When I pick up a piece of wood to put on the lathe it is like the piece talks to me – I assess what type of shape or form is possible and what I need to do with the piece of wood to get it to that particular form. Once the piece is on the lathe and I actually start to work it, I must react to what that piece of wood is telling me – sometimes a flaw, previously unseen, will reveal itself or perhaps I will find out that I have misread the grain – the consequence of this may be a change in form so that I am able to take the piece of wood to a point where its beauty is more readily apparent. This process is what allows me to work comfortably in many different modes, leading me to turn many different types of turnings (functional bowls and vases, pierced and stippled turnings -often air brushed or hand painted to accentuate the piece – segmented bowls and vases, hollow vessels, natural edge burl bowls and vases, textured vessels. Each of these various types of turnings require their own skill set to pursue successful results – repetition of these forms allows one to accumulate the skills necessary to produce a winning piece.
Woodturning is an art form and lends itself to one-of-a-kind pieces. Duplicating a particular piece, while possible, is seldom completely successful and is not something that we tend to do.
We use a variety of woods, mostly hardwoods that lend themselves to turning on the lathe. The type of finish that we use also varies – from a straight Swedish oil finish, to waxes, turners polish, acrylic paints (applied with an air brush in most instances, although Eileen also hand paints many flowers and other items), polyurethane and lacquer. Each piece tends to demand its own type of finish – sometimes I choose a natural finish so that the exotic grain in the wood is revealed, sometimes I choose to air brush colours on to the piece to add depth and interest to the wood.
Piercing and stippling a bowl or vase requires that these pieces are all turned very thin – often as thin as 1\16” – 1\8”. They are then pierced and stippled using a variety of tools. This particular type of turning is very creative as it allows me to paint, pierce or stipple various animals, insects, people or trees into the bowl or vase. This is a labour of love that I really enjoy – it is spontaneous and fulfilling. In many cases these pieces are then air brushed with acrylic paints and then finished with polyurethane for a permanent finish. These pieces are more true pieces of art rather than functional pieces.
From this love of turning thin came the “Signature Series – Light Dancer”. At this stage we have made 17 of them and each and every one of them is unique and beautiful. The name “Light Dancer” comes from the fact that each of these two-piece hollow forms is also a tea-light candle holder. When these are lit in a darkened room they project the most amazing patterns on the surface they are sitting on, the walls of the room it is in and the roof. It really is something to see – a small idea of this can be seen in the header of our web page.
Textured turnings, because of the nature of texturing tools, tend to be somewhat thicker than normal so that one has the ability to texture them without sacrificing the strength and integrity of the vessel. The designs created by the texturing tools often are very intriguing and can result in very appealing pieces.
One of my most favourite things to do with wood-turning is teaching it. As a teacher for 33 years and a high-school shop teacher for 22 1\2 years, I find teaching a small group of people very comfortable. I now have 7 portable lathes and all the tools to go with them – so to travel around and teach is quite the blast.
Woodturning is a labour of love to me, with each new piece I learn something new and I try to connect with these newly learned skills in a way that will produce ever improving turnings. This is a passionate skill and I am irrevocably hooked for life.