Oh. My. Stars.

So, what did we do in D.C.? We saw some of the best turned wood art in the world. And not only did we get to see it, we got to touch it, hold it, turn it over, turn it around, stroke it, scrutinize it, learn about it, photograph it, savor it. And we got to see how many artists began and the evolution of their styles.

We also got to meet some people who really love wood art. Seeing them with their treasures, hearing their stories—stories they have about each piece—was inspiring and affirming. Their collections aren’t inventoried acquisitions; they’re a passion. More appreciative adoptive parents for your creations would be hard to find.

Here is a just sample of what we saw. At the Kochmans’:

The Kochmans' mantel.

In front of the Kochmans' fireplace.

In the Kochmans' living room.

In the Kochmans' dining room.

More in the Kochmans' dining room.

Dinner with the Kochmans'.

At the Breslers’:

The Breslers' living room.

Fleur Bresler with a few of her treasures.

In the Breslers' hallway.

In the Breslers' foyer, a thank-you gift from the Wood Turning Center, with pieces from some 30 artists.

More pieces along the corridor.

Pieces can be found even atop a refrigerator.

At the Masons’:

In the Masons' living room.

Also in the Masons' living room.

Arthur tells us about this group effort from the Chicago chapter of the AAW.Jane talks with us about their collection.

In the Masons' office.

And the closet!

Arthur took us to lunch at a French restaurant.

Wednesday, June 20

This may be my last blog post for a few days. Jean-François, Siegfried, and I leave for Washington, D.C., tomorrow and will be gone through Sunday. We will be visiting with several collectors of wood art: the Kochmans, the Breslers (who are generously putting us up for two nights), and the Masons, and also visiting the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. Sean will be staying behind, because he cannot bear to be away from the shop for two and a half days. I will post as I can but have no idea what to expect in the way of connectivity—or free time.

I spent all morning working on the blog and following up on our ITE travel plans. Here is what I found when I made it into the shop.

Siegfried was finishing the box elder vessel. As you can see, he has cut to the final wall thickness and is sanding the exterior. You can see the nearly finished vessel next to the nearly finished silver maple vessel he made earlier—“nearly finished” because he still has to turn their bottoms, which will be round.

Siegfried sands the exterior of his box elder vessel.

Siegfried's nearly finished vessels.

Sean was carving the vessel from yesterday. Curiously, he has decided that the foot is in the wrong place, so he cut it off and is gluing it in a different spot. He has it clamped between centers, because there are no clamps here small enough. He has carved a cover for the drive center so that it won’t damage the bowl. In the lefthand photo, you can see both his carving of the bowl and the stump of the original foot.

Sean carves the scrap bowl.

The carved bowl with its relocated foot.Sean's clamping system.

Jean-François was working on a idea he has wanted to explore for a long time. He mounted a chainsawn chunk on a makeshift faceplate on the lathe and hollowed a bowl without turning any of the exterior. He then used the bandsaw to roughly shape the exterior, reverse mounted the vessel on a jam chuck, and proceeded to shape it further using an Arbortech with the lathe off.

The original chunk for Jean-François's new bowl.Shaping the exterior with an Arbortech after bandsawing.

Note the strap in the righthand photo above. This is a loop that runs down to Jean-François’s foot. His foot pressure on the strap keeps the piece from rotating under the tool. When he wants it to move a little, he lifts his foot.

Here is the bowl in an interim state. After shaping it further, Jean-François decided to burn the surface.

The vessel, still being shaped.The shaped vessel being torched.

More burning.The fully scorched bowl.

The color of the scorching seemed to go more brown than black as it cooled. Jean-François will no doubt do more to this bowl before he is done with it.

Work stopped for a while for our first weekly meeting with Albert and Tina. We set up an impromptu table in the shop, and Siegfried ordered pizza. As a starting point for discussion, Albert had us each choose one item from someone else’s bench, and then we started talking.

Our first weekly meeting at the shop.

Siegfried chose my first Cryptomeria bowl, because he is interested in talking with me about Japanese influences in my work and what have been described as Japanese attributes of his work. I chose Jean-François’s face grain ailanthus bowl, because I am intrigued by the spontaneity with which he works. Jean-François chose Sean’s unturned bowl, because he is interested in the idea of making vessels through means other than turning. Sean chose Siegfried’s silver maple vessel, because he likes its simplicity and the way the grain works with and against the shape. Tina chose a dozuki saw from Jean-François’s bench, because she wanted to know how he used it in his pieces (he cuts off the stub left when using a spur drive). Tina or Albert chose the ball peen hammer from Sean’s bench, also curious about how it was used (to hammer in small nails). And Albert chose my favorite object of all. (Wait for it. Scroll down.)

The objects we each chose.

Another view of the objects we chose.

The odd yellow thing at the bottom of the last photo is what Albert chose. I’d have been curious about it too, if I had seen it. It’s a yellow chunk of mulberry with writing on it. As a point of fact, the chunk came out of the large mulberry bowl I turned that didn’t make it (R.I.P.); it was the center core that I left in so that I could use the tail center for stability; I cut it out once I had removed the bulk of the mass from the bowl’s interior, and I put it in Sean’s scrap box. What makes the chunk a real curiosity is the writing. Sean found it among his scraps and thought it looked like a plumb bob. Naturally enough, he wrote on it, “Plumb Bob Round Pants.”

I could hardly stop laughing.

Am I the only woodturner out there who knows most of the words to the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme song? I don’t think so.

Comments

Hurray, my first comment! Thank you, Hilary, from last year’s ITE.

I invite all you readers to chime in as you see fit. You will have to register first, but then you can comment all you like—within reason. Remember, I can cut you off if you get out of hand. Just follow the instructions on the page marked “How to comment” (the page tabs are just below the masthead, at the top of the box containing the posts), and you’ll be on your merry way.

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.

Sunday, June 17

Jean-François took these photos of Siegfried and me working on Sunday.

Siegfried's lathe.My lathe.

Oh, wait. We weren’t there. Siegfried went off to tour the city on his bicycle. I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which was downright inspiring. Unfortunately, I left my camera at the shop in case anything exciting happened while I was gone (which is how Jean-François took these pictures), so I can’t share any of what I saw. I may go back just to take pictures, though. There are pieces I want to remember.

While we were gone, Sean and Jean-François spent the day working. Jean-François turned his third bowl of ailanthus.

Jean-François textures ailanthus bowl number three.Ailanthus bowl number three, finished.

Sean, who, as I said, likes to move back and forth between projects, was working on the first freeform sculpture when I returned from the museum. (He has begun gluing up a second and third.) In the second photo, you can also see a piece or two of those he will assemble together in the oak piece he started yesterday.

Sean carves.The first freeform sculpture and some oak components.

Another view of the first freeform sculpture.This looks like a hybrid animal from this side. The piece morphs each day.

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.

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.

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.

Our focus

At our orientation, we each selected one of our pieces to represent our focus for the ITE. I was then given the task of photographing the aspect of the piece that best represents that focus, for publication in the announcement of the final exhibition. Here are those photos (left to right: Siegfried’s, Sean’s, Jean-François’s, and mine):

Siegfried's piece (and hand).Sean's piece.Jean-François's piece.My piece.

By the way, to get decent photos of Sean’s and Jean-François’s pieces, I had to improvise: I set up the pieces in the (white) cupboard under the kitchen sink in my dorm room, put in a lamp, and bounced light off of a paper towel. How’s that for professional photography?