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?

Wood day

Got wood? As of today, we do.

Gus, who works, I believe, for the Philly Parks Department and who has been an amazing benefactor for the ITE over the years, took us to two wood dumps (a.k.a. recycling centers) today for all the wood we could carry—in his truck, no less. We had our pick from piles and piles of felled trees: cherry, pear, sycamore, burr oak, ash, mulberry, Cryptomeria, box elder, walnut, silver maple, Chinese elm . . . I can’t even remember all the species we saw. For someone from the Arizona desert, it was a bit overwhelming. We didn’t even make it to two other dump sites. If we use up all we took today, though, we’re assured we can go back for more!

Gus cutting a log at the wood dump.Gus cutting another log at the wood dump.

Siegfried, Sean, me, Jean-François, and Jane at the wood dump. J-F wants part of the hollow oak log we are squatting in front of.

Siegfried puts to good use the chainsaw and protective gear that Stihl donated.

Some of our saw-gotten gains.More of our stash.Still more . . .

Later, with Jane, the shop supervisor, riding shotgun as navigator, some of us took a run to the Home Depot and Lowe’s for miscellaneous supplies. We’re pretty well set now, and the real work is beginning.

Notes from the Far Side

Even at the shop, I'm on my laptop. Of course, we didn't have wood yet. Monsieur Delorme took this photo.Tonight, I’m tired but not mortally exhausted. I take that as a good sign that I’m settling in.

Today was much lower key. We rendevoused at the shop this morning. By the time the rest of us arrived at 9, Sean had already begun turning a burl block left behind by the last ITErs. (He is a very early riser.) We mostly futzed about the shop, tweaking our setups and getting more familiar with the equipment and tools we have, both from the WTC and at the UArts shop. We even all took breaks for lunch.

Siegfried completed the first turning—turnings—of this ITE. He made miniature tops of boxwood to wish us all good turning. Here we are playing with the tops on the shop floor. Jean-François took the top picture.

Jean-François took this picture of all of us playing with Siegfried's tops.

Jane and Siegfried spinning tops.

I’m thinking of giving my job to Jean-François, because he’s much quicker to reach for the camera than I am. I get so involved with what we’re doing that I forget I’m supposed to be documenting it.

Jean-François gets ready to photograph Sean and the rest of us playing with the tops.

Tops are tops!

Jean-François made me a top too, because I gave him a penny. Here are my tops from Jean-François and Siegfried.

My tops from Jean-François and Siegfried.

Sean thinks “Jean-François” is too hard to say, so he’s calling Jean-François “Fred” instead. I believe he told Jean-François to call him “Poop Head” in return. Jean-François has “Poop Head” written on a board on his work bench to remind him what to say.

Jean-François turning his plate.In addition to the tops, I have started a bowl of walnut. Jean-François has turned a plate of cherry so that he doesn’t have to eat off of the plastic Coca-Cola plates we inherited from the last ITErs.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the ITE!