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


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?