Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nadolig Llawen Everyone!!
As another year draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone the very best of the season. Nadolig Llawen (Merry Christmas) to all those who celebrate Christmas and best wishes to all those who don't.
I can't pretend it hasn't been a very tough year to be a lovespoon carver, with economies collapsing left and right, with massive foreclosures, 'rationalization' everywhere and everyone holding on to their pennies, it is as bad as I have ever seen it. Fortunately for me, there are still people out there who value a truly personal, entirely hand-made gift and know the real value of my lovespoons! To all those who commissioned one of my spoons, I send my sincerest thanks. To those who visited my blog and my site but couldn't order a spoon this year, I hope the next year is a better one and I get the chance to show you what I can do!!
To those of you who could care less about lovespoons, I send my deepest sympathies!
But thankfully, it hasn't all been doom and gloom! This year's West Coast Eisteddfod in Los Angeles was a great success and your generous donations to the 'Win the Lovespoon and Support the Eisteddfod' fund helped make the event the grand time it was! This year's design was embellished with artwork selected from Americymru member entries and really did make carving this year's spoon that extra bit special! Lucky prize winner Carey Dietrich went home with a beautiful artwork which I hope will bring her many, many years of pleasure! I think this is a great picture of her, and her most excellent tshirt sets the spoon off perfectly!!
I hope that next year's Eisteddfod is even bigger and better than this year's and I look forward to carving the lovespoon for it!
Once again, I wish one and all the very best for the remainder of this year and for the year to come!
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Friday, December 9, 2011

I recently received a couple of emails asking me to explain some of my strong feelings about lovespoon bowls. Those who have read my blog posts or my book "The Fine Art of Carving Lovespoons" will already know that I tend to get a bit evangelical about the lowly bowl and have very little time for the clumsy renderings of the commercial lovespoon industry.
For me, the bowl is a crucial element in the lovespoon's design and is one which needs to be handled with the same care and attention lavished on the handle. A quick look on virtually any giftshop lovespoon site will reveal a veritable ocean of horrible machine-made bowls all equally mundane and clunky (as illustrated above by some of these I have acquired over the years), none with any style or flow. Sadly, these have almost become the 'norm' for Welsh lovespoons as carvers all strive to knock off quick, cheap product that will be impulse purchased by souvenir hunters. And that is ok for the souvenir industry, but I think that carvers who make the real, hand-made deal should strive for much, much more. In the old days, the carvers lavished a great deal of time, skill and attention on the bowls of their spoons. Even the most rudimentary designs were invariably capped off with a lovely, elegant bowl. They knew (probably instinctively) that the bowl was the foil to the busy activity of the handle and it was made all the more profound by its quiet elegance.

I try to capture that traditional elegance with my spoon bowls and will often spend as much carving and finishing time on them as I do on the entire handle. It can be tiresome and tedious work getting the bowl nice and fair, but utimately (as shown by these examples) the effort is very much worth it! A sleek, well proportioned bowl which has been carefully worked is almost a work of art on its own.
The beautifully rendered bowl tells everyone who views the spoon that the carver cared! It says that no effort was spared and nothing was overlooked in the quest to 'do the job right'.
I believe that the bowl says as much about the carver as it does about the design. Like all good things in life, it is worth some pain for so much gain!

There is much beauty to be found in these simple forms and I urge you to both look for that beauty and demand it when you view, commission or make a lovespoon.
Here endeth the sermon!!!
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Back to the Future

I generally endeavour to carve spoons which push the technical and visual boundaries of lovespoon tradtion as far as I possibly can. I rarely repeat a design unless I think there is something new I can do with it and am not really very fond of the type of designs which appear on 'giftshop' lovespoon sites. A study of the old lovespoons found in the museum collections of Sweden, Norway, Wales etc., has lead me to realize that the souvenir lovespoon now equated with the 'traditional lovespoon' looks very little like its ancestors. For starters, almost every spoon I have viewed in a museum collection sports a very elegant and finely carved bowl. Comparing the bowls carved by lovestruck young men (whose simple tool kits were secondary to the intense passion and patience they applied to their work) with the chunky machined bowls produced in seconds by computer controlled cutters really is like comparing chalk and cheese.
The old spoons also have feeling!! Despite simple symbols and very basic carving techniques, the spoons have been emotionally decorated. There is passion in them which can never be matched by a machine made object. I know that one day computer controlled cutters will be evolved to the point where they can imitate even the little carver's mistakes and oddities that make old spoons jump to life,, BUT they will never be able to capture that je ne sais quoi which a handcarved lovespoon has in spades.

So I decided to go back to the past to inspire myself a bit for the future. These spoons aren't direct copies of any particular spoon, but they are amalgamations of themes which seem to work well together. Some are based on the Scandinavian lovespoon tradition and some on the Welsh. I think that revisiting the ancient spoons and re-familiarizing myself with where lovespoons came from will help me to chart a stronger course as I attempt to put my own personal spin on the tradition. Despite the fact that most of these spoons are pretty simple both in design and in the their technical requirements, they are lovely little spoons which I have become very fond of carving!!
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