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!

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