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…

Strawberries and spoons

Decorated spoons from the Pays de Léon, in NW Brittany

There is a particular style of decorated spoons from a small area of NW Brittany centred around the small town of Plougastel-Daoulas. This lies within the old diocese of St Pol de Léon. St Pol de Léon is a fascinating small town with a big cathederal, near the ferry port of Roscoff, and which is the origin of the area name: le Pays de Léon. 

The spoons from around Plougastel-Daoulas are very distinctive. They differ in three main respects from the other styles of traditional Breton spoons. Firstly, they are invariably one-piece spoons, unlike the other main Breton traditions of spoon making, in which about half are folding spoons. Secondly, the spoons are usually a fairly basic but elegant shape. They tend to have a distinct crank and a pronounced keel, and they lack the elaborate cut-outs and piercings seen in other breton spoons.
Thirdly, these spoons tend to be very richly decorated with inlays of coloured wax - often on the s…