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.
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.