Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nadolig Llawen!!!

Bookmark and ShareWith this last post of the year, I would like to thank everyone who takes the time to read this blog!  Thank you for your support and for enjoying the rather quirky tradition of lovespoons!
It's been a funny old year...some highs and a few lows, but lots of interesting lovespoons to carve and some really wonderful folks to carve them for!!
Although I can't show any of my most recent carvings until after Christmas, without risking the wrath of a few clients if I spoiled their surprises, I do have a really sweet Norwegian style anniversary spoon that was commissioned as a 50th anniversary present which I can show.

It's absolutely jam-packed with meaning and some wonderful symbols relating the family's history and was the result of a close collaboration with the clients.  THIS is the kind of thing I really enjoy about lovespoon carving...when I can work with my clients and fill the design with loads of symbolism which is important and relevant to them!   I've said it before, and I'll say it again...try to make a plasma tv or an 'out of the box' diamond ring do THAT!!

Here's what this spoon 'says':   A gift to their parents from 3 loving and devoted children, the spoon is crowned by an anchor symbolizing their father's love of the sea.  The anchor is linked to the handle of the spoon by 3 Norwegian style links, each engraved with each of the children's initials.  The last link joins the handle through a diamond (rather than as a symbol of monetary prosperity, the diamond is used here to symbolize the kind of wealth which comes from a close and loving family) on which a book is opened and engraved with the Mother and Father's names.  The Mum is a writer and the book symbolizes her passion.
Just below the diamond, the handle widens out to include a lovely 5 point flower with 5 hearts.  These represent the 5 decades of marriage, with the circular pattern representing the eternity of love (a circle having no beginning or end).
There are 8 grandchildren in the family and each one is represented by a flower in the little bouquet toward the bottom of the handle.  Flowers represent growth and renewal and are a lovely symbol for the idea of the growing family.
At the very bottom of the handle, a heart in two halves is united into a single heart to represent the idea of 'we two are as one'.
The spoon bowl is rather broader than is found on Welsh spoons, but is commonly found on Norwegian and Swedish spoons.  The spoon is carved from a lovely piece of birch which is the favoured wood for carving in Norway and which lends some 'authenticity' to the piece!

You really couldn't find a better representation of what lovespoons are all about than the idea of 3 generations of the same family being united for posterity in a beautiful lovespoon!   Beat THAT Mr. DeBeers!!!   Ha!!

I wish everyone a most joyous and festive Christmas and New Year and look I look forward to sharing more carving adventures in 2013.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lovespoons on a dark day

Bookmark and ShareAfter yet another massacre of beautiful little children in the USA, it's pretty hard to come here and post.   That kind of completely senseless and astonishing violence against society's most defenceless members makes it very hard to view the human race in any kind of positive light.  In fact, it's pretty tempting to write the whole world off as a seriously deranged gong show and go hide in the quiet calm of my little studio.
I don't know why some people do what they do and I really don't understand the big deal about guns and owning them...but that is because I am a lovespoon carver.  In my little world, people are happy, they're in love, they're proud of their families and they want to create something positive that they can share with others.   It is the very polar opposite of the darkness which descended on that little elementary school in Connecticut yesterday.
I feel sickened by what I read in the news about this catastrophe and I feel helpless against the mindless violence and evil which seems to infest so many hearts these days...but my way to fight back against the horror of Connecticut is to make beauty.
So here here is my little memorial of 27 lovespoons to all those precious lives lost yesterday.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lovespoons in Ohio

