Thursday, July 19

We are really in production mode now. Except for a brief meeting with Albert and Jane about scheduling and shop rules, we all just worked. I wish I were as fast as these guys, but I gave up trying to keep up long ago.

Jean-François whipped through his spalted ash bowls and is doing more Chinese elm bowls. He tried texturing them with an electric chainsaw, but the effect once the texture is wire-brushed is not much different from what he has done with an Arbortech—not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Jean-François uses a chainsaw to texture his bowl.

A bowl textured using a chainsaw.

Sometimes length does matter.

Sean has made a few pieces in this form, appealing in its simplicity and very versatile. Check out the “carved” motif on the face of the first piece. Those are bug holes, guys. I have never seen them form a pattern like this. Let’s hope some of these bugs survived to pass on their genes to other wood borers.

A new creation from Sean.

Here is another piece in the same form. You can see the other side of it in the next photo, along with the next incarnation of one of the pieces shown in yesterday’s post.

Another new creation from Sean.

The other side and a new version of a piece from yesterday.

And here is a new piece in that form being started on the lathe. A simple block, a simple form, but with oh-so-many possibilities.

A new one on the lathe.

Siegfried was busy with the chainsaw for a long time today, cutting up a large log of what we think is silver maple. Then one minute, I was holding the door for him as he came in carrying an armload of cut blocks; the next, he had this array of roughed-out vessels sitting on his workbench. Check out the figure in some of these pieces.

Siegfried's roughed-out pieces.

Another roughed-out piece. And one on the lathe.

Siegfried wanted to be sure that I got a good shot of the lovely shavings he is getting from this wood. Mmm. Maybe I’ll steal a little tomorrow.

Beautiful shavings.

I keep forgetting to take pictures of what I am doing, but I almost finished a large, flared cherry bowl today—and maybe I will go finish it now, before heading back to the dorm for bed. I will again be playing with the idea of cleaving as I carve its rim. And Jane brought me branches from her brushpile that I will use with the pear vessel I turned yesterday. Are you intrigued?

In case you are wondering about the toll this intensive experience is taking on us, know that Jean-François has been talking to his tool rest—and it answers him in French.

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.

A day of goodbyes (Sunday, July 15)

Peter and Elisabeth left us yesterday.

Here’s a look at some of the breakthrough work Peter has done during the ITE. First the wearable line (and a couple of wall pieces). Judging from the response to these pieces, Peter will be able to sell all he chooses to make. If you want one, you had better make it to the preview show August 3.

Two small wall pieces and some cable-and-wood necklaces.

More cable-and-wood necklaces.

Cast cement water bottles. What was he trying to say by leaving them capless? (In truth, these are pretty cool. The cement actually feels like plastic.)

Cement water bottles.

You’ve seen this piece in the blog before, but I think he decided to make it horizontal instead. Again, these are forms Peter has used to cast pieces for his furniture. The concrete darkens the form wherever it contacts it.

Wall hanging of used cast forms.

Peter had time for a last lunch with Siegfried and me before he managed to get packed up and on the road.

Elisabeth, on the other hand, just came in to say goodbye and sign her bowl, her first turned work, a mortar made of pear.

Elisabeth signs her mortar.

Elisabeth's mortar.

Elisabeth's arrangement of the waves.

And saddest of all . . . Hilary’s cookies are all gone.

Hilary's empty cookie tin.

Thank you, Hilary, for hearing—and answering—our silent prayer in our hour of need.

The past few days

These past few days have been jam-packed, but I’m too tired to do a full post, so here is a brief summary. You’ll have to wait for photos.

We nearly lost another resident to the emergency room. Saturday evening, Jean-François narrowly survived a vicious attack from a member of his own clan. He was chainsawing an elm log (his last name, Delorme, means “of the elm” in French), and it split and fell on his foot and broke his left big toe. Peter escorted him to the emergency room, and Jean-François managed to limp out on crutches at around 3 a.m. He stayed behind Sunday on our trip to Mark Sfirri’s and David Ellsworth’s but recovered enough to come with us Monday to Wilmington, where he got to tour Winterthur in a wheelchair in chauffered comfort. He will have his revenge on the elm, though: he will turn a bowl from the log that attacked him.

Our visits to Mark’s and David’s studios were fun. As I noted in my brief last post, Elisabeth accompanied us. She enjoyed having the chance to talk directly with two eminent woodturners (unlike us ITErs) about their work, and we enjoyed seeing their studios, their work (past and present), and the work they have acquired from other turners, and talking with them, of course. We also enjoyed getting to know Elisabeth.

