Tuesday, July 17

Today was a fairly quiet, intensive work day.

Lesya came in not to dance but to carve waves for Siegfried’s collaborative wave piece. Sadly, there were misunderstandings early on in the communication process for this collaboration, and Sean and Jean-François won’t be working on it. Happily, Peter did and Lesya is and I will and Elisabeth may. And in the end, the public also will, as the piece will be installed as an interactive work, with anyone free to arrange the wave forms as they like.

Lesya carves waves.

Siegfried continued carving his box elder vessel. He later found that mounting it on the lathe to carve let him see and control better what he was doing.

Siegfried carves a box elder vessel.

Siegfried carves on the lathe for better position.

Sean worked on new and old pieces. The black in this one is not painted but ebony.

Sean paints a new piece.

Jean-François and I began our collaboration, based on an idea I used in a previous work, of breaking and repairing vessels visibly. Here are the vessels we started with. Jean-François turned the Chinese elm and osage orange bowls; I turned the sycamore bowl (the smallest).

Jean-François's and my bowls.

Breaking the piece takes a bit of will. We broke the sycamore bowl into just three pieces.

I break the first bowl.

Jean-François hit the Chinese elm bowl squarely and got a complicated break, which made gluing it—using 5-minute epoxy with a working time of maybe 2 minutes—a real challenge. Adding acrylic paint to the epoxy for color decreases (maybe even halves) the working time, so I use 30-minute epoxy at home. The 5-minute version is what we had on hand here, though. (For anyone who wants to know more about coloring epoxy, I discuss the subject in an article called “Nulling Voids: Filling Cracks and Holes in Wood” that, along with other articles, is available on my website under “Other links.”)

Jean-François's broken second bowl.

We used red for the sycamore and black for the Chinese elm. I mixed the red from acrylic paints; the black we achieved by mixing in charcoal from burnt wood (which Jean-François happened to have in jar).

I like the way the interior of the sycamore bowl came out; the exterior needs some touchup, though.

The interior of the first glued bowl.The exterior of the first glued bowl.

This technique—this trope, really—is deeply meaningful for me (you can read a note about the backstory on this here, under “About the work”), and it is one I intend to explore in a series of works after I return home. Using it in this collaboration is a little odd for me—like choosing a subject like, say, “death” or “incest” for a poetic exercise—and I find myself holding back emotionally, treating the process as more of a technical exercise than an act of artmaking. I would like to talk with Jean-François about how he feels about this process—indeed, how he feels about artmaking in general. I have wanted to from the beginning—the chance to explore the subject with other artists is one reason I applied for the residency—but before now, I have felt stymied by the language barrier—even though Siegfried and I managed a deep conversation about it driving home from D.C. This now is an opportunity to explore the subject.

For me, turning is deeply emotional, not just an application of technique, and it is an act in which meaning is both intentional and discovered. For me, the aspect of meaning—not technical sophistication—is what makes turning an art and not just a craft. I can argue with myself about this, of course—is not craft about creating beauty and is not creating beauty meaning enough? Yes, yes—but I’ll put this statement out in hopes of eliciting conversation about it. Turners who regard yourselves as artists (any artists, really), what do you say? Have your objects meaning? Is the meaning intentional? Do you start with wanting to express something, or does the expression emerge through the work? How do you create? Have you something to say? Must an artist have something to say? Is it enough to create objects in which others find their own meaning? Is beauty enough? Do any of you care, or do you care only about the making?

I really must sleep now. Let me hear from you, readers.

Monday, July 16

Here I am blogging about our day on the same day. Except for filling in some text, that means I’m caught up. Hallelujah!

We rearranged the shop today. Or, rather, mostly Jean-François and Sean rearranged the shop, changing spots so that we can better take advantage of the natural light. Here is how the shop looks now. What you see when you walk in is still my area, but with the wall behind the workbench gone. Beyond me (to the right in the photo) is now Jean-François’s work area.

Entering the shop.

Looking more to the right, you see this. The bench with our shared tools is behind the post.

The center of the room.

