For a while now, people have been asking me if I would be making lovespoon for the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. My answer has been no. Because they don't know me and I don't know them, an unsolicited gift to a couple who would prefer donations were made to charity didn't seem at all the right thing to do.
HOWEVER, to challenge myself and work out design ideas I will occasionally make spoons I have no intention of selling or giving away. These spoons let me blow off some steam, have a bit of fun and not worry too much about how they will be received. The more I thought about it, the more I decided I DID want to make a 'wedding' spoon, but only so that I could compare it with any which might be given to them by Welsh governmental bodies or by Elton John and David Beckham. As I generally work in a bit of a vacuum, it is sometimes nice to see how my vision of lovespoon carving plays out against what is going on in the rest of the world...hopefully, someone somewhere will have thought of the lovespoon as a gift and I will be able to see how my work compares!
As a bit of a bonus challenge for this particular spoon, I should note that I know nothing of the Royal couple other than what comes to me via that ever-reliable source of information, the tabloid media. As a result, the design aspect of this spoon was quite unusual. Usually, my clients provide me with information about themselves or the person receiving the spoon and then it is a fairly straightforward task to make a spoon which suits their tastes and circumstances. But this one is based on pure guess-work.
Anyway, without any further preamble here is what I came up with!!
From everything I have seen and read, the Royal couple seem a modern and forward thinking pair who don't appear to be mired in the sticky mud of rigid tradition. I wanted the spoon's overall design to reflect that attitude with a design that is very contemporary in style, yet maintains a traditional feel. These aren't easy concepts to marry but the use of a broad, 'panel' style handle allowed me to keep the essence of traditional Welsh spoons while providing a canvas for the very modern design.
The spoon handle itself is a stylized representation of the Welsh Dragon which I felt was a key component of any spoon given to William Wales. The couple seem committed to living and working in Wales and William may one day inherit his father's title of Prince of Wales, so there is no more apt symbol than the Welsh dragon. This particular Dragon design sprang directly from the one I used as the basis for this year's West Coast Eisteddfod spoon being carved on this blog (which WILL be given to a lucky recipient after the donation raffle draw this September!!!).
The dragon is regal and proud but not overbearing in its demeanour and contains a number of design elements intended to personalize the spoon for the couple. Much of of the body has been left unadorned though, so the sweeping flow of its form and the beauty of the wood grain can be easily seen. A long ribbon of Celtic knotwork forms the edge of the dragon's wing, symbolizing endless love and acting as a subtle nod to the Celtic history of Wales. The dragon's leg's and feet terminate at the bowl which has been left deliberately plain to highlight the extraordinary 'tiger stripe' grain figure which only occurs at that one spot on the wood.
The dragon's head bends around to enfold a section of endless (or eternal) Celtic knotwork forming the stylized flames erupting from the dragon's mouth and also symbolically suggesting the notion of endless love. Keen eyes may notice that there are no hearts on this lovespoon...which is a most unusual thing...but I wanted love to be symbolized by the various Celtic knots found throughout the design. Speaking of eyes, the beautiful inlaid abalone eye reflects light beautifully and really brings the dragon to life!
At the heart of the Dragon, as a personal symbol for Kate, I carved a small 'Sun Mask'. In many cultures the sun represents light, warmth and all things good and masks are often carved for ceremonial dances celebrating its beneficent power. For William, it seems that Kate represents all these values.
For William, I have, on the dragon's wing, carved a small eagle which represents flight, strength and bravery...all qualities he displays routinely on the job as a search and rescue helicopter pilot. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo handy of that detail so I'll need you to take my word for it when I say it looks really good!!!!
For me personally, the strongest detail on the spoon in terms of symbolism is without doubt the triangular knot forming dragon's feet which contains a symbolic wedding ring. Traditionally, the ring would be carved from the same piece of wood as a bit of a 'carvers trick', but I wanted the ring to be of different material to the rest of the spoon. I also knew it would NOT be any type of gold, silver or other metal. I think wood tends to be viewed as the poor cousin of metal and it irks me. THIS ring is laminated layers of wood. For me the laminations represents the many peoples and nations who have been united by the crown (and just as often divided by it) and I wanted the ring to represent responsibility. For William and Kate, their marriage will not only represent a responsibility to one another but also to the many millions they may one day represent as King and Queen. Thus the ring is held by a three corner knot. One side for Kate, one for William and one for the public.
But it isn't all serious stuff! As mentioned earlier, the bowl shape has no symbolism, no deeper meaning, no reflections on the human condition. It is simply a celebration of a beautiful piece of wood!
So, there it is, my version of a Royal Wedding Spoon. Maybe one day if I meet William when I flake out on a hike up Mt. Snowdon and he picks me up in his helicopter, I'll say, "Mate, I've got something for you!" Until then, this is the only place it will be seen!