Bookmark and ShareI've just returned home from a short trip to Ohio where I had a number of excellent lovespoon related adventures!  After several years of email communication and a couple of shared efforts on the West Coast Eisteddfod lovespoons, Laura Jenkins Gorun and I finally managed to meet in person!  Not only that, Laura made the beautifully delicate lovespoon you see in the above photo for me and my wife!  Wow!  The spoon itself is carved from Buckeye wood (there is not a more appropriate wood for a lovespoon commemorating a visit to the Buckeye state than that!!!) and it features 2 elegant little rings which float along the handle at the bowl-end of the shaft.  As with all of Laura's spoons, it is delicate, beautiful, meticulously rendered and chock-full of symbolism and meaning...I'm absolutely thrilled to bits to be its new owner!!
While I was visiting Laura at her studio, she was just putting the finishing touches to the lovespoon.  Ensconced in her marvelous carving chair (which is much, much, much more practical and comfortable than the battered old wooden chair I use- note to self: get chair like Laura's!) Laura worked away at buffing up the already satin finish while we chatted about lovespoons, the Welsh in Ohio and where to get a really big hamburger in Columbus.  While she worked, I couldn't help but notice her Mayan blue fingernail polish which seemed to perfectly set off the very feminine and elegant design of the spoon!
But the lovespoon wasn't the only thing Laura had arranged for my visit.  She also set up an opportunity for me to speak to members of her Columbus Chippers carving group and some from the Welsh Society of Central Ohio about lovespoon tradition and history.   The room came complete with a podium, microphone and slide show screen...all very high-tech stuff for a guy who sits at a little wooden bench all day using hand-tools to make his pieces!   As you can see, I even wore a collar for the occasion!  A wonderful crowd of people turned out to hear me (and no doubt to puzzle over my novelty moustache- long story) and it was an absolute pleasure to meet other carvers, fellow Welshmen and folks who were interested by the lovespoon!!  Hopefully, I didn't get too carried away with the talking...once I get going about lovespoons, its sometimes hard to shut me back up again!

There was one more surprise for me at the end of the talk when fellow Welshman and lovespoon carver Chris Watkins came up to the front for a chat!  Chris and Laura have shown their spoons at various shows over the years, but I had only been able to communicate with Chris by email up until then.  Although I would have loved to have had a bit more time to talk about lovespoon history with Chris, I know that we'll be back to emailing fairly soon and I'm hoping that between us we can uncover more information on this centuries-old tradition!

Away from Columbus, I spent a lovely day with Jeanne Jones Jindra, the director of the Madog Centre (or 'Center' in American) for Welsh Studies in the small Southern Ohio town of Rio Grande.  While there, I presented her with a little spoon as a token of my appreciation for her generous and very kind hosting.  Jeanne showed me around some of the Welsh settlements of that area of Ohio and we had a nice visit to the little Welsh museum in the town of Oak Hill.   The Welsh have always seemed to be the forgotten Celts in North America...everyone knows the Irish and the it was fun for me to see a little museum dedicated to my lot for a change!!
I hope that one day soon I will be able to go back down to Ohio and do a bit more 'lovespooning' around the state, but until then, thank you to everyone who helped make my trip so very enjoyable!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Complex Simplicity

Bookmark and ShareOne of the things I love to do when I design a lovespoon is to walk the 'Complex Simplicity' tightrope.   For my tastes, my best lovespoons happen when I can marry simple, straightforward lines with a little bit of dazzle and have it all come out in a unified fashion.   There's nothing new in that avenue of artistic exploration, but it never gets any easier to achieve!  That is why I am so pleased with this spoon I carved a couple of months back.  Every time I look at it, I get a feeling of great satisfaction that I managed to make it work exactly as I had hoped it would.   I'm sure that there are legions of art critics out there who will tell me, "I shoulda done this" and "I shoulda done that", but for ME, it works and looks great!   I love the shape of the bowl and the way it kicks back up toward the
handle to form half of an upside down heart shape, the tapering knotwork blends its complicated twists and turns beautifully with the fair curves of the handle and the reverse turn on the crown caps things off really nicely.It looks pretty easy, but believe me, it took a long time on paper before those simple lines looked 'just right'.   A fraction of an inch either way and things became too fat or too thin, too long or too I know why Goldilocks was such a fussy little so-and-so!!Separate from the artistic exploration, I couldn't lose sight of the spoon's is, first and formost, a lovespoon.  I wanted a simple heart to send an unambiguous message of love but in a way that didn't render the design 'kitschy' or make the spoon a bit hokey.  I chose to centre the heart at the middle of the top curve and to keep it very clean and straightforward.   It commands the eye, but it doesn't detract from the rest of the design.  I'm happy.

But here is my favourite part of the whole design!   It's probably not the most dramatic or 'in your face' part of the spoon, but I love how everything converges in this one little spot just above the bowl. The lines are all clean but are very dramatic, they create tension but also resolve in a comfortable manner.  OK, maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but I find derive great pleasure from making these simple lines work out!  Even the somewhat brittle birch wood cooperated and let me off without any chipping or tear-out!

