Back when we were living in Wales full time, we kept coming across a little token almost everywhere we went - the Welsh love spoon. While it is still technically a spoon, it turns out these days the Welsh love spoon is more a work of art than anything else, which we learned when we went to the Lovespoon Gallery in Mumbles.
We came across the gallery one day when we were in Mumbles shopping for our patrons on Patreon. What's Patreon you ask? I'll tell you! Patreon is a website where people can directly support the artists and creators that they love. You'll find all sorts of people there - YouTubers, artists, bloggers, etc. The idea is that you give money, which supports the creator, and you get exclusive items or content in return. On our Patreon you can sign up to get a monthly postcard from wherever we are, a monthly souvenir from wherever we are, or just to support us in any way from $1 to $100! (You could give more than $100 though, we won't stop you.) If you are interested you can check it out here.
So long story short - we were looking for some awesome Welsh souvenirs for our patrons, and once we found this gallery we knew it was the perfect place to find them something unique and very Welsh. There were all sorts of love spoons available in this gallery from small ones hung up on the wall like tiny sculptures...
To this super awesome giant one that also features the Welsh dragon. If we weren't forgoing all souvenirs for ourselves (no room in the luggage) this one might have gone home with us.
We were planning on our December gifts to our souvenir patrons being Christmas ornaments, so when we saw the gallery had some of the spoons strung up and hanging on a tree we knew we were definitely in the right place.
We spent quite a while talking to the owner of the gallery about the history of the Welsh love spoon, and having her help us pick out the perfect ones for each of our patrons. We love getting to know our patrons so we can personalize their gifts each month just for them. So even though everyone got love spoons, they didn't all get the same one! Here is an example of one of the full gifts that we sent, with the Welsh love spoon as well as one extra ornament we picked out. "Cwtch" means "cuddle" in Welsh (my favorite Welsh word of all time) and the heart is made out of Welsh slate.
I promised the full story of the love spoon, so here it is! (I have paraphrased this from the information given to me by the gallery, a copy of which was included with each gift.)
The carving of love spoons is thought to go back to medieval times, and back then, though it was given as a token of love, it was also actually used by the recipient for eating. However, once the utilitarian function of the spoon was discarded, they became more and more intricate and artistic.
As the spoons became more elaborate the tended to keep the bowl of the spoon the same, while the handle took on the decorations and fuller meaning. Some developments included wooden chains, swivels, and rings, making it look as if the single love spoon was made of interconnected pieces. Most existing examples of older love spoons have provisions for hanging, indicating they were meant to be decorative rather than functional.
The designs used on the love spoons often had significance as well as looking pretty - the number of links in a chain might signal the number of children a suitor would like, a keyhole showed that he wished to provide a house, a wheel indicated he would work for her, and a heart, of course, indicated love. Overall the act of carving the love spoon itself showed a level of dedication and commitment.
For a long time the giving of a spoon and either its acceptance or refusal was the ritual of betrothal in Wales (much like our diamond engagement ring of today.) This practice is thought to have died out in the nineteenth century. Today love spoons are given to commemorate many special occasions - retirement, birth, departure, and still, betrothal. (Though I doubt anyone is getting away with giving just a spoon and not a ring.)
So there you have it - the story of the Welsh love spoon! What do you think? It makes for a pretty cool souvenir and a great Christmas ornament right? I love ornaments that give you a story to remember and tell when you pull them out every year. If you are interested in getting some souvenirs of your own from our travels, head on over to Patreon! Either way, we are glad you are following along on our adventure!