Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wooden spoons? What's with that?

The other day, while she examined some lovespoons I had on display, I overheard a young girl saying to her friend, "Wooden spoons? What's with that?" Sadly, the romance and the whole love message idea of them went right over her head. Even after I valiantly tried to explain the history and meaning of them in a snappy Coles Notes version, I could tell she really didn't get it. Although the rest of the day went much better than that and the majority of visitors to my booth were effusive in their appreciation of the lovespoon tradition, that little girl weighed heavily on my mind. I'm no luddite, but I find it a little bit sad when I encounter people who would rather an Ipod or a bog-standard diamond ring to a wooden gift which has been hand made and is loaded with subtle meaning. I even understand them. Day in and day out we are bombarded with ads and propaganda telling us what to buy and what is in fashion (and let's be honest, handmade wood stuff is not particularly fashionable)...the commercial gift industry is both slick and persuasive...and after all, who wouldn't want an Ipod?

But I'm going to use the spoon shown here today to show you why some 'dime a dozen' mass produced diamond ring which may even have blood on it can NEVER compete with the power of these delicate pieces of wood.

What really makes this spoon special is something that you can't see. Rather than putting together a series of symbols or meaningful images, this spoon was designed to capture a feeling. For the couple who commissioned it, the spoon is a remembrance of a single significant event in a lifetime of memories. For you and I, it is a nice walnut spoon with a cheerful yellow cedar inlay and some nice Celtic knotwork. For them, it is the memory of a long-ago walk on a wintery moonlit night when the promises of a life-long love were made.

The spoon begins with an obvious and easily understood symbol. The heart shaped bowl signifies the unity and strength of their love joined as one. Even to those of us unaware of the true meaning hidden in the spoon, the heart lets us know this spoon is about love. The little diamond above the bowl is another traditonal theme. It is a wish for prosperity, but it indicates the kind of prosperity which doesn't come with money alone. It symbolizes the richness of a full and happy life shared with someone who has won your heart and who has given their heart in return.

Celtic knotwork is a modern addition to the lovespoon vocabulary which is often used to symbolize eternal love. While that is completely relevant on this spoon, the knots here create a valley which the couple gazed down into on that distant night. The valley came to be a significant symbol of separation for the couple when they were parted, but as they are now reunited, so the valley walls are now linked by the knotwork.

The yellow cedar inlay moon is the most significant feature of the design. Inlayed into the centre of the walnut, it is visible behind walnut knotwork from both sides of the spoon. The moon itself is carved with an 'eternal' Celtic knot to symbolize the never-ending nature of their love; its brightness against the dark grain of the walnut a reminder of the brightness and promise of that night. As the light travels down into the valley, the walnut knotwork surrounds it and acts to symbolically carry the moon's light into that winter night.

Could an Ipod or a diamond bring the magic of that night and all the feelings and emotions it holds back to our couple like this wooden spoon has? I seriously doubt it and for that I am thankful that there is wood in the world and the tradition of working it this way.

"Wooden spoons? What's with that?" Sorry kid, you're missing out.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Leaf it off!

This week I'm continuing my work on the back face of the Left Coast Eisteddfod spoon with more work on the vines and some shaping of the maple leaf and the star.

Before committing to the knives, I am careful to mark the overlaps with a pencil. I also want to draw the path of the vine across the leaf and star so that I can remember to carve it later! Because I want the dragon's tail to be uninterrupted on the front face, I didn't bother with too much over/under where the vines merge into the celtic knot. If I wasn't so interested in keeping the flow of the tail, I could have overlapped these a bit more but it would have broken things up a bit.

With the lines penciled out, I use my small straight knife held also in a pencil grip to scribe the lines to a depth of approximately 1/16th of an inch. This keeps the sides of the vines pretty vertical, marks out the path of the vines and gives me a line to start cutting against when I start lowering the leaf and the star.

In this picture I have begun cutting down the leaf using the straight cut along the vine as both a guide and stopping point. With my leaves, I resist the urge to really thin them down as my spoons are generally subjected to regular handling and an excessively thin leave becomes a breaking hazard. I try to achieve the illusion the spoon is thin by tapering toward the edges, but I still leave enough thickness that the leaf can handle rough treatment. When the spoon is viewed from the front or back, the leaf will look pretty thin and 'flowing', but when viewed from the side it will be apparant that it is a bit more substantial.

If I knew the spoon wouldn't be touched, I would thin foliage details to the very minimum. However, handling these spoons is part of their pleasure, so sometimes a little aesthetic sacrifice has to occur for the guarantee of security!

With the leaf, star and vines roughed out, I can begin to define things a bit. The vines start getting rounded over and the leaf will get a bit of texturing as it is thinned out. I'm rounding each leg of the star a bit to give it a softer feel than the more 'sheriff's badge' look the front face has and to give the back of the spoon a more organic feel.

This picture shows the 'organic' section of the spoon nearly completed. Once the rest of the spoon is complete, I'll return to this area for a final touch-up and to do some last minute shaping and sanding of the rounded edges on the vines.
I hope that you have been enjoying this little blog and that following the creation of this spoon will encourage you to donate to the Left Coast Eisteddfod. It's easy to do and might win you this spoon!

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