I’ve always been a maker. I started when I was very young in my Dad’s shop, nailing lobster trap scraps together. Over the years, woodworking became and stayed the main outlet for my need to create. Like most hobbyist woodworkers, I enjoyed making furniture, cabinets, toys, puzzles, and whatever else captured my interest.
The “turning” point for me was a routine visit one day in 2005 to a woodworking tool store. That day there was a woodturning demonstration underway right there in the store. A woodturner had a lathe set up and running, and chips and shavings were flying. While I had tried turning at a lathe before (without instruction), what I was seeing now was clearly another thing altogether. This was something I needed to find out about!
The turner was a member of the Maine Woodturners, which meets nearby. I began attending their meetings, and have missed very few ever since. The turning demonstrations and hands-on lessons by local, national and international experts, and the advice, help, sharing and camaraderie I’ve experienced there have been the foundation for my ongoing development, interest and focus in woodturning. I am now honored to serve on the Maine Woodturners Board of Directors, and am happy to have contributed back to the organization by performing demonstrations and serving as their videographer. I am also a member of the American Association of Woodturners.
The woodturning community is focused on providing opportunities for continued development. These opportunities take the form of classes, seminars, symposiums, publications, retreats, workshops, as well as a less formal but no less valuable network of fellow turners who are eager to help one another succeed and grow. I have taken advantage of most of these development opportunities, but by far the most exciting and fruitful was a three-day intensive workshop with perhaps the best-known woodturning guru, David Ellsworth, at his home studio in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Most of my interest in turning lies in making bowls and vessels, though I also enjoy creating other items such as bottle stoppers and boxes. My creations most often originate from found or salvaged timber, not from trees felled for the purpose. Each blank from the log is oriented and turned to best showcase the natural grain and figure of the wood. I believe that the occasional knot, bark inclusion, uneven coloring and asymmetric figure contribute immeasurably to the piece’s attraction, therefore often avoid timbers others might think “perfect”.
While the wood and its figure are certainly important pieces of the process, the form itself is the signature of the maker. The turned form springs from the life experiences of the turner, influenced by what he’s previously done, seen, thought about and created. Though not formally trained in the arts, I like to think that my sense of form has been shaped by my time spent lobstering on Penobscot Bay, watching the sea and its creatures. No matter the cause for it, I am sometimes profoundly astonished by the beauty of a piece in progress when I stop the lathe.