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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 hand...one at a time...by me and me alone!