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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ta Da!!!

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Laura and I have decided on the final drawing for the Left Coast Eisteddfod Lovespoon and here it is!

We very much hope that you like what you see and that you will be inspired to donate to the cause! Remember - every dollar donated to the Left Coast Eisteddfod can translate to a chance to win this spoon!
This week we both wanted to write sections of the blog, so I am writing in regular font and Laura is in italic... a clear way to know who is saying what and sort of a symbolic way of summing up the main fund-raising purpose of this spoon! We do urge you to become involved with the Eisteddfod, either as a donor or as a participant in one of the many on-line and on-site competitions!
Both Laura and I have very much enjoyed the challenge of designing this year's spoon together and are now looking forward to figuring out how the hell the two of us will carve it! Given that we live several thousand kilometres away from each other, getting all this sorted out will be a bit of a feat! But right now, it is important to explain what this particular spoon is all about and so I'll turn things over to Laura! - Dave

When I talk with people about Welsh Lovespoons, I always emphasize that one of the most important things is the message it sends - the general "rule" is, its symbolism must be meaningful to both the giver and the recipient. So, while it's ideal to have a specific recipient in mind when we design a spoon, we don't always have that. In the case of this Left Coast Eisteddfod spoon, we would assume the recipient will share an interest in Americymru's idea "for Americans (and others!) of Welsh descent to celebrate their heritage and deepen their knowledge of the rich fund of Welsh History, Folklore and Legend." Throughout the design process, we've been thinking of this, along with the theme of "two" and the aim to represent both carvers, and our cooperation. Dave sent over a few last changes - some leaves to go with the daffodils, a correction from under to over in some of the weaving at the top, and an adjustment to the top of the knotwork to better match the taper of the spoon, and the angles of the vines above. When I look at the design now, I feel like we've accomplished exactly what we intended, and the design finally feels complete. I see Welsh and American heritage represented, I see parts that are very "Dave" and parts that are very "Laura", and, in the daffodils, I see a blend of both of us, and will see it even more when each of us carves one. And throughout the process, I know I really enjoyed the back-and-forth consideration and inspiration in the collaborative design process. And now there are the next steps!

We've already been discussing wood selection. We considered some maple Dave had, and some myrtle I had, but neither seemed quite right. Then, Dave suggested some birch he has. I have never carved in birch, but Dave's description of it sounds like it is wonderful to carve! I believe the word that really sold me was "buttery" - which is one of the biggest things a carver ever wants in wood. It also looks like it has a lovely, glowing color to it, that would suit our design beautifully. I think we may have selected our wood! The next step, I suppose, will be transferring the design to the wood, in its proper scale. We have been thinking about 17" for the length of the spoon: a manageable size for drawing, and for shipping. And then, on to the cutting! How do two people cut out a design? do we really need to split that step? Hmmmm.... I wonder what Dave thinks! - Laura


Dave thinks the guy with the birch and the saw gets to do the cutting!
Laura thinks that's fabulous! I suspect Dave is far superior at sawing.

Below, I'll attach a series of the design pictures, as we thought it might be interesting to see the progression all in one place... With a darkened version of the final design at the end

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Nice Diversion!

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Today I'm stepping away from the cerebral stresses of lovespoon design so that I can get back to the more elemental pleasures of playing with wood and heavy tools that go 'thwack' when you use them!
Laura and I are on the prowl for a nice piece of wood for the Eisteddfod spoon so I thought I would have a look at some broadleaf maple I have been storing for a couple of years.The wood is still in log form, so I am going to split out some little planks with a mallet and froe. This is the same method used by roofers to make shingles and shakes. Basically it involves whalloping a sturdy steel blade (the froe) with a lead or heavy wood mallet to drive it through the block and split off slabs.

Sometimes it is easier said than done... especially if there are hidden knots inside the block. Ultimately though, it gives the best slab of wood for carving as the direction the piece splits shows exactly how the grain of the wood is running within the tree.




If things go to plan and the block isn't harbouring any unwanted annoyances, the slab will separate nice and neatly and you will be left with a fairly tidy piece of carvable wood!

Once the board is separated from the block, it can be leveled and cleaned-up as desired, either by some judicious axe-work or by running it over the jointer. Because I am ever-so-slightly lazy, I generally opt for the jointer, but if I am feeling 'back to the landish' I will sometimes use the axe or a hand held plane to tidy things up.
With the board nicely planed, I can get a really good look at the grain and check to see if there is any figure to it or anything of interest. Most carvers prefer to have pretty plain and uniform grain so that the wood will be more predicable and the carving goes easier. Because I have always been obtuse, I like it to have some figure and some zing to the grain pattern. This generally means I get a bit more of a fight from the wood, but the end results are generally worth the tussle! In this case, the wood is fairly uniform in its grain orientation and there isn't much in the way of figure, but it has some spalting (fine dark lines) which might go well with our design. We'll see how Laura feels about it and will compare it to some nice pieces of myrtle wood she has just been given. Although I am a big fan of maple, the thought of myrtle wood for a spoon destined for Oregon has some allure too. Stay tuned!
And please also consider making a donation to the Left Coast Eisteddfod. Your contribution (no matter how big or small) will help produce this exciting Welsh cultural event and will give you the opportunity to win the completed spoon!!
- Dave

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Further consideration...

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So many drawings, so many features. After some consideration, and putting off the actual size/arrangement of daffodils, Dave liked version E, I liked version E, and others also mentioned liking version E. Dave and I both, however, felt like there were still some thin areas. (and we still want to change the flowers!) So, I stared at the drawing some more.


It isn't that I don't like negative space in a design. In fact, negative space is a great tool, and I think it contributes a good deal to the delicate look in a lot of my designs. It can contribute to the carving difficulty, too - long, thin, unsupported vines will have a tendency to want to break. That, I definitely DO consider!

So, now, all things considered, a thought entered my little head, and I started to drawing again. I realized, if I had vines stemming from above the twist, why couldn't I have them stemming from below the twist, as well? It might even-out one of the thin areas. Another thin area seemed to be inside the top of the "frame". It occurred to me that I could play a little with that vine, and somehow tie it back into the lower vines. This would also create separate areas for each daffodil. I wasn't sure how I felt about that, but I also wasn't quite sure how the daffodils should really look, either. Big? Small? With leaves? Without? Hmmm... so in this first drawing, I drew two small sample daffodils.



A quick e-mail from Dave suggested larger daffodils And, I agreed with the comments about the flowers in last week's "F" design... if I liked any arrangement of flowers, I liked the arrangement where one was low, and the other higher. So, I tried to enlarge the flowers a little bit, and drew another arrangement. This time, I didn't see room for leaves, so - no leaves. Now the design is feeling more balanced to me. I think my only reservation is with the flowers. It may not even be a reservation, in fact; it may simply be that there are so many possibilities, not yet explored. That is often the problem with designs - deciding when to stop. Maybe Dave will have the idea for that final adjustment that makes us both say, "that's it!" We shall see!
Enough for now...

- Laura