New milestones

I have some new recent milestones to note.

First, last Monday, I drove solo for the first time since my accident. The weekend before, I practiced driving in a big empty parking lot and on the empty streets of an industrial park. I managed to park and corner and not run Karen over, so she granted me permission to drive myself to the dentist. I am using extra caution—my left-side blind spot really is a blind spot at the moment—but feel pretty good about being back on the road. I won’t be driving a lot or at night anytime soon, because I am not seeing well in low light and am not adjusting quickly to changes in light, as with oncoming and passing headlights, but it is good to know that I am not entirely dependent on others to get around.

Thursday, I finally finished the vessel I was working on when I had my accident. I epoxied it back together and filled the exterior cracks with turquoise inlay. It is now lucky number 13 in the commissioned series.

The vessel that broke and hit me, now repaired and finished.

The vessel that broke and hit me, now repaired and finished.

Another view of the vessel. I like that these sapwood patches look like eyes--and the left one (on the right in the photo) matches mine at the moment!

Another view of the vessel. I like that these sapwood patches look like eyes–and the left one (on the right in the photo) matches mine at the moment!

 

And on Monday, I started the first of the last four vessels in the series—from another highly cracked log. I used the wire guard on my lathe and wore my riot helmet for protection. The wire guard does interfere with seeing the curve I am cutting, so I probably will not use it for the final external shaping, but I will continue to use it for the rough turning of these vessels and while I hollow the interiors. I am pleased with the riot helmet. It is not too heavy. My head got a little sweaty, but that’s not a big deal for me.

Oh, and today, I used my chainsaw.

Finally, it appears that I will pass a major milestone at the end of February: Dr. Harris says the silicone oil in my eye can come out. She will perform another laser procedure next Tuesday just to make sure my retina is securely tacked down, and three weeks after that, she says, I can have the surgery. I was expecting to have to wait six months from the October surgery, but she says I am ready, or will be (it will be four and a half months by the time the surgery happens). My understanding is that she will replace the silicone oil with saline. I am hoping that this will improve my vision. When you compare photos of the retina in each of my eyes, the right is sharp and the left is dim and blurry, because of the oil. I still won’t have a lens, but I hope that what I can see will be a little clearer and brighter without the oil. And after I heal from that surgery, I can be measured accurately for a new lens, so maybe that will happen sooner than expected too. I don’t want to rush—I want to give my eye all the time it needs to heal as much as it can—but I am anxious to see better.

Fun in the studio

I had fun in the studio today. I resumed turning postsurgery three weeks ago, but I have spent only a few days here and there during those weeks actually turning, including two days of open studio. Today was the first really full day I’ve had working in the studio and the first day I really felt my mojo back. I had been feeling tentative and clumsy. Today, I picked up a large chunk of spalted wild cherry that someone had brought me during the studio tour. He had had it since 1990 (!), and I found it to be cracked throughout and utterly dry and very punky. What came off the gouge was mostly dust, with a few dry shavings. (My studio now looks like it’s coated in brick dust.) I decided, what the hell! It felt like a perfect opportunity to play, with nothing at stake and always the possibility of a bowl.

I tried to cut past the cracks, but discovered that they went all the way through. The wood was so punky and funky that I decided to go for an elegant shape, leaving the walls thick for integrity, and let the texture be what it would, in contrast to the shape. I sanded with 60-grit sandpaper just to reduce the unavoidable tearout and then sandblasted the bowl inside and out. It ended up with a wonderful weathered-sandstone appearance. I applied a single but generous coating of Danish oil to bring out the rich cherry/sandstone color. I love the result, though I know it’s not for everyone. What do you think? (The photos are just snapshots, so please forgive the color variation. The second photo is most representative of the actual color—at least on my computer.)

Wine tasting at Luna Bella

Luna Bella and Flux Gallery present wine tasting with tasteful art, Tuesdays, 5 to 7 p.m.

Flux Gallery is teaming with Luna Bella to present “wine tasting with tasteful art” on Tuesday evenings. Each Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m., while Luna Bella hosts a wine tasting, a Flux artist will present work at the restaurant, which is located down the plaza from the gallery at Plaza Palomino, in Suite 145. The artist will be on hand to chat about his or her work.

I will be showing my work on May 25. In addition to my vessels, I have turned some bottle stoppers for the occasion, a new product for me. I’ve been having fun with it. You know, even with such a simple item, form matters! I will be using a newly learned technique with some of the stoppers as soon as my supplies arrive—I hope in time for me to put them to show them off on May 25! Is your interest piqued? It’s something entirely new for me!

