To be proper and technical about it, Jenkins Lovespoons are a product of Blake's Practical Applications, LLC. However, please don't let my compulsion for long-term planning and structure confuse you - these are not mass-produced lovespoons. I am Laura Jenkins Gorun, and I am the person who designs and makes every single Jenkins Lovespoon. More about Blake's Practical Applications is explained on the About Blake's PA page.
Jenkins Lovespoons are all individually designed and hand-made by one single person, very much in keeping with the centuries-old Welsh tradition.
I'll start with some Frequently Asked Questions... and answers. Then, if you're not bored yet, there's the story of how Jenkins Lovespoons came to be down towards the bottom of the page.
A: Most of my lovespoons these days average between 20 and 40 hours, but I think I once made on in as few as 10 hours, and other times have spent more than 100 hours. The reality is, every design has different challenges, and properties of each specific piece of wood can dramatically affect how quickly it can be worked.
A: Probably just about anything relevant to the giver and to the recipient (and within my drawing and carving abilities). The symbolism is meant to be personal, so it traditionally really should be open to creativity and interpretation. While there have always been many common symbols and even styles used, designs are not at all limited to those common symbols. (See my main About page to see some common symbolism.) As a case in point, I've attached an image of a mermaid spoon I made recently, just below the rotating image to the left on this page. Generally, if I can draw it, and the wood will accept the detail, then I can probably carve it. Of course, the laws of physics apply, as well. ;)
A: I use a drill press and scroll saw or fret saw to cut out the blanks, but from then on, there's no power involved. I carve with hand-chisels & gouges, mainly, sometimes using a bent knife to clean out the bottom of the bowl, too. I use many grits of sandpapers (from 80 or 120 grit up to at least 3200 grit, usually), and sometimes needle files for the sanding. Then I finish with several coats of danish oil and beeswax.
A: No, I haven't attempted stain. I tend to use woods with a lot of color, or a color and grain combination that supports the design, so I just stick with my oil and wax finish to protect the wood. Honestly, I'm a little intimidated by stain, but have seen some people do really beautiful things with it.
A: I have been favoring Cherry, Mahogany, Walnut, and lately, if I want a really fair wood, Holly. I also have an affection for Yew and Olivewood, though I don't often use them. Almost any type of wood can be used, however, some lend themselves much more to carving than others. For example, some woods cannot take as much detail as others, some cannot be brought to the same kind of finish as others, and some are very very hard, and therefore put much more wear and tear on my hand muscles and the blades of my tools. Also, some woods that might normally be great for carving, become incredibly challenging if they have figure or knots, like curly or birdseye maple.
A: Yes, I have, although I'd usually prefer to design something new. I do often incorporate similar elements into multiple spoons, or make variations on a design (take a look at my Popular Lovespoons Gallery. Of course, the hand-made nature of these spoons, and the natural material (wood) always creates some differences - even if they are small. Even if I am asked to repeat a design, I don't really even keep its predecessor in mind while I carve it. I think doing that might sacrifice some personality, and personality is what a Lovespoon is all about. :)
A: Really not often. I have broken a couple - the most likely time to break one is near the end of the finishing process (mostly during sanding). The places my spoons are most likely to break while I'm making them are usually on any pointy or delicate limbs. Also, sometimes I encounter a crack that already existed in the wood, which I might try to reinforce, but if it's visible, I don't like to keep it, even though I suppose it's not exactly a break. Hopefully, I can adapt the design to salvage the spoon, but more often, if it breaks, it goes into the scrap pile, and onto the "lessons learned" list.
A: Well, no - I'm American. But America is a very young country, so I think heritage is important. And, as for heritage, I am one quarter Welsh: my Grandfather and his family moved to Ohio from the Valleys in Wales when he was a teenager.I remember sitting on his lap, having him sing me songs in Welsh in his lovely tenor.
In 2006, I was looking into my Welsh heritage, and Welsh traditions (other than singing), when I discovered the lovely tradition of the Welsh Lovespoon. Skimming through several Welsh Lovespoon websites, I saw many examples of lovespoons, but focused mainly on the explanation of the tradition and symbolism I found at each website. I thought it was such a lovely and inspiring tradition! I liked that the tradition itself seemed to encourage creativity, while still having what seemed to be a pretty clearly-defined structure: Always a spoon made from a single piece of wood, and conveying a sentimental, heartfelt, personal message. If I was going to try it, I wanted to honor the tradition - not bend it to my own ideas (unless that was part of the point of it).
I first wondered whether it was ok for a girl to make them, since the tradition appears to have originated as a courtship gift from a man to a woman. But, I found enough examples from women to decide it would be ok for me to try it. Then, while most of the spoons I was seeing were very nice, they seemed to keep to a general style, and since I had a bit of an art background (my college degree was in Fine Arts), I found myself wondering how much it would be acceptable to deviate from that style. It just seemed so full of possibilities to me, I was hoping it would be ok to explore a bit....
Then I came upon Mike Davies' website, and I had my answer: Mike's spoons were distinctly different, and certainly absolute works of art. At that point, I stopped looking for spoons on the internet, because I didn't want to get too influenced by more styles, as I thought if I was going to try it, I should come up with my own style. I knew I was in what was probably a unique position - I hadn't grown up in Wales, around the lovespoon tradition. I'd never even seen one in person. I hadn't even been able to determine whether or not people carve the backs as well as the fronts, or whether they truly overlap the layers in knotwork, or just suggested the overlap. I was a "blank slate," which seemed like a good position to be in, especially given the creativity and personality inherent to the tradition.
Valentine's Day was a few weeks away, so I thought I'd try making a lovespoon for my boyfriend (now my husband). I decided to just do whatever felt right to me as far as whether to carve the back or overlap the weaving layers. I'd never even carved before, so I just chose a pretty piece of wood, asked the guy at the store for some basic carving tools, and drew up a simple little design. I'll put a copy of it at the left, here. (note, this was just before Daffodil season, so I just drew my daffodil from memory, forgetting that they actually usually have 6 petals, not 5. Oops! I learned better about a month or so later.) After that spoon, I knew I was captivated, and that I would have to make more. Over the next few years, I made a few more spoons as gifts in what little spare time I had. (I was a bit of a work-a-holic). I received quite a bit of encouragement to try selling them, and at the end of 2008, my new husband and I decided maybe we shouldn't both be work-a-holics, so I left the corporate world, and was able to spend more time making lovespoons, among other things. I'm one of those people who's interested in too many things, and actually tries a lot of them. So, in 2009, I established a company (Blake's Practical Applications, LLC), and gave my lovespoons a name: Jenkins Lovespoons.
So, that's pretty much how Jenkins Lovespoons came to be.
Now, if you want to look again at the more general page about the Welsh Lovespoon tradition and symbolism, please take a look at my main About page. Or, if you're really curious about Blake's Practical Applications, then you'll probably want to have a quick look over at the About Blake's PA page.