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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Last Chance!!!!

Bookmark and ShareWell, it's too late for Europe and the UK, but there is still a tiny bit of time left for those living in Canada or the USA to have a beautiful, hand-crafted David Western Lovespoon under the tree Christmas morning!!   I've got an extensive range of spoons available at the moment.  No matter the budget or taste, there's something there for you!!

Don't delay though, the North American deadline is RAPIDLY approaching!  Next stop.... Valentine's Day!!!

Visit my website at: www.davidwesternlovespoons.com   and click on the 'Currently Available' page to get an idea of what I have in stock.   Or email me at lovespoons@shaw.ca if you need more information!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Wax on, wax off!

Bookmark and ShareI've been pretty enthralled with some lovely Breton wedding spoons pictures that my friend Gérard Dumont sent me a few weeks back.  Gérard is an outstanding authority on Breton style spoons and has been an absolute fountain of knowledge as I pester him with questions about the lovespoon carving tradition in Brittany.   

Through Gérard and his amazing website, I have discovered a vast world of beautiful and evocative spoons that I scarcely knew existed!!  The Bretons were every bit as serious about their spoons as the Welsh and spared no effort in creating dazzling creations which they would show-off at weddings and special occasions.  

A feature of Breton spoons which is much less common to Welsh and Scandinavian spoons is an extensive use of inlay.  Primarily wax, but often pewter, sulfur and other substances that I haven't figured out yet, the Bretons would use inlays to create complex patterns and decorations on the handles of their spoons.

This little spoon is a very simple example of the type of inlaying the Bretons would do on their spoon handles.  Inspired by an antique, this elegant little spoon was carved from a tiny block of spalted birch that I have been saving for months.  The design JUST fit, with the spalting bringing dazzling life to the bowl.

I have carved this spoon with only a pen-knife and my small bent knife for the bowl.  I did the inlay chip carving completely free-hand as seemed to be the way the original had been done.  This results in the much less 'mechanical' look which I prefer and which says 'hand-made'.  

The waxing was done with sealing wax and thanks to tips from my buddy Bob Tinsley, I had no difficulties getting a good 'clean' finish with no pitting or excess wax build-up.
It's definitely a learning exercise, but I am growing more and more confident that my Breton style spoons will soon be good enough to make for the public!!

But a bit more learning has to go on before I hang out any shingles!!



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Perfect Christmas!!

Bookmark and ShareChristmas is approaching rapidly and that means postal service will be slowing down any day now!  If you're in the market for an 'immaculately conceived' gift this year, you can do no better than one of my beautiful 'ready-to-go' lovespoons!!   I have a wide range of designs available to suit almost every taste and budget!
These are but a sample of the stunning spoons I currently have on hand!   All individually handcrafted by yours truly to my exacting standards, these are NOT souvenir bric-a-brac... they are the real deal!!!
Some can be further customized with initials or dates for that extra personal touch...some are 'as you see them'.

But one thing is absolutely for sure....no matter which spoon you select, from the simplest economy model up to the 'full-flash' show-stoppers, they are ALL works of art which should have you in the good books for the Christmas season and for years to come!!   You simply can't get more romantic than this!!!!

My traditional designs get you as close as it is possible to get to the antique lovespoons of yore without going to an antique auction!!!  My contemporary designs are unlike any others being carved anywhere! Again...these are the real deal!!!

Even in a blurry kak-handed photo like this one, they look amazing, so imagine what they look like in real life!!    Time is a ticking though!!  Pretty soon it will be too late for shipping and you'll be back to giving toasters and fluffy pajamas..... Do you really want to be THAT person??

Contact me at:  lovespoons@shaw.ca  to find out what is currently available!!


Friday, November 15, 2013

A Tribal Wedding

Bookmark and ShareI was recently commissioned to carve a wedding spoon for a mate of mine who I met on a little road-trip across China, Tibet and Nepal.  It's ALWAYS a pleasure to carve lovespoons for weddings and anniversaries, as well as being a challenge to try and create a design which is meaningful for the parties involved!

