Category Archives: hobbies

AAW 2007 Symposium, Day 4

img_2209.JPGThis was the last day of symposium, and I don’t really have many photos to throw at you all. This shot is of Alain Mailland demonstrating how he creates one of his amazing pod-like pieces.

On this final day, I bought a few more things at the trade show. During the symposium, a large conference room is set aside for vendors to tempt us all with bright and shiny tools, gorgeous pieces of exotic woods, and educational books and videos that will quickly and easily give us the skills to make everything we see in the galleries. And darn it, for me resistance is futile. I bring a separate bag to fill with lots of goodies. My excuse is that this event always falls near my birthday. Hah!

And I’m sorry, but there are no pictures of the trade show. I was too busy shopping.

The other special event on the last day is the Instant Gallery Critique. Each year a select committee chooses 20 or so items out of the Instant Gallery and gives a critique on each of them. It’s always really interesting. This year, the reviewers were Stephen Hogbin (who was the third artist receiving the first POP Merit Awards) and Michael Brolly.

The last day is always a mix of sadness and relief. I enjoy every aspect of the symposium and am sorry to see it all end. But, by the end my head is so full of ideas, inspiration, and influence that I can’t really stuff anything else into it. It takes a couple of weeks for me to process through all that I’ve seen. And I don’t know that I ever get the chance to try (let alone incorporate) it all.

So, that’s my view of the AAW 2007 Symposium in Portland, Oregon. I had a wonderful time, both at the symposium and Portland in general. Next year, the event will be in Richmond, Virginia. Maybe I’ll have a few things I feel are ready to put in the gallery. I say that every year.

My trip home was delightfully uneventfull. I’ve discovered that Sunday evening is great time to fly. There are no crowds, and everyone is really relaxed and friendly.

img_2210.JPGOne last picture, again from Alain Mailland’s demonstration. This is fairly far along in his work on the piece, and you get a pretty good sense of what the finished item will look like. What’s better than seeing the hands of a master craftsman in the middle of working on a piece of art?

AAW 2007 Symposium, Day 2

img_2044.JPGThis is from the Opening Ceremonies of the AAW’s 2007 Symposium. They announced that over 1600 people are registered for this event, making it the “second largest of its kind” (whatever that means). I think that you can see from this picture that the vast majority of members are: white, male, and over 50 (hey, that’s me!). There are women, there are people of color, and there are younger turners out there, and many of them are prominent members in the field. There are even young women of color, but the majority is pretty much represented in this picture. Still, it’s the friendliest group I’ve ever been involved with.

And, it’s an early rising group. I took that first picture at 7:45 AM, just as the meeting started! One of many reasons Harriet doesn’t typically come to these events with me.

img_2046.JPGDuring the opening ceremonies, there was a tribute to a prominent woodturner who died this last year. Frank Sudol died at the age of 73, and was a well loved and respected, Canadian woodturner. Speaking at the podium is Binh Pho, a student of his and one of the top 5 artists in this medium. It was a fine memorial and highlighted both Frank’s work and his thoughts on creativity. I sat in on one of his talks several years ago, and I feel his reputation as an artist and a mentor were well deserved.

img_2050.JPGThe central part of the symposium are the demonstrations. There are 11 time slots (called rotations) over the course of 3 days, and in each rotation there are approximately 14 different talks that you can choose from. There are demonstrations of techniques and practices (both beginning and advanced), sessions discussing design, retrospectives on the works of artists, and advice for the professional turners (studio and production). This picture is of Bill Moore during the first rotation where I attended his Metal Spinning for the Woodturner demonstration.

I’m not going to discuss all of the sessions, or even all of the sessions that I attend. Instead, I want to show some of the work that will be auctioned and others that are on display in the Instant Gallery.

During the symposium, anyone can bring in a couple pieces of their work to to be put out on display. This display is called the Instant Gallery, and this year there were 1359 pieces on display. To answer the obvious question, no, I did not have any of my work on display. I’m a pretty shy turner.

Along with the Instant Gallery, there are a number of pieces that are auctioned off to support the AAW’s education fund. Some of these pieces are donated by the best studio turners and reach fairly lofty values. There were 66 items in the auction this year.

I’m not going to show all of these pieces. Instead, I’ve picked out a few that I particularly liked. My camera died about half way through my viewing, so I’ll be back tomorrow with new batteries and some additional photos.

img_2092.JPGThis is by Binh Pho. It is a very thin and light vessel that has been pierced with a design and then delicately painted using an airbrush. There is usually a lot of symbolism in Binh’s work, representing aspects of his life, including being raised in Vietnam. But interpreting the sybology isn’t critical to appreciating his work. It’s a gorgeous piece.

