It’s hard to believe that it has been four months since my last post. I’ll blame it on a very busy fall semester, but my teaching responsibilities were only part of the equation– I also purchased a lathe, and have been working furiously to learn the art and craft of turning bowls. I never had much interest in the strict symmetries that lathes produce, but a friend introduced me to the possibilities of green-wood turning and I’ve been at it ever since. As the wood dries it distorts in various ways depending on the species of wood, orientation of the grain, shape, thickness, and the balance of sap and heart woods. It is complicated enough to keep things interesting, and introduces a welcome element of surprise. Turning is a great way to make use of woods otherwise destined for the landfill or the fire pit. The “undesirable” aspects of the wood are often the very things that set them apart as turnings. In the silver maple bowl, above, it is the bark inclusion that caused such wild grain, and it is notable that the visual interest increases even as the “usefulness” of the bowl decreases. The last bowl pictured came from an ornamental cherry tree that had been cut down after being hit by a car. This bowl was taken from a section where as many as seven branches were converging, causing a wild swirl of tensions that create lumps and distortions throughout the piece. I’m not sure if this species will gain more pink color as it ages or not.
Many of these bowls go from the shop to the studio, where they hold ink and water while I am making paintings. When put to work like this, the bowls take on a patina of use which amounts to a type of finish work. It is a wonderful moment where the tools of making are themselves transformed, by their use, into the very form of their purpose. Much of my recent thought has revolved around the roles of craft, beauty, and usefulness in my own work, and this process makes manifest every aspect of that thought. The bowl, and the craft by which the bowl is both made and transformed, function at first as a supplement to the painting. But the opportunity for autonomy or repurposing is strong enough to allow a shift from “supplement” to “complement”, and it is these complimentary works which are holding so much of my attention.