This one was no exception!   The brief I was given to get me started made mention of the bride's fondness for her dogs and of her Scottish ancestry.  I love these two intertwined Celtic dogs and felt they would make a perfect starting point for the design.  For the groom, I remembered his collection of brilliant tribal tattoos and managed to locate a picture of some of them.  From this picture I built up the opposite side of the spoon, finishing it off with a lovely little wave strip design inspired by the edge of a Maori waka (canoe).  The groom is a keen traveller, so the canoe symbol seemed an apt one!!





Hidden among the Celtic and tribal flourishes are a couple of tiny symbols which are relevant to the bride.  They aren't big in size, but they are in meaning!!





The focal point of the design, is of course, the heart with the couple's initials.  No symbol says love quite as well as the heart and I wanted it to be supported by both sides of the design.  Just below the heart nestles a little stylized Cross of St. George for the groom.  As a Welshman, I'm not sure what the symbolism is of that, but it seems to be important to my English friend!!!



The big challenge in carving this particular spoon was the piece of wood I selected.  It's a gorgeous piece of birch which features some uncharacteristic flashes of lovely amber tone mixed with the usual creamy complexion the timber is more widely known for.   But I went for a plank which had been cut directly from the heart of the tree...just to hammer home the symbolism one more time!!!   This made for a section of slightly spongy, but visually wonderful wood which was a nightmare to carve!  Every cut risked pulling out unexpected chunks and the knives had to be kept beyond razor sharp!   But in the end, the sweating paid off with a spectacular streak of pitted figure which runs right though the middle of the design, as I had hoped it would!!!



As you can imagine, when a Welshman and an Englishman get together, the 'back and forth' banter can get a bit salty....and such was the case here!   That inspired me to leave a little gift on the back of the spoon which I hope will give my mate a few chuckles over the years.....




No Welshman is complete without his sheep and I'm told they are popular with England football supporters too!!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Big Lift

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It isn't easy being a lovespoon carver.  Like any and almost every artist, I find it a constant struggle to be recognized, to find potential clients and to be paid anything even remotely close to a fair wage for the work involved.

Because I so obviously enjoy what I do, there is a perception that it is all 'fun' and I do it strictly because it warms my heart and brings my life meaning and purpose.  Yep, there's an element of truth in that, BUT that sure as heck doesn't pay any bills.

I can't tell you the number of times I have been asked to donate my work for various 'causes' and how often I have had customers tell me "You're a bit expensive".   It's demoralizing and disheartening and often makes me strongly consider just pulling the plug on the whole affair.  The cold hard truth of the matter is that I could be a greeter at Walmart and make better money than I get from making these 'too expensive' lovespoons.






So it is against that gloomy background that I have had such a big lift from the commission of this beautiful 50th Anniversary lovespoon!!  It came with a fair budget which allowed me to get a bit carried away with detailing and not bankrupt myself.  It allowed me a great deal of artistic freedom with the design and it was going to a home where it would be loved and respected!   A tonic for all which ailed me!!






But the real payout came when the anniversary couple took time from their big day to phone me and express their delight with the lovespoon!!  That beautiful little conversation reminded me once again why I love what I do and why this job (despite its perils and tribulations) is the best one I have ever had.  Lovespoons may only be simple, delicate pieces of wood but they are POWERFUL!  That my eyes, hands and heart can transform a lump of wood into an artwork with such intense meaning for its owners is a unique gift. One which I am VERY fortunate and grateful to enjoy.  







Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Double Edged Sword

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A couple of weeks back, I had the very good fortune to make some public presentations with my lovespoon carving compadre Laura Jenkins Gorun.   We had been invited to present a seminar on lovespoons at the annual NAFOW convention, which is most certainly the premier gathering of Welsh folks in North America.   Along with our formal seminar we also had the opportunity to present several 'hands on' demonstrations where we were able to discuss various aspects of lovespoon carving, history and symbolism and let people handle some carving tools and some lovespoons.