As I mentioned before, Binh Pho is recognized as one of the top woodturners in the field. His delicate vessels and their pierced and painted designs are instantly recognizable.

img_2086.JPGThis is one of my favorite pieces in the whole show. Alain Mailland is a French turner and he does amazing abstract work. This piece is turned and then carved, but isn’t dyed. The colors in the work are from the natural colors of the woodd. I attended two of his sessions and was amazed and inspired by both of them.

img_2140.JPGThese are pieces by David Nittmann. They’re turned and then dyed in such a way that it looks like basketry. But, they aren’t just technical wizardry. These are gorgeuous pieces, and this one photo doesn’t do them justice. Unfortunately, my camera died just after this photo, so I’ll have to come back tomorrow with a better shot. I bought a piece by this artist several years ago, and his work has gotten better and better.

img_2116.JPGJon Williams creates these lovely little pieces, and I’m very much drawn to the colors and the pattern. The colors are painted onto the surface, but the patterns are burned into the wood. The burning process is called pyrography and uses a sharp, heated tool that’s similar to a soldering iron. This makes the pattern more than just surface color. It also has a tactile component, and gives the images depth (that’s meant literally as well as figurately). There are a lot of woodturning artists using pyrography in their work nowadays, but I think those swirling patterns that he creates are beautiful.

img_2136.JPGJon Sauer makes these gorgeous tops from exotic hardwoods, and then carves them using a machine tool called an ornamental lathe. He uses several different pieces of wood in a single top and then turns them to have a beautiful form. They are also excellent spinners.

The stands are something new, and I think they complement the tops perfectly. The cantilever design is a new twist. Together, they make a very elegant display.

img_2110.JPGJim Christiansen does work that fascinates me. They are the only pieces in the instant gallery that leave me with a strong emotional reaction. His current work uses figures along with the turnings and they evoke a lot of feelings. I enjoy a lot of turnings, finding them beatiful or fun, but his bring up strong emotions. I really like them. This piece and Alain’s piece are the two that I would most like to take home with me. Someday …
img_2097.JPGThe AAW has a large number of member clubs that represent local regions (I belong to the Channel Islands Woodturners). At the symposium, there is a Chapter Challenge in which clubs come together and produce a group piece. There were 4 pieces in this years challenge, and I liked this one the best. It’s from the Glendale Woodturners Guild (from Southern California).

img_2070.JPGThis is an amazing piece that will be in the auction tomorrow. It is a collaborative piece by Binh Pho and Frank Sudol. At the start of this post, I wrote that Frank Sudol died this last year, and Binh gave the memorial at the ceremonies this morning. Binh was a student of Frank’s , and they had wanted to do a collaborative piece for a long time. Just before he died they created this stunning pece of work, their only collaboration. It is an interesting mix of their styles, and both are clearly represented in this piece. I overheard some collectors speculating that they expect it will sell for between $10,000 and $12,000 at the auction. That would be an amazing price and probably well deserved.

img_2068.JPGThis is another piece that I believe will set the upper bar on prices at the auction. It is a collaborative effort between two very popular artists, Jacques Vesery and Bonnie Klein. From this picture alone, the piece may not look very impressive, but I happened to be nearby when the artists arrived to show off the piece to some friends. There are a lot of hidden surprises in the work. The ball has an image of the world carved onto it. It seperates from the base and can be opened like a box with a lid that unscrews. Inside is another ball with an image of the sun and the moon. That ball can also open up with another small blue marble inside which has a map of the world and the lettering “You are here” over Oregon.

img_2078.JPGHere are the two artists of this piece, and Jacques is showing another of the hidden surprises. This is under the base. I’ve taken seminars and demonstrations from both of these artists and they are extremely nice people. Their collaborations are very popular with collectors, and I expect that this extraordinary piece will fetch a high value.

That’s it for this entry. As I mentioned, my camera’s batteries died, so I’m off to resupply and tomorrow I’ll have a few more pictures from the Galleries.

AAW 2007 Symposium, Day 1

img_2004.JPGRight now, I’m in Portland, OR attending the American Association of Woodturner’s (AAW) 2007 Symposium. Since 2001, I’ve tried to go every year, and only missed last year’s. It’s 3 days of demonstrations and instructions by the finest woodturners in the world. It’s both educational and inspirational.

I arrived in Portland today (June 28) for the first time. As soon as I left the airport I felt like I’d validated most of my stereotypes about Oregon: Hills, lots of woods, overcast & rainy, fairly small and intimate. But, as you get into the downtown area, then it feels like most urban cities – too much traffic, high rise buildings in various states of disrepair, lots of downtown renovation, and people.

img_2000.JPGI checked into the hotel for the symposium (the DoubleTree – very nice) and walked over to the conference center to register. The Oregon Convention Center is on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, and on the grounds is this statue commemorating him. It’s a lovely entry into the center.

