Thursday, February 9, 2012

A workshop! Part 1

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to give a lovespoon workshop at a near-by carving club.
I have no idea, yet, whether or not I have any ability to instruct, but I'm certainly willing to give it a try, and always more than happy to encourage people to try their hand at this lovely tradition. The world needs more lovespoons!

So... I put some thought into what main points I could try to convey in 2 hours, what challenges I might be able to include in such a short time, etc.. Lots of blanks would have to be cut, we'd have to use basswood because we need to be able to work more quickly than you can with harder woods, and most people seem to prefer basswood, anyway. Many people probably prefer to carve mostly with straight knives..... lots of things to consider. Basically, this would have to be simpler than pretty much any spoon I've ever done. Then, I thought a little about what makes my spoons distinct. Terms I seem to hear most are "delicate," "elegant," and "you just can't tell what these are really like when you just see them in a picture." Hmm....
SO... First point to convey: while most carvers seem to be familiar with lovespoons, very few seem to be familiar with the tradition behind them, so I think I'll share a bit about that. They're not just another carving, after all - they're a lovely bit of heart & sentiment. I think they come out better when you're aware of that.
Another point: I think it's nice to have a lovespoon shaped like - well - a spoon, as opposed to a decorative board with a bowl on the end. I think that is where the "you can't tell what these are really like..." remark comes from. There is a lot of depth in all my designs, even if the blank was only 1/2" thick. As for delicate and elegant - I think long, smooth curves are one of the things that yields the "elegant" remark, and I think "delicate" often has more to do with sharp, pointy, or fine details, and less to do with actually being fragile or delicate. Although, sometimes they actually ARE delicate or fragile to some extent, too. Oh, and one other point a friend reminded me I should mention: copyright. All my spoons are from my original designs. I don't mind someone making one as a gift, but if they show it, they should note that it's my design (or, if it's modified somehow, but still clearly based on my design, an acknowledgement of that would be appreciated, too). But my designs shouldn't be reproduced for sale. It is a good point, after all.

Anyway, next, I sat down with paper & pencil, and started trying to come up with a design. It occurred to me, not everyone likes the same things, and I have lots of ideas, and each person will just be working on one spoon, so why not offer a few designs, all with some similar challenges, and with room for modification?
So, I ended up drawing 6 relatively similar designs. 3 have a single piercing, one has a chip-carved element, one has a relief element, and one has a sort of organic shape to it. They all have opportunity for long, smooth (elegant) arcs, some fine (delicate) details, and they all have a very narrow (somewhat fragile) part. Not too fragile for basswood, though. They also all have an overall backwards arc from the bowl - or a "spoon" shape. As far as symbolism goes, I didn't get very elaborate. A few have hearts, a couple have diamonds... most could be modified a bit, if desired.
Next, I'd have to prove them...
Here's a picture of the designs, cut into blanks (had to buy some basswood! that was weird!).

Took me about 1 hour & 45 minutes to cut out all 6 from 3/4" basswood, on a scroll saw. And, I'd made the designs pretty simple, so that they could probably (except the piercings, of course) be mostly cut out on a band saw.
They all have a very narrow neck right above the bowl, which means you have to consider the order in which you carve different parts (the narrow neck should be one of the last things to carve). I made them all with a little design you could carve on the back of the bowl, if desired, and room for carving more or less detail into other parts (like the whole back). When I'm carving them, I'll probably add some details, just to show more options.
So, I am hoping they'll all take between 2 and 4 hours to carve, then a couple hours of sanding, and then the finishing takes days because of dry-time. I'll start with the carving. Here are some progress pictures of the first one. A lot of what I consider through this one will also need to be considered on all of them, so I may show a few more details this time. Anyway, I start on the front, because then I can work on a table. Oh - by the way, when I work on a table (which is good for leverage, especially when the back is still un-carved and flat), I use a piece of leather to keep the piece from slipping, and to protect the table.
As I start taking away wood, I also like to frequently check the symmetry by looking at it from either end.
 Note the long, smooth, backwards arc I'm going for from near the bowl to the top point of the spoon. In this case, I made that top point the closest to the back plane of the spoon. (that means, the side points will be higher, so if you lay this on a table, it'll want to lean to one side or the other, once the back is carved away). This is important to consider, because hanging it on a wall could be a little tricky. Also, if I were to lay it on a table, it would mainly just touch at that point on the top tip, and a point on the back of the bowl, then, to stabilize, probably one or the other of the side points of the diamond - but still just 3 points - not a lot of support - making it a little fragile. You'd want to be careful setting it down.
Now, on this one, that big gap in the middle makes for a bit of a challenge, keeping symmetry on both sides of it - making it look like one continuous surface, even though in fact, there's a big hole. One solution would be not to cut the piercing when I cut the blank, and to simply cut or carve it out after I've carved that front surface. But, I didn't do it that way.
Then, once I'm pretty satisfied with the front surface of the handle, and the symmetry, then I move on to the bowl... Another thing I'll want to emphasize is the shape of a bowl - it should be smooth and curved, not flat on the bottom and vertical on the sides. A nice bowl is widely considered an important aspect of a good lovespoon. This time, I start with the inside of the bowl. Doesn't really  matter inside or outside...

I also decide to make a little more arc from side to side on the front surface - notice here, the side points are a little lower now than they were in the previous picture.

I'm also looking inside the piercing, checking for symmetry... And then, once I'm pretty satisfied with the inside of the bowl, I turn it over, and start on the outside / back of the bowl. Now things get trickier because the front isn't flat. Here, I find myself picking up the spoon more often, and working on it in my hand. Anyway, I start around the detail on the back of the bowl...

Then I finish up the outside/back of the bowl (except that detail extending from the handle). I check the profile from the side, I frequently feel the thickness with my fingers and thumb (want to make sure not to cut through!), and I also check the profile from the end, being careful to avoid looking at the grain, which will throw me off.

I might also take out my skew to smooth out the surface a bit. (so far, I've been using my #5 gouge).
Then, it's time to get into shaping the handle's back...

Now, with the neck starting to get thin, I need to start being more careful... but it's still pretty sturdy, even though it's made of basswood.

Then, another check for symmetry from the end... And the back is generally concave, just like the front was generally convex.

Needs to be thinner, though.

And a last check from the ends...

I think that's about "done" for the carving part of this one.

Well, that's more than enough for now. In a few days, I'll check in with how the rest are shaping up.
I promise I'll edit more next time. It's late now, though, so I'm going to sleep! Thanks for stopping by, and have a good night! (or day, or whatever) :)

No comments:

Post a Comment