four roundels and six hearts

Four roundels and six hearts: the decoration on an old Breton folding spoon, discovered in detail as I traced the outlines of the patterns for a future book about the decoration of these lovely old spoons.

This spoon is in the reserves of the Museum at Nantes.

Nantes, at the mouth of the Loire river used to be the chief city of the Duchy of Brittany until 1532, when Brittany and Kingdom of France were united. Nantes and the surrounding département, the Loire-Atlantique were part of the Région of Brittany until after the second World War, when they were split off to form part of a new Région called Pays de la Loire. This was not a popular move at the time and still remains contentious. Most inhabitants of Nantes consider themselves to be breton to this day.

So back to the Museum at Nantes. The Musée d'histoire de Nantes is to be found within the Château des ducs de Bretagne, which is a building that is every bit as impressive as it sounds, and well worth a visit in itself.

Having p…

a well-travelled spoon

For various reasons this spoon has crossed the Atlantic and returned to France twice so far. It's just about to cross over again, to be a part of an event that I am passionate about.

Starting on September 7th 2018, North House Folk School is hosting a special wooden spoon auction to help to fund The Wille Sundqvist and Bill Coperthwaite Slöjd Fellowship. Here's the link: Coperthwaite Sundqvist Slojd auction

Bill Coperthwaite established a homestead in northern Maine to live a simple life based on handcraft. He was the author of 'A Handmade Life'. Wille Sudqvist, who died earlier this year was a celebrated spoon carver and bowl turner, author of 'Swedish Carving Techniques' and other works. Both men were passionate about the importance of handcraft in a society used to buying everything from a shop.

I was immensely privileged to be awarded this Fellowhip in 2017, and to support their fundraising auction I am about to dispatch this spoon on its travels yet agai…

Multi-strand spoons

In the museum at Rennes is a collection of 72 Breton decorated spoons, all from the Pays Vannetais, the area around the city of Vannes in the South of Brittany.  They are all fairly distinctive in style, and are often decorated with elaborate chip-carving and piercing. However none have the coloured wax inlay so prevalent in spoons from further west in Finistère.

Within this collection are a group of spoons that are mainly from around the town of Auray, just to the west of Vannes. These are all one-piece spoons made of boxwood, but are distinguished by having their spoon-necks carved in multiple strands, to look like separate pieces of rope. Some have three strands, some have five, one has nine and one has ten strands!  This rope-like motif is seen on other spoons from the Vannetais area, but always further up the handle, often outlining the flat part of the handle.

Spoon number 955.1.46 is probably the crudest of these spoons. It has a 5-strand neck, and a very simple shaped handle,…

teaching how to make folding spoons

It’s that time of the year again, the summer round of green woodworking festivals is about to kick off. I shall be going to the Spoon gathering at Milan, Minnesota, where I’ll be teaching a pre-fest course making and decorating Breton-style one-piece spoons. Then back to Greenwood Fest in Massachusetts the following week. It’s here I’ll be teaching making a folding spoon for the pre-fest course. This is going to be the only time i teach this course this year.

The two presentations of the same course that I gave last year were great fun, if a little shattering for me! The skills needed by course participants are not particularly high, but there is a great deal of precise detail for me to to explain, so I don’t get any let-up for the two and a half days of each course. I quickly learnt which processes needed lots more explanation, or just needed to be described differently. However, both courses went very well, with everyone managing to successfully make their own folding spoon. Some …

Flowery spoons and old sealing wax

This small group of three spoons (from the top, 955.1.66, 955.1.65, 955.1.58 all Musée de Bretagne, Rennes)  all from the Vannetais region of Brittany and were made sometime in the late 19th century. They display the most incredible level of craftsmanship, both in the basic form of the spoons and then in their delicate, pierced decoration.

They are also unusual for two reasons. Firstly they have an essentially asymmetric motif which is very unusual within the Breton tradition. In addition they have colour on them. These are the only spoons from this area that have any decoration in colour. It is not, however, a coloured wax inlay as in the spoons from Cornouaille, but a painted motif.

Sadly there are no dates for these spoons, but the top two are documented as having been made in Carnac, on the south coast of Brittany between Vannes and Lorient, at the very heart of the Vannetais area of decorated spoon making.

It can only be speculation that these are made by the same person, but it …

a family of spoons

There is, in two museums and private hands, a group of four old Breton spoons. The group consists of two near-identical spoons (Morlaix 2000-12-1-16 and MuCEM 1883-3-10, pictured below) plus one other similar spoon that was sold a year ago to a private collector. In addition, there are pictures of two spoons… one in the book by Leroy & Méheut, “Vieux métiers Bretons” (1992 - this is probably the same as the one that was sold privately), and the other is in a picture called “trois cuillères bretonnes” in the MuCEM museum in Marseilles.

It is probable that they were all made by the same person...

These spoons are in the Cornouaille-style, made around the area of Quimper in S.W. Finistère, and are exquisite in their shape and decoration. All have heart shaped bowls, all have one or more hearts as piercings or cartouches plus a very distinctive up-tipped and scalloped end to the handle.

This  first picture is one of the spoons which is in the Museum at Morlaix, in NW Brittany
This i…