Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Guitar-playing Frog

I have a friend that is an *extremely* devoted fan of the singing group, the “Three Dog Night”. She and her husband have attended so many concerts that they are on a first name basis with the entire group. To ensure her anonymity – to say nothing of my longevity -- I’ll just refer to her here as “J”. “J” has quite a number of friends who, likewise, are also *very* devoted “Three Dog Night” fans. Over the past 5 years or so, I have carved quite a few lettered spoons and caricatures (typically, frogs in honor of “Jeremiah Bullfrog”) that “J” has given to these friends for one occasion or another. A number of months ago, “J” asked me to carve something for a friend (apparently) has a really “thing” for the lead guitarist (Michael). We decided on a guitar-playing frog. I carved the frog, but when I went to stand him up I discovered that with the guitar in his hands he wasn’t very well balanced. I needed to add some sort of support to keep him from falling over. So, I decided on adding a stool. Little did I know, since I’ve never actually seen the group in concert, that the guitarist remains seated on a very similar stool for "Blues" tunes but stand up for solos and “when he really gets into it”. I Guess I lucked out and captured the “true essence” of the guitarist. Here he is: My guitar-playing Frog 'Til next time, keep makin’ chips.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hands of Hope

The group from a local church was looking for a carving to commemorate a mission trip to "Katrina Land". Their theme was Hands of Hope. I was only too happy to do something for them. What is the most surprising about the piece is that despite the dramatic difference in color, both the hands and the letters were carved from basswood. I did nothing special to produce the colors. The hands are actual size reproductions of my own hands. The base was turned from a piece of nearly 100 year old wormy chestnut that was rescued from The old Union Switch and Signal Building in Swissvale, PA I hope you enjoy it. 'Til next time, keep makin' chips!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Lettered" Love Spoons and The Mythology of the Linden Tree

"Lettered" Love Spoons

I've got my "Lettered" Love spoons to show tonight. There is not too much to say about them. I *could* give you the names of all of the owners but that would probably be a little intrusive. But, without being too specific, I *can* say that:

  • one spoon went to a noted (OK, so he's *oldies*) rock star and his wife. (You might not know his name, but you *definitely* would know the group).
  • one spoon (that really isn't a spoon) went to a famous actor's helicopter mechanic and his wife (Now, how many people can say that!).
  • one spoon went to a couple that shares the same first name.
  • one spoon went to a bagpipe playing couple.

More on the History of Love Spoons and the Linden Tree

The names “Linden” in North America, and “Lime” in Britain are both derived from the Germanic, Anglo Saxon and old Norse roots lind, linde and linne.

The Linden was a highly symbolic and hallowed tree in Germanic mythology. The tree was an object of worship since it was associated with Freyja, the guardian of life and goddess of fortune, love and truth. Therefore, her tree was considered the symbol of romance and peace and it often formed the central meeting place of many rural communities. The tree became associated with jurisprudence because it was believed that the tree would help unearth the truth and that no one was able to lie maliciously without attracting Freya’s rage.

Legend has it that it cannot be struck by lightning since Freya is the wife of Wodan, the main god of the Germanic pantheon. It was assumed that the Linden possessed some protective power against evil and catastrophe. A Linden tree in a village was viewed as a benign guardian of anyone who lived there.

After Christianity came to Germany, the Linden’s positive connotation continued. Motherly Freya was subsequently replaced by the Mother of God, so that many trees were rededicated to St. Mary (Marienlinde). In the Slavic Orthodox Christian world, limewood was the preferred wood for panel icon painting because its ability to be sanded very smooth, and for its resistance to warping once seasoned.

