STORY OF THE ARTIST
“Woodturning has been a self-prescribed therapy for my seasonal affective disorder for many years. And it helps.
I only turn during the dark cold wintery months, in my garage, with kerosene heat, and a lot of artificial light.
I was raised on a farm in Western New York. It was there I developed a love of nature. When my father retired he sold the farm and my parents relocated to the mountains of North Carolina. In 2001 my father and I decided to learn how to turn wood together, even though we were almost a thousand miles apart. I bought books and he took classes. By phone we would share what we had learned. Our shared interest did not last long. Illness soon left him too weak and he eventually died in 2003. I have kept turning. For the most part I am self-taught through trial and error and books and articles.
I begin the process by searching for interesting local wood from trees that have been cut down for one reason or another. Almost all my turning stock has come from a wood lot or someone’s yard. I am always on the hunt for good wood. This part of the country is blessed with a wealth of quality hardwood. And most it, for my purposes, is in someone’s yard or a local wood lot.
Apart from people like myself, the wood I use has very little commercial value. Most of it will be burned as firewood or chipped into mulch. I look for big old ugly and\or burled tree trunks. One of my goals in woodturning is to display and enhance the natural organic beauty found in the wood grain and color patterns. I try to show as much as possible. I spend a great deal of time examining the raw block of wood to see what shape and design I want to achieve. Given the raw material I am using, turning each piece must be a fluid process, and the design altered to confront whatever obstacle or flaw turns up. Each piece is unique and for each piece there is a history of where and how it was obtained.
From finding good wood, harvesting that wood, transporting it, storing and drying, and finally turning and finishing the piece is not a small amount of labor. I like to harvest as much as I can get including whole trunks. The trunk or the portion of the trunk are chain sawed into large blocks and then stored for later use. Fresh cut wood from a tree trunk will almost invariably contain a large amount of water, especially if the wood is green. During storage the wood chunks will gradually lose moisture. As the wood dries it will shrink. If the wood chunks dry too fast and therefore shrink too fast it will crack and split and not be usable. If the wood chunks are kept too moist it will rot and not be usable. Slabs for table tops are dried for 2 to 4 years.
Using roots as a wood medium has been a gradual progression from first seeing driftwood used in floriculture displays. As a family we camp for a long weekend every summer on a local body of water rich in driftwood. This driftwood like most is uniform silver-grey pieces of branches and logs in varying circumference and length, and roots in whole or part. Stripped of bark, dirt and small weak rootlets, rounded by erosion, the root is reduced to its simplest structural form. I am attracted to the lack of straight and square form, the randomness of form, the interconnections (2 roots from the same tree if in contact with each other will fuse together), and the strength. I thought if I could find the right root I would be able to make furniture. I envisioned the construction process. It would require working out of square, something I hadn’t really done before and isn’t found in any literature. I had to invent the construction process thru trial and error. The process remains a work in progress. I start with a raw root or a chunk of tree trunk and an idea. Can I make something beautiful? Will it be functional? Will the form of the raw material allow me to accomplish my goal? What needs to be removed and what will be the effects of removing it? The goal is to reduce the form to its most simplistic emphasizing flow and interconnections while maintaining strength and sturdiness. Emphasizing the interconnections is a consistent theme in all my root creations as I see the world as entangled in a network of interconnectedness.
Every summer I spend a weekend or 2 hunting and harvesting driftwood roots. If I see potential in a root or portion of a root I will store it and look at it every so often until I finally decide what I am going to do with it and how. As you can see I have bypassed the sawmill and lumber yard completely. I source material from the surrounding environment. I work out of square. I seek to present, preserve and enhance the natural beauty of trunks and roots.
Doing what I do as generally described above I find fulfilling. As a person I value knowledge and pursuit of knowledge. This includes learning and mastering new tools and then experimenting with the tool. As an artist I enjoy using my knowledge to envision, design, and build something that is challenging, beautiful, and out of the ordinary. Each piece I create is unique, aesthetically appealing, sturdy and strong. I want it to catch your eye, draw you closer, make you wonder and answer your questions. Yes it is a table. Yes it is made of wood. If I had to guess it is probably a root. Yes the beautiful grain and color patterns are visible. Yes you can count the rings. Yes it is sturdy and strong.
Over the past few years I have ventured occasionally into nonfunctional root creations. These abstract works emphasize fluid lines, form and shape.
For obvious reasons I call my work Trunks and Roots. I hope you like it.”