Both Laura and I were delighted with the turn-outs our little events received AND to the enthusiasm attendees had both for the lovespoon tradition and our interpretation of it.  We fielded lots of excellent questions and I hope were able to give those who dropped by a much better understanding and appreciation of what lovespoon carving should be about.




Alas, the old double-edged sword of "souvenir lovespoons" kept rearing its head throughout the weekend we attended NAFOW.   I couldn't keep count of how many people were surprised to see what real lovespoons actually look like as they were under the impression that the mundane, unimaginative and darkly morose lovespoons they see in giftshops throughout Wales were "traditional" lovespoons.

I confess I am indifferent to the lovespoons which are flogged off in the souvenir and gift shops of Wales. On the plus side, they help keep the lovespoon in the public eye AND they are dirt cheap so everyone can afford to own one.  Many of them represent exceptional value for money as recent advances in CNC and laser cutting allow ever increasing complexity in the designs as they are mass produced....however, they are uniformly soulless and uninspiring as LOVESPOONS. As a simple souvenir, they are great; as a lovespoon, their lack of personal meaning can actually lead to a debasement of the tradition's entire purpose.


My fervent hope is that after seeing the spoons Laura and I are carving,  those NAFOW attendees who  were under the impression that Welsh souvenir spoons represent the 'traditional' lovespoon will realize there is MUCH, MUCH more to a lovespoon than that!!!



With any luck, they will realize that lovespoons should be beautiful, elegant, well-crafted and full of personal meaning.  It is not only important but vital that lovespoons retain these qualities if the tradition is to survive.  Without them, lovespoons will be merely become decorated sticks.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

History Repeats Itself

Bookmark and ShareWell, here's a case of history repeating itself...only this time it is instead of the usual carnage and bloodshed which seems to accompany man's endeavours, there's a happier ending!

A while back, I was given a couple of lovely antique lovespoons which had been handed down to a local woman.  The spoons had originally been collected by her Grandmother and were part of a larger collection which had been divided among the Grandmother's daughters at her death.  Those spoons were then passed from the daughters to the granddaughters and may in some cases, continue to be passed down through the generations.

The lady of my acquaintance wanted her spoons to go to someone who would appreciate them and very fortunately for me, my name floated onto the list!!  When I received them, a couple were badly broken, but I managed to repair them (one significantly better than the other) to the point where I could study them and get a good idea of what they looked like originally.



I've never been able to afford to collect antique lovespoons (nor am I particularly interested in doing so as I believe they are better housed in museum collections for future generations to study) but this opportunity to spend as much time with historical pieces as I like gives me a much better chance to really study these old pieces in depth.  And there is a lot to learn from them.  While one of the four is quite crude in its craftsmanship, two are quite well done and the fourth is a positive masterpiece.   Between them, the four spoons represent the gamut of Welsh craftsmanship;  from a lovestruck 'nice try' right up to the professional 'show-off' piece that likely cost someone a pretty penny to commission.

I'm not big on copying and can probably count on one hand the historical pieces I have set out to copy deliberately, but I confess this little spoon really caught my attention.   There's something very light and whimsical about its arrangement of little stars, hearts and moon shapes and there's is a lovely delicate elegance to the overall form of the spoon.   For whatever reason, the spoon seemed to beckon me to 'have a go' at a copy.



Of course, copying is easy, so I opted to make things a bit more challenging by carving it from a small piece of bird's eye maple that has been gathering dust for many years in a distant corner of the studio.
Bird's eye is not the kind of wood that carvers traditionally gravitate toward.  The little 'knots' formed by the bird's eye figure look fabulous on an art deco armoire, but are an absolute nightmare to carve.
The wood can veer from being as dense as concrete to as malleable as basswood and torn grain is not just a possibility but a given.  All in all, its not for the faint-hearted!!!

