Note: This article is taken from Volume 40, Number 1: the January-February 1993 issue of Chip Chats.
I have seen love spoons and ladles, some very practical, in various parts of the world, but I was surprised and pleased at the variety and ideas in ladles in East Russia and Siberia. Of the seven examples shown here, only one is a type I've seen before — a lacquered round-bowl spoon with floral motifs done by hand. Call this a spoon or a small ladle, it is available in Alaska, New York City, and wherever else Russian things are sold. I included it here because it illustrates the parlous state of the Russian economy. When I was there in August, 1992, this spoon was available for 70 rubles. With 160 rubles per $1, that's less than 50g . Because the ruble is dropping in value, it is probably much less now. The other six ladles are hand carved, most in a pine (miscalled Siberian cedar), except for one which is in maple and fairly complex (and the most expensive of the lot). The two simplest spoons, about 10" long, are distinguished only by their handle ends — one a stylized floral pattern and the other a human head. They come from north of Irkutsk in central Siberia, and were only a dollar apiece in a small museum shop. They, like most of the oth-ers, have no finish and can be used for ladling. Contrast them with the short and elaborate ladle, which I have also sketched. It comes from north of Khabarovsk, in East Russia on the Pacific coast. It is in maple, very smoothly finished, and costs the equivalent of $28 at a large museum.
Short spoon, or ladle, at left is a familiar Russian design. It is and available in quantity (500 in Eastern Russia, at "cut rates" in Alaska). Two center ones are simple designs in pine, while one at far right is a quite elaborate cen motif in maple and most expensive of the lot.
The other three spoons, from the Irkutsk area of Siberia. are primarily decorative. The simplest is a pleasing mewl design with a spiral-cut handle and a link at the end. is about 15" long. Only slightly longer is a sort of caricature or souvenir type with a girl's figure in national dress, icicle chip carving, and the word "Irkutsk" in Cyrillic lettering just above the bowl. This, again, is from a town well of Irkutsk, and I bought it from a youthful carver. Longest of these three, and the most elaborate, is the low-relief floral-patterned one, which is about 18" long and stained. Its carver is quite versatile — I got it as part of a tipple purchase which included a fisherman with net, a peasant pair, and a kneeling peasant tipping his fur hat. All of these, because of the rapidly declining value of the ruble, were shamefully inexpensive by our standards. They do suggest, however, a number of ideas for copying.
Side view sketch of elaborate chicken motif ladle shown in photo-graph. Carved in maple, ladle is 2 3/4 x 3 x 7 1/2 inches.