By Alanna Radle Rodriguez
|Love Spoon, with chip-carved handle fretted with various designs, |
National Museum Wales
In ancient times, you generally had to make everything you needed. Not to mention what you wanted! In clothing, you would have had to raise the animal, take its coat, tan or wash, spin, weave the fabric, and sew your clothing and anything else like bedding. For the kitchen, you had to make everything too, either by black smithing or carving wood. Anything that is made out of wood that was used in the kitchen, including cutlery, plates, bowls, even cups and mugs, were called treenware.
|Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts Cosmetic Spoon Ca. 1550-1069 B.C.|
One had to eat and drink and keep the mash contained and not running down into the cracks of the table to plop on the ground for the dogs to lap up. The art of carving spoons out of wood was an ancient necessity. But did you know that spoons were eventually carved for romantic purposes? You read right. Love spoons, or lovespoons, depending on whose article, whose book, whose history you read, have quite the history, beginning roughly in the mid-17th century. The practice itself is probably ancient, and unrecorded, because people weren’t concerned with documenting history like people are today. Therefore, finding a dated love spoon is a special and rare find. The earliest recorded love spoon, supposedly, was a Germanic spoon in 1664. In Wales, their oldest love spoon dates back to 1667. According to David Western, a cabinetmaker turned carver, in his book Fine Art of Carving Lovespoons, the practice of carving love spoons probably existed from Sweden to Hungary.
|Love Spoon, dated 1735, National Museum Wales|
|Love Spoon, with bowl at each end, National Museum Wales|
|Love Spoon with ridged stem and curved terminal, National Museum Wales|
|Love Spoon, with heart-shaped opening on handle, National Museum Wales|
|Love Spoon, with fretted heart devices and chip-carving, |
National Museum Wales
|Love Spoon, with panel handle and two bowls, National Museum Wales|
|Two heavy love spoons hanging from two-looped panel, National Museum Wales|
According to the National Museum of Wales, this is what certain symbols meant:
Love Spoon, with hearts and
other geometrical designs, National Museum Wales
The heart is the universal symbol of love and is frequently seen on Welsh love spoons. It is a sign of passion and strong emotion - surely signifying the carver's depth of feeling for his beloved. A love spoon showing twin hearts might well indicate a mutual love between sender and recipient.
Comma or paisley shape:
Often visible on historic Welsh love spoons, this shape is said to represent the soul and deep affection.
Balls in cage:
Balls carved within cages are commonly thought to represent the number of children desired by the carver, but could equally be a sign of a man held captive by his love for the woman.
Generally considered to indicate loyalty and faithfulness, chain links might also symbolize a couple bound together in their love and loyalty.
|Chip carved love spoon, carved by TJ Radle|
Diamonds are believed to represent a wish for prosperity and good fortune and a promise to provide well for a loved one.
Keys and keyholes: In addition to the house images that sometimes appear on Welsh love spoons to represent domestic contentment, key and keyhole carvings are also used frequently, perhaps symbolizing security or, more romantically, the key to one's heart.
Wheel symbols often featured in Welsh love spoons are said to represent a vow by the carver to work hard and to guide a loved one through life.
Occasionally, love spoons are carved with two or more bowls, possibly to indicate the union of the souls when joined together, or perhaps the number of children desired.
David Western in his book suggests the following symbolism:
Images of Home: Suitor’s promise to provide shelter
Vines, trees or foliage: Growth in the relationship
A flower: Gentleness and growth
|My Heirloom Spoon, designed, carved and painted by me|
|My Calla Lilly Spoon, carved, painted and given by TJ Radle|
|Christmas Spoon, carved by TJ Radle|
|Spoons carved by my teacher, Ralph|
In more modern symbols, you have horseshoes, bells, paddock and crossed keys, and more Celtic knot work. There is so much more! Love spoon designs can be as intricate and delicate, or as simple as a figurine. Today, love spoons are given as gifts for Valentines Day, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, new babies, even as wedding favors. They can be as original or traditional as desired. Visit a local woodcarving show and see what you can find! Maybe even try designing one yourself with the help of a skilled carver.
|Courtney and Allen Sale's Wedding Spoon, designed & carved by me|
|Wedding Spoon for my 1st Anniversary, designed and carved by me|
Born and raised in the Edmond, OK area, Alanna Radle Rodriguez is the great, great, granddaughter of one of the first pioneers to help settle the area around what is now Seminole, Oklahoma. The fourth generation in a line of women in her family to be born in Indian Territory/Oklahoma, she has lived in her beloved state all her life. With her knowledge of surrounding area history, her heart relishes in volunteering at the Oklahoma Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. She lives with her husband and parents in the Edmond area, currently working on a historical romance set in pre-statehood Waterloo, Oklahoma.