Most spooncarvers, and I am no exception, design their spoons to be hung vertically on the wall.   I have found it is always a good idea to look at the spoon from several angles though.  Sometimes, the spoon doesn't look 'quite right' on the wall and it isn't until it is viewed horizontally or from the top down that imbalances appear which hamper the success of the design.  For me, this spoon works equally well hung vertically or horizontally and lets me know that I've managed to balance everything as well as I can.
This might look a simple little spoon, but there's more going on than first meets the eye!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Leaping Salmon

Bookmark and ShareI love doing Celtic knotwork, so when a wonderful commission came my way with no boundaries attached, I really went for it!!
This is a leaping salmon with the splashing of water as it jumps rendered in Celtic knotwork fashion.  Fish are MUCH harder to do than one would think and when you're trying to make them Celtic to boot, they get even tougher!!  I wanted the fish's head to be instantly recognizable as a salmon, so I chose to show it as it would look returning to its spawning grounds, leaping the waterfalls and obstacles which stand in its way.  I took more liberty with the body and tail,using the complex knotwork (which Celtic art has become so well known for) to create the fluid details of its fins and skeletal structure.
The waves and splashes were a completely different problem.  Here I wanted the knotwork to appear fairly formal while still giving the effect of movement and some sense of the 'random' nature of water splashing around.  Not an easy tightrope to balance on, but I think it worked out pretty much as I had hoped it would!
I placed the bowl on a bit of an angle to give it a more 'rocklike' appearance, symbolizing the obstacles the salmon has to overcome on its long journey.  For those of you with eagle eyes, the tiny face beneath the salmon's tail represents an egg and the next generation of salmon to make the perilous voyage from stream to ocean and back to the stream again.
The wood I chose for this carving is a glorious piece of birch which displays the beautiful colours of 'spalting'.  This colouration comes about when the wood begins its long process of decay, rotting back into the soil to become food for the next generation of trees.  As well as lending the piece wonderful movement and colour, the spalting also hints at the cycle of life so aptly illustrated by the salmon.
Lovespoon purists may argue that this spoon isn't a lovespoon because it isn't festooned with the usual hearts and symbols of traditional spoons...I'm going to reply with a well considered, "Bollocks!"
This spoon speaks to tradition, to the ever continuing cycle of life and family and is reverential of the things which make our lives worth, simple pleasures, the natural world and love.

So how's THAT for arty farty????
To be really effective, Celtic knotwork needs to be carved from both sides.  That helps give it more depth and creates nice shadows when it's hung on the wall.  So here's a view from the back.  Get a load of that beautiful spalting in the bowl!!  Woooohooo!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We Have A Winner!!!

Big congratulations go out to JANE BUCH of Florida who purchased her tickets at this year's North American Festival of Wales in Scranton P.A.

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Jane and thank everyone who contributed to the West Coast Eisteddfod. If you were not the lucky winner this year fear not, 2013 is just around the corner and we will be announcing new and exciting plans as the WCE goes into its fifth year.

On a personal note, I would very much like to thank my carving partner Laura Jenkins Gorun who came along on an even crazier ride than the one we went on the last time we carved an Eisteddfod Spoon.  Although it seemed like everything that could conspire against us did, we managed to pull off a beautiful spoon that I couldn't be more proud of!!   I don't know if I'll be able to talk her into coming back for another round next year, but if I can...I  guarantee that we'll come up with something even MORE spectacular!!  We're on a roll!

I'd also like to thank Jen Delyth for her lovely, lovely 'tree of life' and Chris Chandler for coming up with our 'Celebrate Your Roots' theme!   What a treat for Laura and I to work with artists from outside the lovespoon world and to see a project like this come together even though none of us have ever met in person.

Most of all, I would like to thank everyone who donated to the West Coast Eisteddfod!!  Sorry that you couldn't all win but I hope that this year's spoon will have encouraged you to try again next year when we reveal the West Coast Eisteddfod lovespoon Mark 5!

Here's a shot of Chris Chandler burning down the house at the finale of  the West Coast Eisteddfod 2012!

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Spoon Draw Coming!!

Bookmark and ShareDue to a surge of last minute entries for the West Coast Eisteddfod 2012 lovespoon, we couldn't get the tickets ready in time for a draw during the actual event on Saturday night.  Sorry about this delay!!!  To everybody who is waiting to see if they have won,  we are going to hold the draw tomorrow in downtown Portland.   We will be selecting a person from the lunchtime crowd (completely at random) to make the draw and will film it so that everyone knows the draw is completely above board!!!
So the good news is: YOU"RE STILL IN WITH A CHANCE!!!
Stay tuned for the blog tomorrow announcing the winner and hopefully showing some pics from the event!