Sunday evening was our first chance to meet Lesya, who seems eager to explore this opportunity with us. She couldn’t accompany all the rest of us to dinner with Albert and Tina that night, but she made it back Tuesday to learn more about our work and to take a turn at the lathe, where she quickly advanced to trying to turn beads and coves.

Elisabeth also tried her hand at turning on Tuesday and proved a ready student, though she admits it is “harder than [she] thought.” We didn’t make it easy for her: no round stock for her, but a still-rough log. She toughed it out, though, till it began to feel comfortable.

But I’m skipping Monday, a long day full of pleasures. We began by visiting Winterthur, accompanied by Charles Hummel, curator emeritus and gentleman extraordinaire. There we got to visit the restored woodshop of the Dominys, a three-generation woodworking family from East Hampton, NY, whose shop dates back to the 1700s. (The shell has been recreated, but the contents are original.) Unlike other visitors to the museum, we were able to enter the shop and see up close the tools and equipment the Dominys used, including a pole lathe and a great wheel lathe. We even got to hold some of the hand tools. And we got to see their clock-making shop as well, which contained two other lathes, one not even six inches long, contained in a box (photos will come!). Get your hands on Charles Hummel’s book With Hammer in Hand: The Dominy Craftsmen of East Hampton, New York to see some of what we experienced. We also got a quick view of Gord Peteran’s exhibition there and managed to see some of the Winterthur period rooms.

After a pleasant lunch with Charlie, we paid a delightful visit to the home of collectors Neil and Susan Kaye. Again, pictures will come. In the meantime, let me just say again how unique each collection is, how each reflects the personalities of the collectors, and what a pleasure it is to witness the joy people take in living in such beauty. The Kayes have many, many wonderful pieces and entertaining stories.

We then were treated to the eyepopping collection of Bruce and Marina Kaiser. What a profusion of art their home contains! To do their collection justice, I will have to borrow some photographs from my fellow residents, as I had very little battery power left after Winterthur and the Kayes. There are pictures, however; have no fear. Bruce (Marina was out of town) then generously took us all (Albert and Tina and Charles Hummel rounded out our party) out to dinner.

Yesterday, we had a long day back in the shop. Elisabeth and Lesya both got turning lessons, Elisabeth from Siegfried first, and both of them from me later (with good advice from Jean-François). Elisabeth got to know everyone a little more. Lesya began working with a couple of our pieces to develop dance works: Sean’s “mascot” sculpture (for which I need to write down the proper title) and my multiaxis cherry bowl, so far. Jean-François, who is unable to stand for long periods and so not yet able to turn, experimented with new finishes involving sand and gesso and other various coatings. Siegfried got the vacuum chuck up and running with a foot switch he had his wife send him from home, and he worked on finishing the large vessels he turned first. Sean continued to carve various pieces. Peter worked on building a form for a collaborative piece with Siegfried. He also helped Jane develop and pour a form for a table she is making (we get everyone working here). I worked on a new honey locust bowl with a textured exterior and helped Jane a little (mostly as supervisor) with her table.

Today, we are off to the Wharton Esherick Museum with a stop afterward at the studio of furniture maker Brad Smith. Perhaps by tomorrow I can have some pictures for you to look at.

A brief note . . .

to say catch up with us tomorrow.

Yesterday, Elisabeth Agro, our resident scholar, joined us in a visit to the studios of Mark Sfirri and David Ellsworth. Upon our return, we all met with Albert and Tina, as well as with Lesya Popil, our dancer, to let Elisabeth and Lesya begin to get acquainted with the work we all have been doing.

Today, we head to Wilmington, DE, to visit the Winterthur Museum, and then the homes of collectors Neil and Susan Kaye and Bruce and Marina Kaiser. Stay tuned . . .

Nakashima studio (Saturday, July 7)

Today, we visited the studio of famed furniture maker George Nakashima in New Hope, PA, where his daughter, Mira, continues to make furniture in the same tradition. Mira began our tour by telling us about her father’s life and work.

Mira Nakashima talks about her father.

The first building we visited was the wood barn, filled with enormous slabs of wood cut from whole trees and stacked together for drying in the sequence in which they were cut from the log. Mira explained the challenges of storing, keeping track of, and accessing the wood, much of which is stored for many years.

