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bio and artist statement

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I guess I officially started in woodworking when I was about 9 years old. I had landed my first paying job building architectural scale models. It wasn't a lot of money but I was amazed that people were paying me to build models. I learned a lot about topography, and styro-foam and how you couldn't have one without the other. I explored the intricacies of model tree making and learned that sponges are your friend for making model trees. This is heady stuff for a nine year old. It was a good exercise in testing my resourcefulness.

I later went on to apprentice to a wood sculptor. It was a summertime job and I was eleven by then. I apprenticed and in return I got to enroll in other art classes for free. It was a good trade which got me into ceramics and clay sculpture. This led to another apprenticeship with a ceramics instructor and to a mold maker. Back then we had a guy that would come around every month or so and make molds for pouring slip. He would take the pile of artifacts that had collected for the month and make plaster molds of them so that they could be reproduced. Ceramics was a fun job and I was eventually put in charge of teaching the ceramics course to the younger kids. It was another of a series of trades for art classes. I was thirteen by then and looking to get into something with a more teeth in it.

I went back to working with wood. The sort of work I was interested in was accelerated by my uncle, who had a passion for marquetry. It was fascinating stuff, and gave me an introduction to working with strange, exotic, and fantastic woods that were out in the world. I probably would never have known that these woods existed if it were not for this sojourn into marquetry. I was most certainly hooked on wood.

By the time I started high school I was apprenticing to a boat builder. This man made beautifully crafted fishing boats, many of which are still in use today. They had classic lines with a fair and graceful entry. The boats were generally around 65 feet in length and all of them were carvel planked. This man didn't say much. He had exceptional skill in his craft and I pretty much had to pay attention and constantly and repeatedly adjust things to gain any approval from him. One day he came to me, plopped down a set of plans in my hands, and said, "Build this". That's pretty much all he said. I looked at the plans and thought how bad could it be, building a 27-foot sloop, I mean.

I was in way over my head. I was also at that age with too much time and enthusiasm to know better. I did learn a lot from that experience. The first thing I learned was that building boats wasn't going to be fast, which gave plenty of time to realize that it wasn't going to be cheap either. I remained pretty much penniless throughout the build. There is something basically and tragically wrong with a teenager saving up for silicon bronze boat nails.

Furniture making came next, and like so many other people I discovered that there is never enough room, tooling, or time to make furniture. I needed something that could be finished in my lifetime. Boxes were the ticket. I loved wooden containers. All kinds of containers. Jewelry boxes were fun and kept evolving into organic shapes. After a while and several thousand containers later, the need for precision joints and precise angles was gone. The boxes had slid down some slippery path into an organic quagmire, and dovetails were no longer my mantra. Precision joinery had become an old dogma, a bad dogma.

I returned to woodturning as a way to do containers that were more about the shape than the method of fabrication. I still like to fabricate pieces utilizing both turning and some more structured methods, and I still do a lot of containers. These days I focus more on the shape and feel of the piece than the functionality. The quality of work is a high priority for me so technique is always an important factor. I am continuing the work to evolve past the need to make containers to put stuff in.


Artist’s Statement

Woodturning is an intrinsically pure form of woodworking for me. It has an organic nature and is my chosen means to convey my love for wood. It expresses my sensibilities and is often a way for me to convey alternate perspectives through my work.

Woodturning is a natural platform to incorporate multiple disciplines into my work; it has come after a long look at the attitudes and techniques that other mediums have to offer. It is what I am drawn to, and is a place where art and technique can reside in the same house.

I am aware of a continuously evolving dialogue between myself, the wood, and the pieces I work on. The work is constantly reinventing itself and the only constant is the context that is created for containing form, mood, color, and texture. This is a collaboration where the maker cannot ignore the qualities of the medium.

I think a close relationship develops while working on pieces. It seems to take a little time, and inspiration to have this collaboration become the dance that it should be, and working with a material in such a raw form is a commitment. But, I like that there is a real sense of intimacy and history that develops while working on pieces.

Artist’s Ramblings

Woodworkers are a good bunch to associate with. They are generally thought of as generous with their knowledge and tend to shy away from many of the refinements of truly tortured artists. My own observation is that I feel at ease with most woodworkers and I think that’s probably true for a lot of people.

Woodturning has always been the “Wild West” of woodworking for me. If there were any rules to woodturning, most of us have broken them a long time ago. Woodturners don’t make a point of breaking a lot of rules, they seem to view it as a rite of passage on the way to doing something that nobody else is doing. This is one of the things that I love about this discipline and it is one of the things that gives it strength.

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