Friday, October 12, 2012


Jen Delyth's Tree of Life design with some additional Celtic heart knotwork.
Bookmark and ShareWith just a few hours left before we close the donation box up and start putting the draw tickets into the drum, you've got a brief chance left to get in on the action!  Our beautiful West Coast Eisteddfod 2012 lovespoon could be yours for just ONE DOLLAR!   Every dollar you donate (just go to the donate box at the top right of the page) entitles you to one ticket in the draw.  The more dollars you can spare, the more tickets and chances you will get!!   It's easy and safe to donate and you won't be hassled with spam or requests for more money!!  
As I look over the pictures of the completed spoon, it's hard to believe that it all came from this one elegant design of Jen Delyth's!   Her 'Tree of Life" design seemed perfect for our 4th year theme of, "Celebrate Your Roots" and now that its done I can whole-heartedly say it IS perfect!!!
From whence it all began!
Now the hard work starts
So with a humble cherry plank and a design which Laura and I had debated back and forth (with rather more civility and decorum than has been seen on the US political scene lately) until we had it 'just right', work began in earnest!  Laura took the bowl end and I went for the top end so that we could each try the sections of the spoon which appealed to each of us the most.   Laura made a beautiful job of the 4 balls running in their little organic cage and after an interminable wait while the spoon wended its laborious way through the labyrinthine caverns of Canada Customs, I got cracking on the 'Tree of Life' and the little dragon, leaves and stars detail of the spoon's crown section.
Hey Presto!!  One Eisteddfod spoon!
It took a little longer than we expected for the spoon to get to me and it made things considerably more exciting as I raced the clock to get it ready in time for this year's West Coast Eisteddfod event in Portland on October 13th.   But as you can see from the pic, we got it done and the spoon has been sent registered, insured and tracking numbered by Express Post!  If the postal services of Canada and the US are anywhere near as good as their word, the package should hit Portland today!!
So there it is....this year's Eisteddfod spoon is ready to go to its new home!   To everyone who has donated, Laura and I wish you the very best luck in winning!!!  To those of you who haven't donated, hit that DONATE button now!!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Nearly There!!

With less than a week to go before the 2012 West Coast Eisteddfod kicks off, here's another look at our incredible lovespoon for all of those 'undecided' donors out there!!  If you haven't yet donated a buck or two (or more) to the Eisteddfod, you are going to miss out on a chance to win this spoon for your very own!!!   Each dollar you donate equals one ticket for our big raffle draw during this years Eisteddfod event... the more you donate, the better your odds become!
This is quite possibly the best lovespoon we have carved for the Eisteddfod (although we love them all) and I think that Laura and I are going from strength to strength as we perfect our designing and carving teamwork!!The detailing on this year's spoon is exquisite!  Laura spent many painstaking hours going over my crude sketches to refine the knotwork and perfect her sinuous vine details.  The results of her dedication are plain to see!!!

Our little Welsh dragon strikes a brave (but not unfriendly) pose as he guards over the spoon, his tongue and tail weaving through the 4 Canadian maple leaves and 4 American stars which symbolize the international nature of the Eisteddfod.  Everything is carved on both sides, so this spoon looks great both from the front, or if you hang it up wrong, from the back too!!
This may well be my favourite part of the spoon!   Look at that gorgeous cherry bowl and the way the grain sweeps through it...fabulous!!!  The 4 balls in the organic cage (representing the 4 years of the Eisteddfod) are a carving triumph for Laura.  The detailing and finishing are perfect and I guarantee, the winner of this spoon will spend many hours rolling the little balls back and forth and enjoying the silky feel of the wooden vinework!
And here's one more look at Jen Delyth's beautiful tree of life design which she so very kindly allowed us to use as the focal point for this years Eisteddfod spoon.  I think this lovely tree with its interlocking branches and leaves is the perfect symbol for our Eisteddfod lovespoon...arts and artists coming together in a spirit of cooperation to create an artwork of exceptional beauty!  How sweet is THAT?    

As an additional bonus...the winner of this year's spoon will also receive an exculusive copy of Chris Chandler's poem on celebrating your roots (which was the inspiration for this year's spoon) printed with a high rez graphic background designed by Jen Delyth!   This is a great prize on its own!!!!

So please head to the Donate box at the top right of this page and get involved for your chance to win this beautiful spoon!!   Time is ticking at a brisk rate and you'll kick yourself if that annoying neighbour of yours who always wins everything takes this home too, just because you didn't enter!!!