The wood barn.

Stacked slabbed trees in the wood barn.

Mira talks to us about the wood.

Many slabs were marked in chalk with customer names, measurements, cut lines, and other information.

A marked slab of wood.

The door of the wood barn.

This dining set was in a residence built by Nakashima in the early 1970s.

A dining set in the so-called bath house, because of its large Japanese bath.

A detail of the dining table.

What is known as the art building is also the home of the Nakashima Foundation for Peace.

Detail of the exterior of the art building.

Chairs in the art building.

The silver appearance of the table edges in this photograph is caused by the camera flash. The edges are actually the dark, barkless natural surface of the trunk.

A table in the art building.

Notice how the concrete wall at the top of the stairs follows the same line as the right edge of the stairs.

The stairs in the art building.

I liked the way the stairs looked viewed sideways just as well.

The stairs viewed sideways.

The loft in the art building held samples of many types of chairs.

Upstairs in the art building.

Jean-François enjoyed speaking French with Kevin Nakashima, who learned it in high school from a native French speaker.

Kevin Nakashima with Jean-François.

The pond outside the showroom had very vocal frogs among the water lilies. I thought their croaking was some sort of squawk from a walkie-talkie until I squatted down and looked.


Friday, July 6

The atmosphere in the shop is very playful. Everyone is engaged in a fresh way.

Sean’s work is as unpredictable as ever. This morning he had cut beads into the exterior of the osage orange piece on the lathe.

Sean's osage orange vessel, now beaded.

Later, this is how the piece had developed: Sean colored the interior bright scarlet. Then he cut the beads nearly apart on the bandsaw and inserted ebony wedges to open up and bend the form. Stay tuned: this piece is still evolving.

The next evolution of Sean's osage orange piece.

This is how far he has come on the first piece he started, the oak ring sculpture. Here, he is holding in position three of the carved pieces. A fourth is not shown.

Sean's oak piece.

Siegfried has turned some deep bowls of box elder in addition to the wave forms he continues work on.

A box elder bowl being turned by Siegfried.

I don’t know, but judging from their shapes, I suspect that these bowls may be intended for a collaboration with Jean-François.

Three vessels by Siegfried.

Peter helped Siegfried out by cutting a stack of poplar for Siegfried to turn into waves.

A stack of cut poplar waits to be turned into waves by Siegfried.

Jean-François turned another form for a new cement vessel. He has textured the interior (for the exterior of the cement bowl) with an Arbortech.

A new mold for a cement bowl.

He also continues with his oak bowl series. Here, he is parting off the second bowl.

Jean-François finishes the second of his recent oak bowls.

Peter manages to get some of his own work done despite spending most of his days helping everyone else. Here is his first wall piece, made from used concrete forms. The oak frame was colored using Jean-François’s vinegar-and-steel-wool technique.

A wall piece by Peter.

While Peter was busy helping others, Jane tried on a few of his honey-locust-and-cable pieces for size. I’m not sure Peter has realized that his work is wearable.

Two wall pieces by Peter displayed as wearable art.

Peter also pitched in to try to repair a dripping air-conditioning unit.

Peter as HVAC repairman.

Then we talked him into doing another master class in cement casting. He added cable segments and glitter (are you paying attention, Hilary?) to this sample.

Peter sets up a cement form.

Pouring the cement.

Jane used a piece of chainsawn honey locust to cast another sample. Siegfried added a wave/whale’s tail.

Another experiment in cement.

I tried my hand at forming a freehand bowl over a pile of shavings.

I tried a freeform bowl.

After removing the first sample from the form, Peter used water and a wire brush to expose the cable before the cement had finished setting.

Exposing the cable in the cast sample.

On the left, you can see the cast chainsawn texture from the second sample. I will burn out the shavings from my sample after the cement has set overnight. I didn’t achieve much of a bowl shape, but it did give me a feel for the process for a more serious attempt.

The pieces we cast.

Jean-François’s third vessel will be a hollow form. To cast the interior, he turned a form from a two-inch block of Styrofoam.

Jean-François turns a form from Styrofoam.

He then suspended the form from a stick using double-stick tape . . .

The assembled form for Jean-François's next cement vessel.

and mixed and poured the cement. This mix is gray, in between the white and black of the first two bowls. Tomorrow, he will use acetone or lacquer thinner to dissolve the Styrofoam form, leaving a void in its place.

The poured vessel.