Saturday, August 4, 2018

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Over the years, I have been enormously fortunate to enjoy the enthusiastic support of a wonderful woodcarving magazine.  Funnily enough, it is called Wood Carving Magazine, which is both easy to remember and gets straight to the point!  I've published a number of articles in their pages ranging from design oriented articles like the one above, to examinations of particular lovespoon styles, to 'how to' exercises.

It can be difficult to generate interest in the carving community when you mention you are a lovespoon carver.  I'm not sure if the spectre of mass produced souvenir tat clouds people's judgement or if the art of lovespoon carving just simply isn't as popular as I imagine it to be...whatever the case, it can be hard to find magazines willing to take lovespoon articles on board.

So it has been a great pleasure to work with Wood Carving over the last couple of years to produce a wide range of articles on a variety of lovespoon topics.  If you are at all interested in lovespoons and the lovespoon tradition, I suggest digging into their back copies and seeing what you've been missing!

I am passionate about lovespoons and enjoy any opportunity to talk them up, but I have to tell you, seeing my ideas, thoughts and creations leap off a magazine page is REALLY exciting stuff!!  To know that other carvers are running with my suggestions and creating works of their own is also extremely gratifying!

I can't overstate the importance of support from publications like Wood Carving.  Not only does it validate what I do, it also inspires me to think of other ways I can expand the lovespoon tradition and reach more people.  Publications like this enable thousands of interested readers to be exposed to traditional and very non-traditional work in a way that will hopefully broaden their knowledge AND their interest.  That can only be good for lovespoon carving!!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Bookmark and ShareWEDDING SEASON!!

It's wedding season and lots of couple's with Norwegian/Scandinavian ancestry are contacting me to provide them with the beautiful traditional wedding spoons once used by newlywed Norwegians to consume a first meal together.  Tradition has it that the spoons were used by both partners of the couple to simultaneously eat a meal of porridge together.  This act would symbolically link them as a couple and would see the young woman's status be raised from 'girl' to 'housewife'.  Perhaps not the most exciting thing that could happen to a young lady in today's world, but a significant raising of social standing back then!  The spoons are noted for their identical, ornate panels which are linked by a course of decorated chain-link.  It is said that traditionally, the spoons were carved from a single piece of wood...a feat that would be most impressive in the amount of time consumed and material wasted.  I have been fortunate to access a half dozen or so sets from various time periods and carved at a variety of skill levels.  All have shown me that the chain was indeed carved from a single piece, but that the chains were attached to the handles with clever joinery.  As most of the traditional spoons were carved professionally during the long winter and then were sold on in the spring , it is likely that extra time and effort would have been willingly undertaken unless a good payout was expected.  To me it seems far more likely that joining them was the most common method of construction.
For me, joining the chain to the handles means the difference between being able to charge a couple of hundred dollars versus closer to a thousand for a single piece.  
I do stay as close to tradition as possible when I am making an 'authentic' set.  The handles are all decorated with lovely fret-work and chip carved detail and they all have either the traditional 'glibber' face found at the top centre or a carved initial.  The sides of the crown are decorated with little animals which are the source of some disagreement among experts.  They may be dogs/foxes/wolves or they might be horses; they may even be sheep or cattle.  Although they are all very similar, there are enough stylistic differences to make them a difficult thing to categorize!
The handles are further embellished with doming and swan-necked stems.  The more seriously the necks are cranked, the more time consuming the spoon becomes to make.  The spoons also get visually more 'active' the steeper the pitch on the neck/handle area.  Doming the face of the handle in BOTH directions also adds a LOT of work, but it makes the spoon even more dynamic!
Traditionally, the spoons also seemed to have been made in a variety of sizes.  While they never got excessively large (and were ALWAYS of a suitable size to eat with) smaller sizes were no uncommon.  Indeed, many couples like the delicacy of the small ones and find them easier to use than the normal sized versions.
 The chains can be made in a variety of ways, but the most common are those with these beautiful X crossed links.  Making the chain is time consuming and challenging, no matter how you slice it!  They are easy to break and difficult to keep track of, but the results are always worth the efforts!  The Norwegian style of link is stylish and elegant, its tactile in the hand and pleasant to look at.  Its also a very identifiable feature of the Norwegian wedding spoon tradition!

