The Lovespoon* Workshop
*what is a lovespoon you ask? It’s a Welsh tradition dating back to the 17th century. Sailors would carve lovespoons with lavish designs for their brides.
The week before I moved to Toronto from London, I took a few days and headed to Pembrokeshire, Wales to meet up with a father/ son lovespoon making duo, The Lovespoon Workshop. It ended up being quite a lengthy chat, so I’ve decided at some point I will get the entire thing up in an audio format. For now though, I’ve taken some of the highlights and condensed into a transcribed interview. I am sad you won’t hear their lovely Welsh accents though!
Alright here we go.
Sarah: So, it’s a family business! Your Dad started The Lovespoon Workshop, correct?
Sarah: So, when did you start to work for him, or you know, how did you enter the world of Lovespoon making? I guess it was just something you grew up with ...
Dave: Yeah, well I grew up around the workshop. It’s interesting because watching my two sons grow up around it now, they sort of take it upon themselves to come in and - there’s a lovespoon right there beside you – you can see they’re practicing. As you pointed out, there’s a big hole in the middle of the bowl, where they’ve actually carved through. My son, he did actually ask me, “why is there a hole in my spoon?” haha. I explained, “well, it’s because you carved right through the wood!”
Sarah: Haha, yeah now it’s more like a sieve.
Dave: Yeah, that is right. A few more holes and it would do a good job. So, yeah that is basically how we grew up. We had that opportunity from a young age. There was always something happening in the workshop. We’re very fortunate that we had a lot of visitors in the workshop. As a young boy, it was a very interesting place to be! I can remember being very upset when I was sent to school. And it’s the same now with my boys growing up around it.
Sarah: You mentioned you get some of your wood from old furniture? How else do you source wood?
Dave: Yes! My eldest does some work with the local tree surgeon, so often times he’ll come in and he’ll drop off different logs. For us, we’re always looking for ways to keep costs down, and the wood is an area where it can get really expensive. When we started in 1975, we used only recycled timber, and at that stage it wasn’t sort of an ecological decision. It was just the cheapest way to get the woods.
Today, we’ve continued that, and it is more because it’s eco-friendly to source your wood in sustainable ways. So, things like, double glazing companies that are replacing window-panes - quite often they bring up things like mahogany door frames and such. If they weren’t bringing those into us, they’d basically be dropping them in the skip. So, we can reuse it and it’s an ideal situation.
We’ve also started a tree planting project. It the field behind us here, we’ve planted 300 trees since 2016. So, we are very much looking towards the future and how we can leave our mark. Hopefully that is something we continue and develop. And that’s our plan!
Sarah: So, I’m going to try and explain what your workshop looks like... the walls are covered with lovespoons... all different sizes ...
Dave: Yup haha, there are a few spoons! What you’ve got here – there is one lovespoon for every year since 1969. They all have a story to tell.
Sarah: Yeah they’re all super different. Some of them don’t even reeeally look like spoons haha. They’re more just very elaborate carvings. It’s really cool!
Dave: Basically, I think the message to get across about our craft is, the actual intricacies, the complexities of the design are a secondary thing. Over the years, we’ve done all sorts of spoons. But the most important part of the lovespoon for us, is actually the story and the message that it tells. That is also what we know about the early lovespoons from the 17th century. The sailors used to carve mes- sages into their work and that is very much the theme that we’ve continued on with, to have a story in the lovespoon itself.
Sarah: Amazing that I’m just watching you get this one complete! You’re almost finished up! What tools would you suggest to some- one who might be looking to carve a lovespoon?
Dave: In terms of tools, what we always sort of say is, if you’re starting out, what I would advise is don’t spend too much money on them. For instance, I was having a little look around yesterday, be- cause we’re always looking to add to the tools that we’ve got. There were sets being sold for 5, 6 hundred pounds. It’s really expensive them for people to get started, but I don’t think it’s necessary to be making it an expensive thing starting out. What we would suggest, just to get started, would be three or four different gouges. You’ll need a gouge for cutting out the bowl, so that’s one of the most important ones. And then, one with quite a shallow sweep for doing all the sort of beveling that we do to shaping. What you may have noticed, is most of this one I’m doing now has been carved with
a single gouge. And then you’ve got other ones like the different curved fingernail gouges.
Sarah: Yeah, when I do my workshops, they only get two twos. So, you can do it without a bunch of different tools. The ones we do are very basic in comparison to yours though! But basically I guess you only need a few tools to get going!
Dave: That’s right! And the more sort of simple that you can keep it starting off, it’s the same as anything, when you start having an interest in something, you see a lot of equipment and think, “oh do I need that, or that?”. And what I would suggest with lovespoon carving, have a sympathetic piece of wood. For instance lime is popular. We call it lime, what do you call it in Canada?
Sarah: I think it’s basswood? I think they’re the same. It took me a little bit to figure out that they’re exactly the same haha!
Dave: Yeah, there’s another name for it I hear sometimes as well... it’s gone out of my mind! But something like that is relatively easy to get started on.
Thank you to Dave and Kerry for taking the time to meet me! More to come of this interview soon!