Hurtling toward the finale

What a trip the last week has been. Turn, turn, turn. Even Thursday night, at midnight on the last night before having our work photographed and delivering it to the Wood Turning Center, Jean-François was turning one more wall piece while Siegfried and I cataloged and prepped our pieces. Friday morning, Sean was touching up pieces while packing his work up.

Friday was a long day at the photographer’s studio. John Carlano photographed everything, and we are talking about a huge quantity of work, especially from Jean-François and Sean. I counted at least 46 pieces from Jean-François, including 10 wall hangings and 6 cement bowls, and 39 from Sean. I can’t count Siegfried’s, because many of his involve multiple pieces and I don’t know what the combinations are. Divided as my time was and as slow as I am, I have 15 new pieces—of which, I will say, I am pretty proud.

Saturday, Vince Romaniello filmed Lesya dancing with Sean’s piece, my piece, and Peter’s chainsawn bench. The bench dance involved the four of us turners interacting with the bench (under Lesya’s command) as well. The film will be showing at the opening and, I assume, throughout the exhibition.

All the work is at the Wood Turning Center now. It has all been professionally photographed. I think the cataloging is done. The exhibit designer comes today to lay it all out. The work will be installed, labels will be printed and placed, and Friday night, the whole shebang will be unveiled.

Meanwhile, Sean was back at the workbench the instant he was free from other duties. Jean-François and Siegfried have also been back at it. Everyone is busy making gifts, except me. I have not been able to work since finalizing my pieces, and I had to push hard to manage that, because since last Monday, July 23, I have been battling vertigo. The world keeps tilting on its axis, and I have been working hard just to stay upright. I stagger about like an old drunk, sitting or leaning as much as possible, even napping on the floor of Jane’s office when it gets too bad. I’m trapped in my own Hitchcock movie. Where is Kim Novak (or Barbara Bel Geddes, for that matter) when you need her?

Wednesday, July 18

Lesya came in again today, both to carve more waves and to meet with Vince Romaniello, who will be filming her five dances for screening at the opening. She is coming in tomorrow to carve again. I think we might have an addict on our hands! After all, working with your hands is a different kind of dancing.

Siegfried finished (I think) his carved box elder vessel—at least, he finished the bottom of it on the lathe today.

Siegfried's carved box elder vessel.

He also finished the Cryptomeria bowl that cracked so badly, making flames where there was damage.

Siegfried's 'flame' bowl.

Jean-François and I finished the last of our broken-bowl series. For more control, instead of breaking the bowl, we cut it on a scroll saw.

Cutting the osage orange bowl.

Here is what the final two vessels look like. The epoxy is still setting on the osage orange bowl in this photo.

The glued-up osage orange bowl and the repaired Chinese elm bowl.

Jean-François also started a new series of spalted ash bowls today.

Jean-François's spalted ash bowl.

Here is some of what Sean was working on today.

Piece in progress.Piece in progress.

Another piece in progress.The other side.

I finished the turning of a tall pear vessel and will carve the lip tomorrow. Interesting that I who have no elegance and no grace can yet create elegance and grace with this sturdy hands. I also cut a wedge from the natural-edge pear bowl I turned yesterday and am waiting to see what happens. And I started a large cherry bowl. No photos, though. Maybe tomorrow.

Altogether, another quiet, intensive work day—and that’s probably what you can expect from us until July 27, when we turn in work for the exhibition. I’ll do what I can to keep it interesting, but here is where the push begins.

Alas, I got no replies to my 4 a.m. cry in the wilderness this morning. Ah, well. Sigh.

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.

The ITE dancer

For those of you (including us!) who have been wondering what a dancer might contribute to the ITE, here is an answer. Below is a video produced by Vincent Romaniello, last year’s photojournalist, of an event that was part of the opening of Siegfried’s exhibition at the Wood Turning Center last year. The dancer in the video is Lesya Popil, the same dancer who will be joining us for a week in July and who, we hope, will be performing at the “allTURNatives” opening. If the embedded video does not appear below, click to view the video on YouTube.