Traditional Welsh Lovespoons
Mary Evans (Email)

       Wooden spoons have been recognized as a form of rustic art in many countries where they were produced for eating purposes, but the Welsh lovespoon is different. It was not meant for culinary use but purely as an ornament, carved by a young man, and presented to the girl of his choice as a symbol of his romantic interest. If the girl accepted the spoon it meant the interest was mutual and the couple were then considered to be courting (spooning). It is not known when this custom started, but examples of lovespoons exist which date back to the 17th. century and many other undated spoons could well be older. The custom was widespread into the late 19th. century when it gradually died out. Lovespoon making has continued as a traditional craft, however, to the present day. Nowadays most spoons are given as wedding, anniversary or christening presents, for special occasions, or as a memento of a visit to Wales.

      The spoons vary considerably in size from a few inches to nearly a yard long. They are generally made from sycamore or other locally available hardwood. Most have a wide, highly decorated handle and a single spoon bowl, though double and occasionally triple bowled spoons exist. There are a great variety of carving styles and subject matter, which in times past probably had much to do with the occupation of the carver. Thus spoons with ships and anchors were probably carved by sailors. With the passage of time, however, the various symbols have come to be associated particular sentiments, so a ship could be taken to mean the couple embarking on life's voyage and an anchor, the intention to settle down. Most spoons have hearts, single or entwined, for love. Other symbols found often are keys and keyholes (to my heart or my home), diamonds (for wealth), cornucopia {horn of plenty), wheel (of good fortune), cross (keeping faith) and birds (lovebirds). Stars and geometric shapes are usual. A vine or tree of life could be taken to mean a growing relationship. Padlock (security). Some spoons have a cage with one or more spheres carved inside it, and running free. The number of spheres denotes the number of children the couple hope for. A chain carved from a single piece of wood implies the two will be together for ever.

      Spoons which are made for special occasions may have names and dates carved on. They may incorporate symbols to denote the occupation or interests of the recipient, making them an individual and highly personalised gift.

      Most Welsh museums have old lovespoons on display such as those illustrated on this page.  There is a particularly good collection at the Welsh National Folk Museum at St. Fagins.

Click here to see some lovespoons carved by Mary Evans

Click here to find out about making lovespoons.
by Nansi Hemming

Click here to go to our Lovespoon page

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