Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why the Eisteddfod?

I've been carving spoons for a couple of decades now and although it is definitely not a way to get rich (or modestly affluent or even to reach the status of 'working poor') it IS soul satisfying work.

I love what I do and I feel extremely fortunate to play my part in a 350 year old tradition each and every day.

When I first started carving professionally and was struggling to be recognized, I would donate spoons to charitable causes hoping that I could generate some interest in my art and generate future orders.

Sadly, it seldom ever worked out that way, so I decided I would never again donate or give my spoons away.

Then I stumbled across Americymru and their far-fetched scheme to start an Eisteddfod in North America. I was pretty convinced that the idea would never get off the ground and it would receive little in the way of interest and support from the public. In short, I thought it would be a complete disaster. I wrote to Gaabi and Ceri to inquire about their plans for the Eisteddfod and before I knew it, found myself swept up in their enthusiasm.

They were desperate for financial support but having nothing much in the way of cash to send them, I volunteered to carve an Eisteddfod spoon which they could auction off to help raise funds for the event.

There were a couple of excellent reasons why I went back on my 'no donations' rule to support the Eisteddfod. First and foremost, I love the idea of a Welsh event of this nature happening in North America and wanted be involved in helping it happen. As important, I wanted to link the lovespoon to the Eisteddfod because I believe the lovespoon is a Welsh icon of great (but largely misunderstood) cultural significance. Although the lovespoon may, at first glance, lack the sexiness of Catherine Zita Jones, the drama of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor belting the daylights out of each other or the mellifluous sweetness of Cerys Matthews in full throat...when done right, a lovespoon contains all that marvelous Welsh passion and more!


Presenting REAL lovespoons to the Eisteddfod audience gives me a chance to illustrate what these little wooden wonders are all about!!

Finally, I hope that auctioning my lovespoons will help to give a financial boost to a fledgling cultural event, so I am not at all ashamed begging you to donate to the Eisteddfod and do your best to win the completed West Coast Eisteddfod Lovespoon Mark III!!!

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Here Be Dragons Mark III

I've been beavering away on the sections of the Americymru spoon which our prize winning design ideas are to fill.   Everything went very well and the front face of the spoon is almost completed!   A bit of tweaking and some judicious shaving here-and-there is all that is required now!

I'm more than pleased with the beautiful grain and colourful figure of the birch used for this year's spoon.  It is gorgeous stuff!!   Like last year's spoon, the carving has gone very well and the wood seems to handle all the various design ideas without getting crumbly or cracking.  I think it will be a lovely spoon when it is done!

I really sweated about carving Laura's Daffodil design...both because we worked together on last year's spoon and I know how elegant and delicate she makes her flowers and because I decided not to fret cut through the design.  Usually Laura's flowers have their surroundings cut away so that they can stand proud without the weight of the background pulling them down.  This year I didn't do that, so there was pressure on me to get the flowers nice and light and not have the background become too obtrusive.  Hopefully, I've done it right and Laura will be happy with it.... otherwise it is back to the drawing board for me!!!   I positioned the Daffs design at the foot of the dragon's body so as to make a symbolic link with the ground.   I also thought the earth makes the right metaphor for growth and that is what our Eisteddfods have been all about over these last 3 years!!

The Harp design came out very well too!   The harp seems nice and full and stands out clearly from the background with the text bringing some action to the big space on the right side of the circle.   I think this design will certainly illustrate the importance of music both to the Eisteddfod and to the Welsh people.  It's location at the Dragon's heart is also critical with the metaphor a simple and fairly obvious one!

The Awen was another design I sweated over a bit.  I was tempted to fret cut it out to really make it bold, but in the end I decided to stay with a very simple and elegant low relief carving.   Because of its ethereal nature, I felt it was ideally suited for the wing area of the dragon as it would have an association with flight and with other-worldliness (is that a word...it is now).

The Dragon's head is nicely set off with this lovely little piece of abalone inlay.  (In case I am about to take a hammering from the environmental crowd for using abalone, I cut this particular piece from an old ashtray I found at the Salvation Army Store a few years back.  It seemed a shame for something so beautiful to be used for that purpose, so I have recycled, using it in dozens of spoons over the years.....besides, I don't even eat seafood!!!)  The figure of the wood perfectly accentuates both the body and the back scales of our dragon and brings some extra zip to the Celtic knotwork....niiiice!!

So there it is so far!   I hope that now you can see it is, indeed, coming along, you will be inspired to donate a few bucks to the Eisteddfod for your chance to win it!!   Someone will be taking it home after the Eisteddfod (and no, you don't have to be present to win) so enter now and enter often!!!

Your donation (whether exceedingly generous or very close to the bone) will be used to make our Eisteddfod better and better!!  Help hoist the Driag Goch amidst the sea of tartan and shamrocks that is Celtic North America!!!

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