Welsh Love Spoons
By L.S. Irish
Please note: There are a lot of subjects to cover when carving spoons, so we have broken this tutorial down into four topics.
Welsh Love Spoons are a wonderful style of wood carving that began in the mid 1600’s as a courtship gift. Created by the young man as a present for his intended bride, the intricacies and themes carved on the spoon’s handle had symbolic meanings.
Today the giving of Welsh Love Spoons have been expanded to include wedding presents, anniversary presents, house warming gifts and even baby shower gifts. For those wood carvers that sell their finished work Love Spoons make a extremely eye catching item at craft fairs and art shows. They have become a very collectable hand crafted artform.
The intricacies of the handle designs offers an opportunity for the carver to explore a wide range of pattern work, from tight Celtic knots, floral crests, and of course the open linked chain.
Love spoons are traditionally carved from one piece of wood and you will note a sailing theme that runs throughout many of the carved symbols. Welsh sailors, spending many long and lonely hours at sea, used the time to carve spoons for the girl that they had left at home. As artists their work reflected their daily experiences.
Celtic knots worked from the rigging ropes came to mean “everlasting love” while the anchor design was used to show that the sailors heart was “home to stay or anchored at home with her”. The ship’s wheel showed his intentions to “work hard for her and the family she would give him.”
Agricultural designs also are prominent in the Welsh Love Spoon. The ship’s wheel is also show as a wagon wheel, again showing the man’s intentions of becoming a good provider for the family. Twisted vines and leaves showed a “love that would continue to grow throughout the years”. The horse shoe, just as it still does today, meant “good luck and good fortunes ahead”.
Another symbol that was common is the heart which showed “his love for her”, the double heart meaning a “shared or returned love”, and the heart shaped spoon bowl suggesting a “life full of love”.
Both the bell and cross were “will you marry me” symbols and the cross also implied “faith”. Flowers within the carving ask if he “may court her” and showed his growing affection for her.
How intricate and complicated the carving of the spoon was came to show how intense his love for her was. From this came double spoons showing that “they would be together forever” and even triple spoons for “their growing family”.
The open link chain and ball in cage carving are often found in Welsh Love Spoons. Worked from one piece of wood the open link chain is used to connect the different design pieces. The number of links in the chain came to mean the “number” of the symbols used … the number of children he was hoping she would give him … the number of years they would be together. The ball and cage showed that “he would protect her love”.
Using the symbols of the Welsh Love Spoons, the sample spoon shown at the top of this page includes a Celtic Knot that has the shape of two hearts, a vine twist below the second heart, and a horse shoe shape just above the bowl created by the ends of the knot strings..
Double Heart: They love each other, a shared love
Celtic Knot: Everlasting love
Vine Twist: Our love will grow
Horse Shoe: Good luck and good fortune
The second sample of the Welsh Love Spoon above could be read as the following:
Single Heart: May I court court you?
Vine Twist: Our love will grow
Three Link Chain: Married within three years
Ball in Cage: Your love is safe with me
Heart Shaped Spoon: We will have a life full of love