The photo at the top of this post was taken just after I registered. Not too crowded yet, and everyone is still getting oriented, finding the demonstration areas, and meeting up with friends and acquaintances. The demonstrations don’t start until tomorrow, so everything is still pretty relaxed.

img_2042.JPGThree of the exhibits are open and located in the convention center. They aren’t too crowded yet, and so it’s a good time to see the pieces up close. Here is a small sampling of some of the exceptional turnings in the exhibit.

img_2034.JPG Study in Boundaries, 2006 by Giles Gilson. This is part of the 2007 POP Merit Award Exhibition. The Professional Outreach Program (POP) is a new program of the AAW which seeks to encourage and support the professional woodturning artist, and this is the first year that merit awards have been given out. Giles is one of the first three recipients.

img_2027.JPGAscending Bowl #4, 1981 by Mark Lindquist. Another one of the inaugural POP Merit Award recipients, Mark’s work has been around for quite awhile. I’ve always liked his work, especially his emphasis on textures. I particularly liked this piece.
img_2024.JPGNext is the Japanese Demonstrator Exhibit. There are four urushi artists from Yamanaka Japan that are attending and demonstrating at the symposium this year. One has the title Living National Treasure which is awarded in Japan to someone who has reached the highest level of achievement in their craft. This is a small sample of their work.

img_2016.JPGThis piece by Binh Pho is from the Japanese Bowls, A Western Perspective exhibit. This is a pretty interesting display. At a Japanese urushi exhibit in New York, the president of the AAW was given a large number of roughed out bowls. These are bowls that have been turned to roughly the same shape and size by a production facility, and would normally be presented to the urushi artist for final shaping and their finishing process. However, these roughs were given to a group of studio artists to finish in their unique (and western) styles.

img_2007.JPGThe pieces finished by Ann Wolfe (left) and Sharon Doughtie (right). This exhibit was an amazing showcase of the distinctive styles and techniques of these artists. I’m only picking out a few to show here.

img_2005.JPGOne of my favorite artists is Jaques Vesery. He’s known for his amazing surface carvings, which place natural textures (feathers, scales, rocks) on a variety of vessels and objects. This picture may not make it clear that he has carved and painted the surface of his vessel to look like rice. Up close, it looks like rice has been glued onto the surface of the bowl. What’s is most impressive about his work, and why his work commands such amazing prices, is that instead of just being a gimmick enhancement, his technique is an integral part of his artwork. It is beautiful work. My photo doesn’t do justice to this exquisite piece.

I’ve only shown you a few pieces from these larger exhibits. They are nothing more that a brief taste of the amazing work in these exhibits. I’ve picked a few of my favorite pieces to represent the show. And besides, the less time I prepare these posts, the more time I can participate in this wonderful symposium.

Going APE

img_0278.JPGThis last weekend I attended the Alternate Press Expo (APE) in San Francisco. If anyone out there is unfamiliar with my geek credentials, let my report on this event be your first exposure to that side of my personality.

APE is “the largest gathering of alternative and self-published comics in the country”. You won’t find the traditional publishers of comic-book superheroes at this venue. This is a group for which traditional geek culture is too constraining.

I have always been a collector of traditional comics, but last year I discovered the small publisher’s booths at Comic-Con (I’ll be posting about this year’s event in July). I had such a good time that some of my fellow panelologists suggested that I attend APE. Boy, were they right. It was great.

img_0280.JPGI drove up to San Francisco on Friday, and spent a couple of nights with friends Debbie and Tom. Tom was so intrigued by the event that he decided to attended the expo with me on Saturday (and is pictured, above). Debbie could immediately tell that this wasn’t her type of event (she is a wise woman) and decided to enjoy the day on her own.

We drove to the Concourse Exhibition Center where the show ran from 11:00 am until 7:00 pm on Saturday, and from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday. The entrance fee is a whopping $7 for one day and $10 for both days. However, since I still had my Comic-Con badge from last year, I got in for free. Yay! More money for comics!

The range of publishers is pretty varied. There are individuals who hand draw their comic ravings, photocopy the pages and staple them into small books (affectionately referred to as mini-comics); small groups of artists who go in on a booth together to show or sell their artworks and sketchbooks; artist collectives who share the cost of publishing or marketing their comics; self-publishers who use vanity presses or print-on-demand publishing houses for their production; micro-publishers (one or two people) who have a couple of comics made by themselves and their friends whichthey produce and market under a single imprint; and small publishers who function as more traditional publishing houses and produce more professional work.

img_0281.JPGI’m not very good at estimating numbers for these events, but I would say there were several thousand people in the Concourse at any given time. And, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of people attending got up to 10,000 over the course of both days. There was another mezzanine just outside of this picture to the left.

Although we broke off for lunch (at a fabulous Vietnamese restaurant) and then dinner (some great Chinese food at a real dive), when you include our exploration of the after-expo parties, on Saturday we immersed ourselves in that world for a solid 12 hours.

The next day (Sunday) I went back for another 6 hours before getting on the road to Santa Barbara about 5:00 pm. I finished seeing every booth at the show with less than an hour left before they closed the event down.

So, what did I leave with? I only have a rough count, but I’d say about 100 mini-comics, 50 or so comics and graphic novels, and about 10 books (very think graphic novels). I talked with dozens of artist/writer/publishers, saw hundreds of pieces of art, and tried to follow dozens of non-linear trains to thought (very alternative press). I’ve already read some delightful comics, but also some disappointing junk.

And I can definitly say I had a really great time.