Love Spoons

By Lou Walther

   Are you a spoon collector? If so, do you have a Welsh love spoon?
   The Welsh love spoon dates back to the Vikings, over 1,000 years ago. An ardent suitor might carve twin spoons out of a piece of wood, then connect them with a wooden chain to show his love. Often spoons were given as a pre-courting present, and sometimes were offered as gifts to a lady fair whose acceptance might mean their engagement.
   The symbols carved on the wooden spoons had several meanings: a heart meant love; a wheel, work; a key, home; a ball and cage, a captive heart; and a shield, protection.
   Other significant carvings included the twisted stem which stood for two lives entwined; the bell, a wedding or marriage; chain links, chained or joined in love; and a padlock or keys, security.
   Two of the most noted of love spoon carvers are Elwyn Hughes and John Arnold. Hughes’ spoons are made of mahogany, waxed to a medium-brown color. Arnold’s spoons, also of mahogany, are polished to a dark, waxed finish. Both artists live on the southern coast of Wales and are considered the leading hand-crafters of these spoons.
   Elwyn Hughes has written a booklet, “A Spoonful of Love,” on the tradition and romance of the Welsh love spoon. He describes how on a cold winter evening, before a cheery fire, a young man might carve a spoon for his beloved, to say what was in his heart. Some spoons were very simple, others might take months to finish, but each one was carved out of love. Only a few young 17th-century people could read or write well, so it was natural to turn to carvings to show their feelings. Love spoons are ideal gifts for special times such as engagements, weddings or anniversaries.

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