The result has been a lovely little spoon which although a touch less romantic than the original (after all, it lacks the original's passionate 'back story') still conveys a nice feel.  I'm really happy the way the little bird's eyes seem to echo the tiny stars and hearts and give the spoon a feeling of depth.   I also much prefer a lighter colour to my spoons, so the amber hue of the copy is more to my liking.   But the old one has that certain 'je ne sais quoi' that gives it the lovespoon magic.  This reinforces my old theory that the passion behind the carving is as important as any technical or design skill the carver may possess and is what truly makes a lovespoon (even a simple one like this one) really shine!






Monday, August 12, 2013

Saved!!!

Bookmark and ShareRecently, this delicate little wedding spoon was returned to me by its owners who wondered if I could repair a catastrophic break which had occurred when said spoon did a nose dive from the wall down to a pretty hard landing on the floor.   The spoon was a bit of a mess, snapped in several places and some little bits missing.  To be honest, I wasn't sure there was a lot I could do.

I should have taken a pic of it in its full-on smashed state, but to be honest, I could barely look at it.

I did get lucky though, when I managed to stick one side back together pretty neatly with some quick setting 'crazy glue' that I had on hand.  With one side repaired, I just had to deal with the gaping wound left when the missing chunk had gone 'walkabout'.  With Celtic knotwork being the curvy, delicate stuff it is, gluing a piece back in was a bit of a challenge.
After about 5 or 6 attempts, I finally managed to shape a tiny piece which fit in the hole and enabled me to contact a bit of glue in all the right places.   I made it slightly oversize to shape down later...but not so big that the shaping could cause more breakage.   I also got really lucky in that I managed to find a sliver of wood of the same species, grain pattern and colouration....not always something that is so easy to do!!!
The glue job was a success, so I was able to very gingerly start shaping the patch back toward the original knotwork shape.   There were definitely a few times I had to hold my breath and hope for the best, but eventually we got it pretty much back to the original form.
The first coat of oil reveals a bit of the old crack, but there isn't much can be done about that.  The wood tone is an almost exact match and at a glance, no one will ever know that it is a completely separate piece of wood there!!!   The poor old thing definitely took a battering and there is no disguising the scars, but at least the spoon can be rehung and it can get back to its job of celebrating a happy wedding!!

I can't always guarantee this kind of success, but if you own a David Western Lovespoon which gets broken or damaged, there is always a chance it can be mended!  (You'll just have to put up with me taunting you about your carelessness!!)
So before you despair, let's try a repair!!   How's THAT for catchy?


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Coverboy!!

Bookmark and ShareIt's not often that a lovespoon carver gets the opportunity to appear on the cover of a magazine!!   It's even more special when the magazine is written by and directed to my peers in the woodcarving community!   I feel tremendous pride having my work thought well enough of just to be considered for inclusion in the Woodcarvers Gazette, so I am absolutely thrilled to have this piece on the front cover!!   Here's a big thank you to Jason and all at the British Woodcarvers Association!!

As for the spoon itself, it is a wedding spoon I carved recently for my cousin Rachel's wedding.  Carved from some wonderfully figured broadleaf maple, rendering this particular design was not without its challenges.   Whenever I carve heavily figured wood like this, I can expect some splintering,
grain tear-out and some bumpiness along straight surfaces...and this piece was no exception!!  More than once, I wondered if I had made a colossal mistake and would have been better off carving it from lime or something nice and soft.  But once the oil went on and that stunning, shimmering grain revealed itself in all its splendor, the effort was definitely worth it!!

I'm very pleased with the merging of Art Deco and Celtic style which I think this spoon conveys.  There is lots of romantic meaning in the design and it's 'look' is refined but not pretentious...hopefully, you'll feel the same way about it!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

It's Christening Time!!

Bookmark and ShareOne of the really fun things I get to do from time to time is to carve Christening spoons.  It's always such a happy time carving for proud parents who are positively bursting with pride and excitement AND for the beautiful baby who has a life of adventures and learning yet to come.

