Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Valentine's

With Valentine's Day creeping ever closer, I thought I would post a blog now...especially since I probably won't get a chance closer to the time.

If ever there was a day made for lovespoons, Valentine's Day has got to be it. It's the perfect opportunity to be sentimental, passionate and nauseatingly romantic and have everyone love you for it!!
Although I have carved loads of spoons over the years for all kinds of Valentine's lovers, the spoon I have chosen to picture wasn't actually carved for Valentine's Day at all. However, the reason I chose it was because it possess all the requisite romantic detailing and depth of feeling I feel is required for an occassion like Valentine's. For me personally, this would be the type of spoon I would want to make if I was going to send a lovespoon for Valentine's Day. (No doubt my wife is in the background yelling, "Fat chance of that!" in one of those classic cases of the cobbler's family going without shoes)
It has everything I would look for in a romantic lovespoon design, but what I really love about it (aside from its obvious romantic message) is its exuberance!! This is a spoon which is unabashed and heartfelt and that makes it really hard not to be drawn in to its passionate enthusiasm!
The spoon itself celebrates the union of a Welsh man with a German woman and features artistic elements of both cultures in a vibrant display of Celtic knotwork and Alpine-style chip carving. The design is very, very contemporary BUT retains a very traditional feel which would not have been out of place 200 years ago. In case you are wondering about the text found on the spoon it is the Welsh and German words for 'sweetheart'...go ahead, try to tell me you wouldn't like someone saying that to you!!
This is the stuff the lovespoon does actually says how much you love and value that special someone. There's no 'last minute' desperation or 'I'll grab whatever comes to hand' half-heartedness about a lovespoon...they require thought, effort and emotional investment. As far as I'm concerned, those grossly overpriced bunches of wilted roses and sugary chocolates in flowery boxes are for those of a 'less decorous nature', REAL romantics would go for the lovespoon every time!!

So even if you read this too late to get started on a Valentine's lovespoon for this year, hopefully you'll now have it in mind for next. Unless, of course, you'd prefer to be like the media and content yourself with the familiar mediocrity of the same old mundane chocolates and flowers story over and over for eternity!!
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Flattered or Offended?

Bookmark and ShareRecently, while having a browse through lovespoons sites on the internet, I came across a couple of copies of a spoon design which I did a few years ago with artist Jan Buehler. The design originated with a delicate little sketch Jan had made of a vase of flowers. I modified it a bit so that it could be rendered in wood and stylized the flowers a little. Right off the bat, Tulips became one of my most popular lovespoons and is one of the few designs I have ever carved more than once. In fact over the years, I have probably made ten or twelve Tulips in a variety of sizes and wood types, so it doesn't surprise me that other carvers would find the design equally alluring!
I know there is an old saying which implies that copying is the sincerest form of flattery and I am right onboard with that sentiment.....until money starts changing hands.
If a carver wants to copy one of my spoon designs as a gift for a sweetie, as a personal challenge or as a fundraiser for a charitable event, I really am flattered!!
If another carver's version of my spoon gets posted onto a website to advertise that carver's skill, then I think the least that carver can do is acknowledge where the design came from by mentioning my name. That, I believe, is just common courtesy!
If a carver puts a spoon carved from my designs on Etsy or Ebay etc., then it is theft pure and simple....and I definitely am not flattered any more.
I work very, very hard to make the best lovespoons I possibly can. When my designs are taken to promote other carvers or to make money for them, I can't help but be offended. I certainly would never dream of doing that to them and I don't like it being done to me!!
Although I'm having a good old rant here, it's important to note that I am not a miserable old coot who wants to keep everything to himself!! I am approachable and I try to always be supportive and helpful with other carvers, BUT, I am trying to make a living like everyone else!

While I am flattered that the carvers of these two spoons enjoyed 'Tulips' enough to copy the design, I can't help but be a bit offended that neither bothered to acknowledge the origins of the design when they posted the pictures to the internet.
I would have been even more offended if I had found these on Ebay (fortunately, I didn't) as it would be a copyright infringement and a theft of my intellectual property.

The internet is a miraculous thing and is the sole reason I can make a business of carving handmade wooden lovespoons in this mass-production world of ours. Unfortunately, that same internet can be a bit of a 'Wild West' and things like this can happen. I can only hope that in years to come, I will be flattered more than I am offended!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A World of Spoons!
Despite all the forecasts of yet another year of economic doom and gloom, my year got off to an excellent start when renowned spoon collector Norman Stevens sent me a box of spoons from his extensive collection for me to study. I've never been fortunate enough to see a Norwegian wedding spoon or a Swiss creme spoon 'in person' before, so the opportunity to handle some of these remarkable pieces has been very inspiring!
Several of the spoons in the above picture date from the early part of the 1900's which makes them even more valuable to me as they are links between the hand-craft world of yesteryear and our more machine based modern era. Their elegant, efficient craftsmanship has given me a bit of a schooling in how things were done in the old days and shows me how beautiful the workmanship of many old pieces really was.
The really good news for me among these spoons is the high quality craftsmanship of some of the most recent pieces. A Romanian spoon dated 1999 and a Russian spoon from the latter half of the 20th Century both display exquisite workmanship and design showing clearly that excellent craft is both possible and desired in our busy, ultra-modern world!!
The bad news was the appallingly poor quality Welsh lovespoon (of the 'gift shop' variety) which I could not force myself to include in the above photo!! For me, as a Welsh-born carver, it was simply too embarrassing to show! Honestly, I could have cried when I saw it beside all these elegant and lovely European spoons. Although I understand the commercial gift industry's desire to crank these horrors out at their impossibly low price point to capture the 'impulse purchase' market AND I agree with the arguement that they keep the lovespoon in the public eye; I can't help but feel they are doing the lovespoon a colossal disservice!
Especially in Wales, but also among tourist visitors, there is a growing perception that the clunky, soulless, style-less, dark-stained monstrosities that are being pumped out of factories from Canton, Cardiff to Canton, China are what lovespoons represent and what they should look like. This notion makes me weep!!!!
The spoons I have shown in the above picture are what it IS about...and many of them aren't even 'lovespoons'!!
These spoons are all made with caring, passion, patience and craftsmanship. They are elegant, beautiful and cry out to be handled!! In short, they are lovely... and THAT is the example I always wish to follow when I carve my own lovespoons!!
For those interested, here is the listing for the spoons shown above:
Top left: Swedish spoon with ball in cage circa 1900
Top right: Swiss cream spoon with fretted bird figure on handle circa mid 20th C (?)
Lower extreme left: double bowl Norwegian wedding spoon circa late 1800's to mid 1900's
Middle left: Russian spoon with double horse head crown and chip carving circa 21st C
Middle: Chip carved Romanian spoon carved in 1999
Middle right: Swiss tourist spoon with high relief foliage carving circa 1900
Extreme right: Painted high relief Norwegian spoon circa 1900 (?)

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