My affection for working wood began when dad gave me my first tool kit at age five. As long as I can remember, I’ve been keen to make stuff. My journey has explored the gamut from the coarse carpentry of decks and room additions to the hair-splitting joinery of furniture and cabinetry.
Today I am smitten with turning.
There has nearly always been a lathe in my shop to make the occasional round thing (grandkids must have tops, yoyos and toy trucks, after all). But until a few years ago the lathe was just another tool with no more romance than a band saw or drill press.
That changed when I encountered a breathtaking exhibit of turned objects from the Mason collection at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, in Charlotte. I had never before seen turnings of such beauty and sophistication. From that point, I purposed to learn what I could about the history and practice of this creative woodworking specialty, and to become as skilled as my wits and energy would allow.
Turning is different. Flat work is mostly a matter of straight cuts, with the wood brought to the tool and guided by a fence. In turning, the tool is applied to the spinning wood, guided only by the hand of the turner. It is a fluid, whole-body dynamic. (A good cut is as satisfying as a well-executed drive off the tee or a well-placed shot on the tennis court.) The process reveals what the wood is like inside; the wood itself often leads the turner in unexpected directions. (So do errors we prefer to call sudden design opportunities.)
My work includes functional pieces (ask my relatives about pepper mills and popcorn bowls) as well as works that are intended simply to delight the eye or hand. I tend to favor simple, elegant forms that honor the wood’s natural color and figure without excessive ornamentation.
I am indebted to influences ancient and modern and to countless turners who have generously helped refine my taste and technique.