Combining your culture with crafting
If you`ve ever paid a visit to Wales, you`ll know that it is a country steeped in tradition and that the Welsh are fiercely proud of their heritage. Despite attempts to eradicate ancient Celtic traditions, the Royal National Eisteddford is a ceremonial gathering of musicians, poets and craftsmen that takes place annually and keeps these great customs alive. It`s often said that there`s something about the west of a country that awakens the creative spirit. Wales has long been viewed as a sanctuary for potters and painters, jewellers, weavers, metalworkers, candlemakers, woodcarvers and glassblowers. You can be sure of one thing in Wales - that whatever the art or craft, it will be rooted in its surroundings and heritage. A few of the most prominent are featured here, specifically love spoons, Welsh slate and gold, weaving and coracle-making.
Many of the traditional Welsh crafts stem from the Celtic traditions that have influenced Welsh customs today. An ancient tradition is the carving of a spoon from a single piece of wood, now known as a love spoon, by a young man who would then present it to his sweetheart as a sign of his love, generally considered to be an early form of engagement ring. The carvings would depict symbols such as wheel, hearts, locks and birds that represented love, friendship, health and wealth for example. The tradition continues today (although if you are a novice at carving you can cheat and buy one already made!) and are gifted for weddings, anniversaries, new homes and newborns. There are a limited number of books on the market offering a step-by-step guide to crafting a traditional love spoon, and you can buy a love spoon pattern online to try out yourself.
Dubbed as the "most Welsh of Welsh industries", traditional slate craftsmanship quite literally crowned the industrial revolution and you can witness slate-splitting and creative skills in several locations in Wales. The demise of the long history of mining in the country has since spawned an explosion of superb creations in metal and slate crafts and artistry. Welsh slates now adorn international tables a plenty in the form of coasters and placemats, and there are successful manufacturers of Welsh slate gifts, trophies, house nameplates and ornaments exporting worldwide. Pure Welsh gold is the world`s most valuable precious metal and has been a cherished jewellery metal for centuries since it demonstrated supremacy for Celtic nobles. The Royal family wear wedding rings of Welsh gold.
Once the country`s foremost and most widespread of industries, Welsh wool weaving was once responsible for an immense output of clothing and bedcovers. Nowadays restored mills housing traditional machinery offer demonstrations and workshops for a taster of old weaving methods, including carding, spinning and sewing. The production of Welsh flannel quilts in bold colours and geometric shapes was one of the few ways a woman could earn a respectable living until mass produced items took over. The few remaining quilters flying the Welsh flag produce bedcovers of exceptional quality, often featuring traditional Welsh scenes and emblems such as the patron saint, David, daffodils, leeks, and red dragons.
A weaving of a different kind altogether has long produced small oval shaped boats made from thin strips of wood woven together like a basket and then covered with canvas. Known as coracles, they are sealed with tar and have been used to catch fish in Welsh rivers for thousands of years. If you are interested in learning a new skill that is a world away from Cross Stitch, the Coracle Society offers coracle-making courses for novices.