Although I try to keep one or two sets on hand for emergencies, it does usually take around 6 weeks to complete and ship a custom order door to door.  If you are thinking about a set of these for a wedding, please do try to give me as much advance warning as possible to avoid disappointment.  These spoons are entirely made by at a me and me alone! 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bookmark and Share                     Wedding Season is Almost Here!!

With wedding season almost upon us, now is the time to consider this super romantic double end lovespoon for the happy couple.  What better way to share that first ceremonial bite of wedding cake?  Forget the silly cake fights or serving it up on a paper plate with plastic forks...THIS has style and panache!!  The double end spoon has a long tradition and I have found examples throughout Europe.

Whether it be a super simple Swedish style double with a short handle an no ornamentation, or a more complex 'joke spoon' with opposing bowls designed to make the cake ceremony a bit more of a challenge, these spoons exude romance!  They are beautiful and elegant.

I'm delighted to be making these wonderful spoons and welcome your enquiries if you would like to commission one for a special couple!!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

What a difference a week makes!

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Last Saturday I was pretty shocked when the following notice appeared on my Facebook feed.  Apparently, a TV cook named Brian Turner had thrown a Welsh lovespoon into the fire on James Martin's Saturday Morning Show on ITV Britain.  I was pretty appalled, so after making sure the story was true, contacted ITV to voice my displeasure.

In fairness to to the good folks at ITV, they were quick to reply.  Unfortunately, their view of it all was that it was just match day 'jokey' humour (England were playing Wales that day in rugby) and nothing to be taken too seriously.  Nice for them, but that didn't make his actions any less disturbing to someone who is both Welsh AND a lovespoon carver.  Watching a cultural icon being treated with such cavalier disrespect was pretty disheartening and demoralizing.  I've spent over half my adult life making lovespoons and working my ass off to promote them to a world-wide audience.  They are beautiful and wonderful things and deserve better treatment than to be used as props for cheap laughs.  

The more I stewed on it all, the angrier I got.  

Eventually though, I realized that there was a way to ride on the coat-tails of cook Turner's TV stupidity and use it to a positive end.

I keep a box of rejected spoons underneath my bench.  These are spoons which have a flaw that prevents them from being good enough to leave the David Western Lovespoon Studio.  It might be a flaw in the wood, a design problem or a technical glitch...whatever the reason, I can never sell the spoon to a client without endangering my good name.  The spoons wind up in the box and are destined to stay there until the day I day and they are consigned to a dumpster somewhere.

It occurred to me that I could stage my own spoon burning, but this time, instead of just doing it for a cheap laugh, I would use the occasion to raise money for animal welfare shelters and rescue societies.  So I posted my idea to Facebook with the goal of raising 250 UK pounds worth of donations.  I didn't care what societies or shelters received the money (or where they were located) just as long as people sent some money out!   When the donations hit 250, I would build a pyre and drop a match, sending the spoons to a special Valhalla reserved for beautiful lovespoons!!

To my very great surprise, the wonderfully compassionate and generous followers of my pages came through with gusto.  The 250 target was quickly passed and probably reached over 500 within a day.  I confess that I didn't foresee it happening that quickly, but I was pretty damned excited that it did!!

A touching thing which happened after my announcement that I would burn the spoons was a number of people writing to urge me to auction them instead.  As mentioned earlier, the spoons would never be sold, so I certainly would never entertain the idea of auctioning them in their condition.  I do make the occasional spoon for charitable donation, but these ones could never fit that bill.

Instead, a pyre was built, the spoons carefully placed on top and a match struck!!!!

The combination of lots of shredded paper and some very dry spoons meant things happened pretty quickly!!  I was barely able to snap these pics before the whole thing went up like a bomb!!

I did experience a bit of guilt and some remorse at condemning them to this fiery fate, but I also felt exhilaration that these spoons had raised so much money so quickly! Now, they were now being returned to ash which will be used to fertilize my garden and start new growth.

The whole event only took a few minutes, but what beautiful minutes they were!!  

So despite my anger and disappointment with the silliness at ITV, some good came of it all and some animals will enjoy the benefits!  

In future though, I would strongly advise Mr. Turner and the other cooks over at the James Martin Saturday Morning Show to stick to their soufflés and leave anything to do with lovespoons to the professionals!!