In the archived collections of some of the museums in Wales are some old 'feeding' spoons with curious bent handles, the bowls of which extend at an almost 90 degree angle to the handle.  It is thought this odd shape allowed the parent to feed a child seated in the lap and facing away from the parent without the parent having to reach around ... an ingenious innovation which also makes a lovely 'look' when carved on a spoon.

I like my Christening spoons to echo this tradition and so you'll notice most have the bent handle and protruding bowl.

As with lovespoons carved for weddings and anniversaries etc., there is lots of scope for design and personal statement.  This lovely little spoon is based on an ancient Celtic sketch of a lion embracing a closed or 'eternal' knot.  The closed knot is a symbol of eternity because it has no beginning or end (like the circle which became the model for the wedding ring).   I've included the unfinished version of this spoon as the lower section ultimately contained some details which I felt might be too personal to show the whole world.  But rest assured it was all very touching!!!

This one was particularly enjoyable!  A gift for a baby born to parents who love the ocean, diving and marine life, there was little doubt this spoon would have a nautical theme!  A happy leaping dolphin rises out of the waves holding a small banner with the birth details above a cascade of starfish and seashells.  The heart shaped bowl symbolizes the love the child will enjoy.  Its hard not to feel happiness when you look at this little spoon!!

A celebration of the birth of twins, this spoon is pretty unusual as far as spoons go.  Locating the bowl in the middle of the two handles symbolizes how the twins are 'the same but different'.  The parents were ecstatic at the birth of their little 'lambs' and so we chose to symbolize the twins through Celtic styled lambs born from the same origin.  I don't often locate the bowl in the middle of my spoons, but it sure works for this one!

This collection of tiny spoons was originally carved for a wedding where they were given as gifts to members of the wedding party, but everyone who has seen them also thought they would make lovely little Christening spoons.  They are certainly cheerful little spoons and the idea of 'growth' symbolized by the plant form is very apt as is the little heart-shaped bowl!

Although they aint silver, I think these little spoons are all much more valuable than any store bought metal spoon could ever be.  They're certainly more heart-felt!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Workbench

Where the magic happens

Bookmark and SharePeople often want to see my 'studio' and I think have a vision in their heads of a romantic wood panelled space where perhaps a coal fire glows merrily in the corner and a lazy cat lays on a blanket snoozing peacefully as the wood chips drift gently to the floor.

Alas, it isn't at all like that!  While I certainly have a space I am more than happy with.  It mostly all happens at this little table.  Its always a catastrophic mess and there's always too much piled on there, but it works for me.  Carving purists would no doubt be appalled at my lack of organization with tools strewn willy-nilly from breakfast to teacup, but as I say...it works for me!


The machine shop
I do a LOT of complicated Celtic knotwork and as much as I would love to sit and do it all by knife, I would never get any actually finished!  To deal with that issue, I step over to the 'machine shop' where my trusty Delta Q3 scroll saw takes a merciless and quite relentless beating for hours every day.  While I have access to some big gear like a table saw, jointer and bandsaw left over from my cabinetmaking days, I rarely use them and the old Q3 pulls most of the weight.
The finishing shop
The finishing shop resides on the counter right next to my carving table.  An old router table, it now is encrusted with a half-inch layer of dried penetrating oil, bits of dissolved sandpaper and a couple of batten sticks that are glogged down and will have to be pried of with a crow bar if I ever want to move them.  My finishing regimen is pretty basic, involving a couple of coats of oil, some wet and dry sanding, more oil and then a vigorous buffing followed by a nice finish coat of beeswax polish.  Simple but delightfully elegant....just like me!

The bench in action
Although it appears pretty haphazard and shockingly 'amateur', this is the workspace of a dedicated professional!!  Although it looks like the tools are chucked around willy-nilly, I take great care to make sure they never collide 'tip to tip' and I seldom have to do much repair work on damaged cutting edges.  I do tend to let things pile up a bit though and I probably should vacuum off the chips a bit more often than I do, but when I get my head down, housework is the last thing on my mind.

Anyway, that's the studio.