but it won't be the cliched flag dragon which has been done to death on everything from knickers to door knockers. Y Driag will exude power and strength but without arrogance or ferocity.

Two bowls merging together are a traditional symbol for union, so I have used that theme to symbolize the merging of Wales with North America. From those bowls spring vigorous intertwining vines (a symbol for growth) and a symbol for the growth of Welsh culture which will come about as a result of events like the Eisteddfod.

A maple leaf indicates Canada and a star the USA with both supporting the dragon. Between the dragon's body and wings, the vine becomes a Celtic knot and symbolizes eternity.

I will, over the next few weeks, document the carving of the spoon and hope that you will drop by from time to time to follow the progress. I also hope that you will be moved to buy a ticket or two on the raffle!! If you are a Welsh celebrity, maybe you'd like to buy a load of them and help us really kick-start this process!

Bookmark and Share

History of the Welsh Lovespoon

Welsh lovespoon carving of leaping frog

Welsh lovespoons trace their roots back to the 1600’s. They are hand carved tokens of love or esteem, each an extraordinary work of art.

Lovespoon carving is known to have existed in 17th century Wales, but it is believed that the custom originated even earlier. It began when young men, displaying their skill and devotion, would embellish common wooden cawl (soup) spoons with ornate designs as a way of impressing young ladies. The spoon would be presented to the lady as a gift and if accepted, courtship could begin in earnest.

After nearly dying out at the end of the 19th century, the art has experienced a revival. Spoons are now given as tokens of affection on many special occasions.

The traditional lovespoon was always carved from a single piece of wood. It’s complexity of design and the large number of hours required to craft it were viewed both as a measure of a man’s strong feelings toward the young lady who would receive the spoon and as an indication of his skill and determination.

The art developed from a simple peasant art base, with the carvers often only having an axe and a knife to work with. From this tradition, a number of simple symbols and motifs appeared which could be combined to allow the maker to convey his feelings and passion for the girl who had won his heart. The most common of these is, not surprisingly, the heart. Other common symbols include bells, horseshoes, vines, chain links, balls in cages, locks, lovebirds, and the mysterious comma shape which is believed to represent the soul.

Modern day carvers have benefited from the design possibilities found in collections of lovespoons in various museums and from an exposure to art styles and sophisticated tools unimagined in our grandfather’s day. As a result, many carvers have embraced the delightfully complicated knot work patterns found in Celtic or Islamic art. Or have used geometric shapes inspired by abstract paintings.

Today, a handmade Welsh love spoon can still embody a depth of sentiment which can never be rivaled by the cold mechanization of the diamond industry or the clichéd dullness of the commercial gift industry. No matter how simple or complex the design, a hand carved love spoon always conveys a warm message of affection.

Bookmark and Share

About David Western

Welsh lovespoon carver David WesternDavid Western has been creating in wood for over 20 years. His works have been sought by collectors all over the world, including on display at the St Fagans National Museum of History in Wales. David has taught lovespoon carving for many years and is the author of Fine Art of Carving Lovespoons: Understanding, Designing, and Carving Romantic Heirlooms.

"My lovespoons are carved entirely by hand using only domestic North American woods. I feel our native timbers easily rival any tropical hardwood for beauty and colouration. Using sustainable, easily grown lumber such as alder and maple allows me to avoid contributing toward the denuding of tropical rain forests.

Book cover entitled Fine Art of Lovespoon Carving by David Western"Lovespoon carving is my passion. I constantly strive to expand the boundaries of design while creating unique and innovative carvings which respect and honour the tradition of the Welsh lovespoon. My lovespoons are not souvenir trinkets; they are art which also celebrates both my client's personal stories and my hard-earned skills as a craftsman and designer. I believe the romantic, thoughtful, hand-crafted lovespoon still has an important role to play in our increasingly sterile and pre-fabricated society. My goal is to continue the tradition of the lovespoon while introducing it to as wide an audience as possible both within and beyond the Welsh community."

Bookmark and Share