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

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