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Thursday, October 4, 2012


Bookmark and ShareI've just put in a 3 day marathon carving session to get the West Coast Eisteddfod Lovespoon ready for its big day!   I'm thrilled to bits with the result and I'm hoping that seeing it done will encourage lots of donations to our favourite cause!!  Remember, this beauty that Laura and I have slogged over for the last few months could be yours for one measly dollar!!!  Every dollar you contribute to the West Coast Eisteddfod entitles you to a chance at winning what is surely our best effort yet!   I defy you to find a lovespoon like THIS anywhere for a BUCK!!!!!!
I think that Laura has absolutely excelled herself with her gorgeous ball in cage detail.  Check out those sinuous vine details!! At the start of this project, Laura was a bit of a grinder with the design and in her own words, 'fussed over every detail'.  Now that it's done, you can see that her efforts were absolutely worth it! Laura and I are in love with this spoon and we don't really want to give it away...but give it away we will!
In case you're wondering why the spoon is sort of two-toned, its because Laura's section at the bottom was carved a couple of months back and is oxidizing.  That rich amber tone you see on the bowl is what the whole spoon will have in another couple of months when my section at the top settles in a bit!  This spoon is going to be a stunner!!!!!
Just to show that we didn't 'leave it all' on the front aspect, here's a picture of the back of the spoon showing that all Laura's meticulous planning has continued onto the back!!  Its like having 2 spoons for the price of one!!!
Man, I just love how Jen Delyth's 'Tree of Life' turned out!  One day it would be fun to try a bigger one and go for a bit more detail on the roots and branches, but for now, this looks pretty sweet!  Trying to remember where all those vines went around the heart, leaves and dragon made me scratch my head a few times and I had to call Laura for a sketch, but in the end its all good!!
And one last treat is this close up of Laura's beautiful work on that cage with the 4 balls (one for every year of the Eisteddfod) which shows just how 'touchable' her carving is!!
I'm totally PUMPED about this spoon...I hope that you will be too!   Just remember that time is rapidly running out for you to get in on a chance to take it home!!!   Please donate to help support the West Coast Eisteddfod today!!!!  Just click on the box at the top right of the's simple, safe, secure and you WON'T get hassled with any unwanted spam from any of us!!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jen's 'Tree of Life' Takes Root!!

Bookmark and ShareI'm underway on the 'Tree of Life' section of our West Coast Eisteddfod lovespoon.  This beautiful design was graciously given to us for use on this year's spoon by the extraordinary Celtic artist, Jen Delyth.  It's always been a particular favourite of mine, so getting the chance to carve it is very exciting.  As you can see, it's early days yet, but it is starting to take shape and I'm getting an idea of how it will look when I'm done.   I will most likely leave each root and branch slightly 'textured' rather than going for the very smooth  effect which Laura has achieved on her section of the spoon (the part which is slightly darker in colour).  I'm hoping that by leaving it a bit textured, it will separate the intense knotwork sections and make each easier to 'read'.   Of course, its always possible that my idea won't work out and so it will be one of those last minute decisions whether or not to sand them smooth after all!!
I've also started roughing out the maple leaves, the stars and our little Welsh dragon.  The cherry we are using has some really lovely grain which I think will accentuate the leaves very nicely!  Unfortunately, there is an odd bit grain running through the dragon's body which might give me a bit of a challenge.  Nothing that some aggressive cuts and maybe a dab or two of crazy glue won't take care of though!! 
 There's a LOT of scroll sawing in this year's always seems much simpler and straightforward on I'm just plugging a way a segment at a time.  Things are pretty tight on this one, and I'm finding that it is easy to get 'off course' if the old attention wanders a bit.  So short but intense bursts of sawing activity will be the order of the day for the next little while!
So here's where things stand at the moment!   With time flying by at what seems an accelerated rate this year, it feels like I am up against the wall a bit.  I'm hoping a few long sessions this week will help me to get back in control of the time and have the spoon in the post for Portland on time. 
This year's spoon is going to be an ABSOLUTE CRACKER!!!  With contributions from 4 artists, the West Coast Eisteddfod lovespoon is definitely our most complicated and elegant effort yet!  If you haven't donated a buck or two to the Eisteddfod, don't delay!!!  October 13 will be here in a flash and that is the time when someone lucky is going to win it!!
There's a LOT of artistic, design and craft skill in this piece and it could be yours for just one dollar!!  Every dollar you donate to the Eisteddfod equals one chance to win....and somebody is going to be that one!!!  
Please help us to help the West Coast Eisteddfod grow and flourish!