Karen Dombrowski-Sobel will be at Luna Bella tomorrow night, May 18. Lee Roy Beach will present his work on June 1.

Hope you can join us one of these evenings!

Studio time

As I get ready for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Southwest Flair A-Fair starting this Friday, I have been enjoying having a few days in the studio to make new vessels. Knowing my time was limited, I have focused on small vessels, which I always love. There is real sweetness in making things that just fit in a cupped hand. At the same time, I have been trying to finish a slightly more ambitious piece, a mesquite jar inspired by a revisiting of the classic book How to Wrap Five Eggs, about Japanese packaging. I am making a lid of shaped and dyed half-inch oak boards. As soon as the finish cures (which seems to be taking longer than expected—perhaps because of the dye I used—namely, Fiebing’s black leather dye), I will glue the handles to the lid and the vessel will be ready to go. The body of the jar is simple but handsome. I wirebrushed the exterior of the mesquite to give it an almost clay feel.

Tuesday, June 19

Siegfried begins a vessel of box elder.Today, Siegfried began a larger vessel of the same shape as the silver maple vessel, this one of box elder. He was shooting ribbons to the ceiling turning the very wet wood.

When he began deep hollowing of the vessel, he tried out the hollowing tool with the Stewart armbrace and Jean-François’s attachment. He says he enjoyed the experience, though he found himself switching back and forth between the tool and a heavy gouge. Yesterday, he tried out my Exocet tool. He regards trying new tools as one more of the opportunities afforded us by the ITE. So do I.

Siegfried tries a new (to him) hollowing tool.

Sean gets tired of working on long, complicated projects, so today he decided to make a “fast” bowl from a cutoff. Here, he is already carving the foot. The photos below show the finished piece. Yes, the color is artificial.

Sean carves the bottom of a new bowl.

Sean's fast bowl.The bottom of Sean's fast bowl.

Sean's freeform sculpture.

I have begun thinking of Sean’s sculpture as our mascot. Here it is in its latest form.

Jean-François has finished his three ailanthus bowls. Here they are. He cannot quite hide the break in the first bowl, so he doesn’t yet know what to do with it.

Jean-François's ailanthus trio.

Jean-François and Sean are collaborating on the oak sculpture for which Sean turned the pieces. Both are carving and texturing the pieces that will be joined for the final work. Here, Jean-François is using a Foredom to work (or not) on the disc that will be the base of the sculpture.

Jean-François takes a breather from carving.Jean-François goes back to work.

Jean-François carves one piece of the oak sculpture.

My large mulberry bowl exploded today. I had just turned up the speed, looked at the dial and thought, “That’s probably too fast,” and it blew up on me. The glue joint at the waste block gave way. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Sean took the largest pieces to use in one of his freeform sculptures. No, no photos of the explosion or its aftermath.

After picking up the pieces, I picked up a log of Cryptomeria japonica instead. Now, as it happens (thanks to Gus and the cosmos), I’ve gotten wood from three important species of Japanese trees here: this one, paulownia (kiri), and Japanese cypress (hinoki). This is also known as Japanese cedar, sugi in Japanese, and it is the national tree of Japan. Its earlywood and latewood differ greatly in density, so it is a perfect wood on which to use Jean-François’s texturing technique. Look at the texture I achieved using a wire brush in a drill. I applied the brush both with the piece turning and turning it manually. Jean-François showed me the trick of reversing the drill as needed to brush with the grain; for all you novices to this technique like me, this greatly reduces the fuzz inevitably raised by brushing.

My new bowl, of cryptomeria.

Monday, June 18

Siegfried begins a vessel of box elder.Today, Siegfried began a larger vessel of the same shape as the silver maple vessel, this one of box elder. He was shooting ribbons to the ceiling turning the very wet wood.

When he began deep hollowing of the vessel, he tried out the hollowing tool with the Stewart armbrace and Jean-François’s attachment. He says he enjoyed the experience, though he found himself switching back and forth between the tool and a heavy gouge. Yesterday, he tried out my Exocet tool. He regards trying new tools as one more of the opportunities afforded us by the ITE. So do I.

Siegfried tries a new (to him) hollowing tool.

Sean gets tired of working on long, complicated projects, so today he decided to make a “fast” bowl from a cutoff. Here, he is already carving the foot. The photos below show the finished piece. Yes, the color is artificial.

Sean carves the bottom of a new bowl.

Sean's fast bowl.The bottom of Sean's fast bowl.

