Friday, April 10, 2009

Forward to the Back!

With the front of the Eisteddfod Spoon largely completed, it's time to focus some energy on the back. I'm a firm believer in making the back of the spoon as beautiful as the front...even if it is going to hang on a wall and only be viewed from one angle. It takes more time and effort and increases the chances of a break or accident, BUT the result is always a much more beautiful and tactile piece. Sometimes, as a professional carver, my client's budgets don't stretch to doing both sides and they wish me to concentrate my efforts on the front only. Even in those cases, I like to try to do some shaping of the back to lend the spoon a bit more elegance.

As you can see from this close-up, the back is currently pretty flat and monotonous, even though the majority of the design outline is clearly visible and the spoon is 'coming to life'. By shaping up the back, I'll not only get a more beautiful product when the spoon is handled and turned over, but the shadows cast by the undulations and curves I plan to create will give the spoon more 'life' and appeal when it hangs on the wall. Lovespoons are an artwork which begs to be handled. Unlike some arts which can be discoloured and marred by the oils of the hand, the lovespoon inevitably profits from regular handling. Over the course of many years, a rich patina builds up and the spoon takes on a lovely vibrant glow which is impossible to replicate solely with the finishes. In this modern age of half-assed manufacturing, where virtually everything we get has had corners cut somewhere or other, it is always a lovely surprise to find the back of the spoon as nicely finished as the front.

But before you go thinking I'm getting all arty-farty and precious about this, I can assure you that doing the back of the spoon also often gives me the opportunity to break out the beloved angle grinder! I LOVE to make all kinds of noise and dust every once in a while and the angle grinder is great for both! Although I spend most of my carving time serenaded by the eloquent strains of Mozart from the cd player and alone in contemplative thought...the high pitched scream of a wound-up grinder hogging its way along can be music to my headphone covered ears!! But a warning: Kids, do NOT try this at home or anywhere else until you have lots of experience! The grinder is a great tool for removing awkward wood in a great hurry, but it is equally good at destroying your project and quite possibly removing your fingers or whole hand. This is NOT a tool to handle lightly. For me, it is a highly efficient time saving wonder, but sometimes it is an extremely fickle mistress. On this spoon it will help me put some arc and curve into the wood and it will deal with some tangled grain sections; hopefully it will do this without blowing the whole project to smithereens!

As the wood is shaped, the spoon will become both physically and visually lighter and the final look will start to emerge. Here's a little close-up of what the angle grinder can quickly achieve. More next week as we start shaping the vines and finishing off the already shaped bowl backs.

If you haven't yet contributed to the Eisteddfod, please consider doing so today! You can win this spoon!!

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  1. Finally, we get to see the back of one of your spoons! And a side view, too!! Zowie!!! Seriously, I think that in the next edition of your book (of course it will have another edition; it's a classic) you need to include more photos of the backs and sides of your spoons. Ever since reading your book (which has a permanent place next to my "carving place")I've considered myself a serious student of the art and have been terribly frustrated by not being able to see the backs and sides of various designs. If you'll remember, one of my first questions to you was "what does the side view look like?" In any case, I'm happy to see you exposing the "secret places".


  2. Hi Bob
    A fair and very valid point! I should have thought to include more pictures of the sides and backs and will certainly rectify that should I be fortunate enough to get a run at a second edition!
    I included a few photos of the backs in the pattern section, but you are right that there should be a bit more information and 'how-to'.
    Thank you for bringing that to my attention!!