Well, that's it for tonight. 'til next time, Keep Makin' Chips

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Love Spoons will wait

I decided to let the Letter Love Spoons wait for another day and introduce you to my guys on a handcar. This one started when I found this postal first day cover, commemorating the development of the railroad handcar. It seemed like a natural for a carving so here it is. The title: "Faster! The 5:14 is on THIS track!" implies that the guys may have bitten off more than they can chew. Lester, the tall guy (he looks like a Lester, don't you think?), and Bob, the little guy with the patched pants, have just discovered that what appeared to be an empty track at the beginning of their journey is now anything but empty. You can see that the original artwork shows up as a poster on the fence clearly marked "Post no bills". So who reads signs? On this last picture you can clearly see the tools of their trade, a lantern, a sledge hammer and, of course, Lester's lunchbox. There is a pry bar there somewhere, too, but I guess you can't see it. That's it for today. Until next time, Keep makin' chips!

Monday, August 10, 2009

What is a love spoon?

A love spoon is a decorated wooden spoon. The custom of giving love spoons by a young man to his sweetheart as a token of his love and affection originated in Wales sometime during the 16th century. The earliest known love spoon dates from 1567 and is part of a collection at the Museum of Welsh Life in St. Fagans near Cardiff.

By accepted his gift, the girl accepted the young man’s proposal marriage. So the love spoon became established as a Celtic symbol of love and marriage. As centuries passed, love spoons evolved into gifts exchanged between friends and loved ones for all sorts of occasions.

A love spoon may be very plain or intricately decorated. Usually, it is the handle of the spoon that is the most highly decorated, but occasionally the bowl of the spoon may be elaborately carved as well. Even the most elaborate love spoon is sculpted from a single piece of wood. The type of wood is generally dependent on the location of the carver. However, for the most part, my spoons are carved from a relatively light-colored wood from the Linden tree (plentiful here in the Northeast US) known as “Lime wood” in Britain and “Basswood” here in the States.

Generations of craftsmen have carved symbols into their spoons to represent good luck, the blessing of children, health, wealth, etc. Here are just a few of the of the most common love spoon symbols and their meanings:

Interlocking Chain Links - The linking of two lives, where the number of links referred to number of children or years together

Cross - Faith in One's Life and Home

Flowers - Affection, Courtship or Friendship

Single Heart - Love

Heart Shaped Bowl - Full and Bountiful Life

Celtic Knot - Everlasting love

Leaves or vines - Love Grows

Moving on, in Early America, the love spoon took on yet another meaning. The story goes that when a young man “went a’courtin’ ” to the home of a young lady, her father would often give him a spoon blank before leaving them alone in the parlor. This was, presumably, “to keep his hands gainfully occupied” while he visited. To this day, in some areas of the US, when two young people are romantically involved, they are said to be “spoonin’ ”.

Here are a few examples of my Love Spoons:

Flower and Leaf Love Spoon

Pine, approx. 10” long

This was the third or fourth spoon from this pattern (not originally mine). I have tried to vary the flower design and the shape of the bowl, etc. just to make it interesting. I think this one finally captured what I was going for.

Square Knot Spoon

Basswood, approx. 9” long

Someday I'd like to carve another spoon similar this one but with a slight “Salvador Dali” influence. I want to stretch it and make it slightly less regular in shape.

“Twin-Helix” Spoon

Some sort of pine, approx. 10” long

This was the first of my twisted handle spoons. The handle forms a “twin-helix” a la the DNA molecule. It is a lot of fun to play with. Sliding your hand up or down the handle causes the spoon to spin making it a toy and a spoon.

“Interrupted Twin-Helix” Spoon

Pine, approximately 12” long

I made this one for my brother. This spoon and the last one were cut from opposite ends of the same piece of wood. Even though they were carved and finished the same way, their final coloration is remarkably different. I’m not certain what kind of pine it is but the scent of pine resin was unmistakable.

The most interesting part of this spoon is the back of the bowl. It reminds me of “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. But maybe that’s just me. :-)

Classic Scroll Spoon

Basswood, approx. 9-1/2” long

This was my wife's Valentine's Day present for 2004. I added the script "J" to personalize it. The bowl and hole form a heart within a heart. I am constantly amazed and delighted with the variation in wood color that basswood has.

Next time I’ll go into my “Lettered” love spoons.

Til then, Keep makin’ Chips