Sean's freeform sculpture.

I have begun thinking of Sean’s sculpture as our mascot. Here it is in its latest form.

Jean-François has finished his three ailanthus bowls. Here they are. He cannot quite hide the break in the first bowl, so he doesn’t yet know what to do with it.

Jean-François's ailanthus trio.

Jean-François and Sean are collaborating on the oak sculpture for which Sean turned the pieces. Both are carving and texturing the pieces that will be joined for the final work. Here, Jean-François is using a Foredom to work (or not) on the disc that will be the base of the sculpture.

Jean-François takes a breather from carving.Jean-François goes back to work.

Jean-François carves one piece of the oak sculpture.

My large mulberry bowl exploded today. I had just turned up the speed, looked at the dial and thought, “That’s probably too fast,” and it blew up on me. The glue joint at the waste block gave way. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Sean took the largest pieces to use in one of his freeform sculptures. No, no photos of the explosion or its aftermath.

After picking up the pieces, I picked up a log of Cryptomeria japonica instead. Now, as it happens (thanks to Gus and the cosmos), I’ve gotten wood from three important species of Japanese trees here: this one, paulownia (kiri), and Japanese cypress (hinoki). This is also known as Japanese cedar, sugi in Japanese, and it is the national tree of Japan. Its earlywood and latewood differ greatly in density, so it is a perfect wood on which to use Jean-François’s texturing technique. Look at the texture I achieved using a wire brush in a drill. I applied the brush both with the piece turning and turning it manually. Jean-François showed me the trick of reversing the drill as needed to brush with the grain; for all you novices to this technique like me, this greatly reduces the fuzz inevitably raised by brushing.

My new bowl, of cryptomeria.

Saturday, June 16

Jean-François was hard at work most of the day on his first ailanthus vessel (he plans three). He tried different wire brushes for texture and ended up using a very aggressive brush he brought with him from France. He used an Arbortech blade to make the rim irregular, then proceeded to work on thinning the wall.

Ailanthus bowl number one has taken shape.Jean-François textures the exterior using a wire brush.

Jean-François works the rim with an Arbortech.Jean-François thins the wall.

Ooops.Ailanthus bowl number two.

“Ooops” is apparently an international word. But no worries. After repairing the break with help from Sean, Jean-François pressed on with bowl number two.

Sean likes to have several projects going at once. He set aside the burl vessel to start a piece of burr oak. From the chunk of wood you see on the lathe, he turned a ring and a disc. He later cut the ring apart. He’ll carve the pieces and later put the pieces together in a sculpture.

Sean's burl vessel at rest.Sean starts a block of burr oak.

Sean works on the oak piece.Sean prepares to cut the oak ring he has turned.

Siegfried expanded his horizons by beginning to carve a bowl he turned from a piece of dry horse chestnut that he brought with him from Germany. He also continued work on the silver maple vessel. He has the exterior established and is working now on hollowing it—before it gets too out of round from drying, he hopes.

Siegfried begins carving with a Foredom tool.Siegfried's silver maple vessel.

Siegfried hollows the silver maple vessel.Top view of Siegfried's silver maple vessel.

I hadn’t intended to turn today, but when I went to the shop I got pulled in. I started a second mulberry vessel from a large, checked quarter of a trunk. I love working the wood. It’s very yellow now, but the color will deepen to a dark russet. I know exactly what I want to do with the cracks in this piece. Once I established the basic outer shape, I glued it to a waste block mounted on a faceplate. Then I had to leave, because I had to let the glue dry.

These are some of the pieces I’ve started since arriving. The dark bowl is walnut, my Siegfried bowl. The second, lighter one is a round-bottom bowl of wet pear. I wirebrushed the exterior, but the texture is subtle. I plan to do some carving with the Foredom to add more texture. You can see the movement of the wood as it has dried. And the last, still mounted on the lathe is the second mulberry bowl.

Walnut bowl, my first ITE vessel.Another view of my walnut bowl.

Pear bowl, my second ITE vessel.The mulberry bowl, my fourth ITE vessel.

Our first real work day

The first product of collaboration.I slept in a little for a change, and when I got to the shop at around 10, the first collaboration was finished, a vessel made by Sean and textured by Sean and Jean-François, of Tennessee aromatic cedar, a thank-you gift for Gus.

Soon after I arrived, though, everyone else headed out. Sean and Jean-François went off with Gus again, because they didn’t get enough wood yesterday (!), and Siegfried had business in town. So I, the ostensible photojournalist, got to spend most of the day happily turning by myself. After Sean and Jean-François came back and unloaded, they went off again. All remained quiet then until about 4, when everyone came back and got to work.

