Tag: ekphrasis

Works of the Heart

Just a short post today about my first work of 2017, ‘Roots So Entwined’:

This project came to me when my aunt suggested a competition run by the clothing chain Toast, for ‘works of the heart’ to be displayed in their shop windows during the month of February. The Welsh lovespoon immediately came to mind, traditionally carved by a young man for his sweetheart as a sign of his serious intentions. I’m quite pleased to be reversing the gender stereotype, but how wonderful to express one’s love in the form of hours and hours of crafting, carving and polishing. Oh so much more romantic than the text message!

I’ve read that the oldest surviving lovespoon was made in the seventeenth century, but apparently the tradition is probably much older, originating with more humble carvings on a household soup spoon, which would then cease its practical function and be hung up on the wall. Now, of course, lovespoons are an entirely decorative gift, but as with so many aesthetic objects, their basic conformity to the humble spoon shape adds to the charm and ingenuity of design.

The image of what I wanted to draw was in my mind for many weeks before I was able to start work – during which time the deadline for the competition passed! But it’s a mark of how much the idea had captured me that I still had to create it, once I had the opportunity. Originally I envisaged a less three-dimensional drawing, with all kinds of backgrounds to set off the dark, almost silhouetted pattern. However, when I came to start work, I found that undulations and sheen of the wood mesmerising, almost like following lines of melody. I decided to give the curves achieved by the carver as much voice as possible in my drawing, and it felt like such a collaboration to be making art from art – the technical term for this being ‘ekphrasis’.

The medium of coloured pencil on paper was also an important factor. Of course, using the grain of paper seemed highly appropriate for the depiction of wood, but in the early stages the colour I was achieving with the pencils wasn’t intense enough, with the grain of the paper making the effect too loose and matt. So, I started layering up colour so as to saturate the grain, eventually ‘sealing’ it to achieve a high sheen, often with the help of a while pencil, especially in the areas of highlight. It felt almost like polishing the wood itself. The softness of coloured pencil was also a challenge in creating the sharp edges that I wanted, and in the end I found that a graphite pencil would fill the more fuzzy edges of the coloured pencils to create that clean silhouette.

So, if lovespoons are all about symbolism, what symbols have we here? This is a very simple lovespoon in this regard combining the somewhat self-explanatory symbol of a heart with celtic knotwork to symbolise lasting love. The latter was of far more interest to me, both aesthetically and in terms of sentiment, as it reminded me of a reading my husband and I had at our wedding reception, from ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ by Louis de Bernieres:

“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.”

This seemed even more touching as I became aware that, while the spoon seems to be constructed of interweaving strands of wood, in fact, of course, it is really a single piece. The metaphor of entwined roots for an object made from a tree about lasting love was too good to miss, so the work is called ‘Roots So Entwined’. Pleasingly the original has already sold, but I am keen to pursue the various backgrounds I had in mind, so I am producing unique giclee prints – each one hand-personalised with background and (if desired) initials. Below is a mock-up of a very simple version that I’m planning for my other half (he likes blue…) but please feel free to message me for more information if you are interested.