Three Welsh-Style Love Spoons

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 12-31-2006 07:02 PM 9358 views 2 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Three Welsh-Style Love Spoons
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I had almost forgotten about these Spoons, but then I ran onto the photo this morning while going through the computer.

Love Spoons have a rich heritage in both Love and Family bonds, two things that I hold dear. For Mother’s Day, I carved a spoon for my Wife, my Mom, and my Mom-in-Law.

These are fun to make, have endless options for creative carvings, and are treasured by the people that receive them. To go along with the gift, I did a bunch of historical research and then did a little story card for each spoon that described the history and the meanings of the carvings for each spoon. I only had a day to do all three, so my spoons are not as detailed, or creative, as many of the historical spoons.

I posted this project, as I thought other lumberjocks would enjoy making them, and thought if they had not heard of Love Spoons already, they would appreciate learning about them.

Mark DeCou
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Historical Perspective:
recognized as a highly collectible form of folk-art, the Welsh Lovespoon 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). The young suitor, using a pen-knife, and scrap of metal as a scraper, would labor to show his “intended,” and her father, that he was good with his hands, which was vital in rural Wales.

Any available time over the coming months, would be spent carving the spoon using symbols to declare his love. For instance, he would carve a Heart on the spoon to show that his heart was her’s, whereas a Keyhole would be an indication of his desire to share his home with her, and assuming their growing together throughout their long lives, he would carve a Vine on the spoon.

As the new couple spent their many years together, the courtship Lovespoon that had brought them together, all those years before, was given a place on the wall of their living room, and as it was passed through the many generations that followed, it was believed to keep their love alive and everlasting, making it a highly prized, and coveted, family heirloom.
Historical examples of Lovespoons vary considerably in size from a few inches to nearly a yard long, and are generally carved from locally available wood. Most Lovespoons have a wide, highly decorated handle and a single spoon bowl, though double and occasionally triple bowled spoons exist.

Historically, Lovespoon art included 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 with particular sentiments. For example, a Ship could be taken to mean the couple embarking on life’s voyage, or an Anchor would mean the suitor’s intention to settle down.

Unfortunately for the historian, love spoons were often undated. In the collection of Lovespoons at the Museum of Welsh life at St. Fagan’s in Cardiff, there is one spoon which dates to the 1660s, as well as many other fine examples, assuring that the carving of lovespoons is a part of Welsh Culture going back many centuries. The custom was widespread into the late 19th century when it gradually died out.

Although the Lovespoon courting ritual in Wales has ceased, Lovespoon making has continued as a traditional folk-art craft to the present day. Most of the modern examples are given as wedding, birthday, Mother’s Day, anniversary or christening presents, or for other special occasions. These are often personalized, with the addition of names and dates either carved, wood-burned, painted, or written in ink.

Today, there are a few collectors that carve Lovespoons themselves, but most examples are created by small groups of artisans in southern Wales, working to create intricate and beautiful folk-art examples of this old custom, while supporting their own families.

Throughout the centuries, Lovespoon symbols have come to communicate certain understood sentiments:
Hearts: single or entwined, for love.
Keys and keyholes: keys to my heart or my home
Diamonds: for wealth
Cornucopia: horn of plenty
Wheel: good fortune
Cross: keeping faith
Birds: lovebirds
A vine or tree of life: a growing relationship
Padlock: security
Single Heart – My Heart is yours
Double Heart – Love is returned, we feel the same way
Celtic Knot – Everlasting
A Flower – Courtship
A Daffodil – Flower of Wales
The Dragon – Symbol of Wales / Protection
A House – My Home is Yours
A Chain – Captured Love
Balls in a cage – Captured Love / Number of Children Desired
Heart Shaped Bowl – Fulfilled Love
Double Bowl – The Couple
Triple Bowl – The Couple and family
Horse Shoe – Good Luck
Bells – The Wedding
A Ship – Safe Journey through Life
An Anchor – I Want to Settle Down

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

8 comments so far

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 4929 days

#1 posted 12-31-2006 08:01 PM

for something that had to be completed in a single day, I must say I’m impressed. And completing three in one day is even more impressive!

I think my preference falls on the middle spoon, but I tend to like the shaker and mission styles of furniture so it probably has something to do with the (don’t take offense to my wordage) simplicity of that spoon.

I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas with your family and wish you all the best for the coming New Year!

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2008 posts in 5009 days

#2 posted 12-31-2006 08:08 PM

Thanks Darryl: My wife liked the middle one the best also. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until my mom opened her gift with the middle spoon in it, and my wife saw what she received. I learned that day that when giving similar gifts to the women in the family on the same day, that I should make them all the same as much as possible, ha.


-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4918 days

#3 posted 12-31-2006 10:12 PM

What a great gift. I remember reading about guys carving spoons as a courting gift. The history sounds interesting.

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4780 days

#4 posted 01-01-2007 12:33 AM

Very nice, Mark. Would it be possible for you to post a copy of the history stories you did for these spoons?

How are the displayed? It looks like they could be hung on a hook, or that you could even make a carved display board.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4930 days

#5 posted 01-01-2007 02:54 AM

Make that three votes for the middle, not that the other two aren’t nice.

Darryl, don’t worry, simple isn’t always easy to pull off!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2008 posts in 5009 days

#6 posted 01-01-2007 07:34 PM

I added the Historical Context and Meanings of the Symbols above in the story.

Don: The Spoons were made to be hung on a wall. If I remember right the Middle Spoon was a completely “DeCou” design, whereas the other style may have been inspired by an historical spoon I found on the internet. There has been too many projects pass by for me to remember the exact details now.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View mcoyfrog's profile


4757 posts in 4197 days

#7 posted 04-21-2009 05:36 PM

cool spoons

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View mbulla's profile


156 posts in 4113 days

#8 posted 11-06-2011 08:57 PM

good job!

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