Jean-François turns an egg cup. Jean-François turned an egg cup from some scrap wood. So far pretty much everything he’s made has been about food. It is important, though, that he not burn his fingers when he is eating his eggs.

Sean started a vessel from a large maple burl.

Sean works on a maple burl vessel.

Siegfried turns a yew bowl.Siegfried worked on a yew bowl that he started yesterday, I think. Turning green wood is a different experience for him.

I finished the interior of the walnut bowl I started Tuesday. It’s a Siegfried bowl, applying some of his concepts. Turning it was quite erotic. I turned the interior until the curve and depth felt right to my fingers, closing my eyes again and again to check the curve, using my eyes only to get a clean finish. I will finish the round bottom another time. Then I turned a round-bottom bowl of pear. I left the interior unsanded, with tool marks, and textured the unsanded exterior with a wire brush. I’ll try for a photo tomorrow. I’m interested to see how the wet wood dries.

“ConneXtions”

“ConneXtions: A Collaboration of Glass and Wood” is an exhibition jointly sponsored by the American Association of Woodturners (AAW) and the International Society of Glass Beadmakers (ISGB). More than 100 woodturners and glass beadmakers are collaborating on pieces, and their creations will be exhibited June 26–December 15 at the AAW Gallery in St. Paul, MN.

Last fall, I met a glass beadmaker, Terry Bendt, a fellow Japanese-American, at the Tucson Museum of Art show. We liked each other’s work and liked each other, and when I next saw her, she told me about “ConneXtions.” Terry and I started brainstorming and decided to do two pieces inspired by the American internment of Japanese immigrants and Japanese-American citizens in camps in the United States during World War II. One piece is focused on the so-called relocation center at Manzanar, California; the other, on the Gila River camp in Arizona.

It’s been an exciting process—for both of us, if I may speak a little for Terry. We have both challenged ourselves technically to do work beyond what either of us has done in the past. Collaboration is new to me, and I’m loving the energy and the exchange. But the best part for me has been getting to know Terry and feeling like a midwife to Terry’s process. You see, Terry’s family was in Manzanar, the best known of the camps. And it’s not a part of her family history that she knew very much about. In making these pieces she has been learning about her own heritage. And it has been my privilege to be a witness and a facilitator to that process.

I’m also delighted with how our pieces are coming out. The heart of the Manzanar piece is a turned hollow vessel of applewood (“Manzanar” is Spanish for “apple grove,” and the site of the camp was an abandoned orchard-farming town). Only the inside of the vessel is turned; the outside remains the raw, chainsawn block I began with. The block is wider than it is thick, so when I hollowed the inside, the turning pierced the front and back walls, leaving “windows” into the vessel. I offset the center slightly so that the front window is slightly larger than the back; thus, when you look through the front window, you see the frame of the rear.

After the closure of the camps, landowners near the site of the cemetery at the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming uncovered a 55-gallon drum full of small stones painted with kanji characters. We’ve borrowed from that fact for both our pieces. Terry has made beads that look like stones, and I have painted some of them with characters such as those for “perseverance” and “family” and “dream.” Both the painted beads and plain faux stone beads will lie inside the bottom of the vessel with some scattered cherry blossom murrini beads. More cherry blossom beads and glass shard beads with family photos will adorn five strands of barbed wire that will wrap the outside of the vessel.

The Gila River piece will consist of a black serving tray partially covered with dirt from the Gila River camp site. Fallen over on the tray will be a teacup, a broken and mended rice bowl, and a pair of chopsticks, all turned from mesquite, a wood native to the Gila River area. Stone beads, both plain and painted, will spill from the cup and bowl. A strand of barbed wire will lie in the dirt, punctuated with handful of cherry blossom beads.

My grandmother once showed me a treasured tea bowl that had broken and had been professionally mended. No attempt had been made to conceal the brokenness; rather, the breaks were emphasized by conspicuous seams of adhesive that had been mixed with gold. Instead of diminishing the object’s value, the repair thus underscored it. This is the idea behind the broken, mended rice bowl.

In my original conception of the piece, barbed wire was to encircled the tray, attached to posts at the corners. One fact kept coming back to me, however: At the understaffed Gila River Relocation Center, the single watch tower was torn down soon after the camp was in operation, and the barbed-wire perimeter fence was taken down after six months. What model prisoners must the camp have held.