Here is a closer view of Jean-François’s new work area. He gets direct light from the window on his work when he is turning outboard.

Jean-François's new work space.

Looking farther right, you see Siegfried’s corner. We cleared space in the back area for Lesya to dance in on community day. Siegfried may move his lathe back into that space after Lesya leaves us this week.

Siegfried's corner.

And, finally, as you look all the way right, across from my area and behind the entryway wall is Sean’s new work area.

Sean's new work space.

Because she was ill most of last week, Lesya is still with us this week. She is developing dances for one piece from each of us, and Vince Romaniello, the videographer from last year’s ITE, will be filming her for screening at the opening, which she cannot attend. She will also help carve and texture some of the waves for the wave collaboration.

Lesya rearranges the waves.

Siegfried, whose work I have neglected in recent days, has started the carving and texturing. I will do some carving and maybe some coloring later. Elisabeth may come by and do some too. (Are you reading this, Elisabeth?)

Siegfried carves the waves.

Some of the carved waves.

Here are some of the other pieces I’ve failed to adequately document recently. Siegfried’s collaboration with Peter has two deep, thin-walled box elder bowls suspended on cables in a concrete-and-walnut structure. The cable on the left bows out, so the bowl leans out of the structure. The concrete still needs to be sealed, but otherwise this piece is done.

Siegfried's collaboration with Peter.

Here is Siegfried’s thin-walled concrete bowl. Antique-brown wax has been applied to the surface.

Siegfried's cement bowl.Another view of Siegfried's cement bowl.

Jean-François’s thin-walled cement bowl is quite different.

Jean-François's cement bowl.

Jean-François took these pictures of his three-bowl Chinese elm series while I closed in on the tail of the blog.

Jean-François's Chinese elm series.

Closeup of Jean-François's Chinese elm bowls.

Sean has been productive recently too. These are the latest incarnations of familiar pieces.

Sean's 'holey man' sculpture.Another of Sean's sculptures.

A finished sculpture.The other side.

These are some pieces I hadn’t seen before.

New work by Sean.

Another sculpture.The other side.

Now that I’m catching up on the blog, I get to turn too! Here is a small barkless-natural-edge sycamore bowl that I began during community day. I have pierced tiny holes near the rim. I may do more after I sit with it a bit.

A small, carved sycamore bowl.

This is a very simple new bowl I turned all but the base of today. Jean-François and I will use it in a collaboration.

End-grain sycamore bowl.

Another day

Jean-François made an attachment for the hollowing tool to resist the torque from the curved tip, making the tool easier to control. Jean-François says he learned this trick from Alain Mailland. He later painted the handle black.

Two views of the attachment Jean-François made for the hollowing tool.

Making travel plans cut into the work day.

We took a break at lunch to plan our travel schedule. Siegfried bought pizza from Paolo’s to ease the process. It took a couple of hours of phone calls and emails, and we’re still trying to finalize plans. Among other places, we will be visiting Washington, D.C.; Wilmington, Delaware; and various spots in Pennsylvania. I’m hoping we can squeeze in a trip to NYC before the end too.

Sean continues work on the burl vessel.

Sean continued to work on the burl vessel. Note the inner spherical vessel he is hollowing inside the larger bowl. He has wrapped the entire outer bowl with shrink wrap to keep it from coming apart as he turns.

Jean-François turns a tool handle.

Jean-François was still trying to get to turning a bowl. First, though, he had to turn a handle for his bowl gouge. By the end of the day, he had at least mounted and rounded a chunk of ailanthus for a real piece.

Siegfried starts a vessel from a silver maple burl.

After tinkering most of the day with the vacuum chuck, the electric chainsaw, and the bandsaw, Siegfried prepped and started turning a glorious chunk of silver maple burl. Check out the inset. Siegfried usually works with less figured wood; he thinks that whatever vessel he turns from this, the wood itself will be the most beautiful aspect.

Sean works on carving a freeform scupture.

Sean took a break from turning to carve. He has assembled the framework of what will be a freeform sculpture from various scraps lying around the shop. Woodturners will recognize the corners removed on a bandsaw for turning.