Category Archives: woodturning

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 3

img_2201.JPGThis picture is from the banquet that took place this evening. I’ve had some wonderful meals in Portland (that would would probably earn me a tsk or two from Mikki), but the banquet meal was not one of them. Your basic chicken with starchy mashed potatoes and asparagus, and a salad that was probably sitting on those plates since the last banquet. Luckily the crowd was warm and friendly, and the action at the auction would make you forget eating rusty nails!

Before I launch into the amazing results from the auction, let me show you some more amazing artwork that came off of a lathe.

img_2141.JPGYesterday I had a picture of the work by David Nittmann, but I wasn’t happy with the view. Well, my camera has fresh batteries and here’s a better view showing off the colors and the patterns in this piece. With this view, you’re also looking into the narrow opening and seeing the colors inside of the vessel. Beautiful.

img_2155.JPGI didn’t write down the artist on this piece, but I wanted to show work created on a Rose Engine, and with this piece there’s no color or grain to take away from the textured patterns. The Rose Engine is a type of lathe that was originally developed in the Victorian era and used to add this sort of complex and detailed surface decoration to turned work, referred to as Ornamental Turning. Although there hasn’t been a lot of this type of work done recently, I’m starting to see more and more of it. It can be quite beautiful. The tops done by John Sauer (shown yesterday) are ornamental turnings.

img_2166.JPGThis bowl is by Molly Winton. The design is made with a burning tool; the horses formed by the unburned wood, and the black background is the burned part. She doesn’t color the piece. The light brown is the natural color of the wood and the black is charred wood. In the lower part of the bowl, there is a “basket weave” pattern that’s also burned into the wood. I had a chance to attend a couple of her demonstrations and see her technique. Interesting and lovely work.

img_2168.JPGI didn’t write down the name of the person who produced this piece, either. But, I thought it was a lovely kaleidoscope. The body lifts off the stand and the pattern you can see in the scope is a typical, colorful and changing kaleidoscope image. You don’t see very many kaleidoscopes in the Instant Gallery, but this was a fine example.

img_2170.JPGBen Carpenter makes these beautiful, organic looking objects that are carved from the original turned piece. He had several other objects, one of which looked like some fantastical creature with long, bird-like legs. Although that was the first item to grab your attention, I liked this piece a lot more. All of his creations have this biological, fantastical looking theme.

img_2178.JPGThis beautiful piece is by Sharon Doughtie and is another turned and then burned work. The ribbons are the natural color of the wood, and the colorful spots in the ribbons are knots in the wood. The black background is all charred wood. Her work is beautiful.

img_2180.JPGThis is a wonderful example of a natural edge bowl. Once again, I didn’t get the artist’s name on this piece, but I want to include an example of a vessel without surface decoration. It’s a beautiful piece of wood that has been turned by an expert’s hand.

img_2068.JPGOkay, I’ll end this by telling you a couple of results from tonight’s auction. First, this is the piece that was a collaborative effort from Bonnie Klein and Jacques Vesery. Nominally a box, it’s an amazing piece with a lot of surprises that you find by disassembling it. You unscrew the box to find other turned objects that unscrew to reveal even more turned objects. Each of the artists produces beautiful and very well received (meaning expensive) work on their own. Together, these two have a history of producing collaborative objects that blow through the price ceiling on turned wood art.

Well, by the time the auction on this ended, the bidding reached $20,000. Yes, it’s an amazing price. But, just wait …

img_2070.JPGThis is the collaborative piece by Frank Sudol and Binh Pho. Frank was an accomplished turner and well loved mentor who died last year. Binh was a student of his who is now one of the top turners in the world. This work is a beautiful synthesis of both their styles and is the only collaboration they ever made. So, with that background, the discussion I heard from collectors before the auction is that they expected it to sell for somewhere between $10,000 and $12,000.

When the bids topped $20,000, the crowd gasped. Every bid that bumped the price up by $1000 had the audience shifting with anticipation – and in stunned silence. The final bid that ended the auction came in at $30,000. The crowd leapt to its feet and cheered. I don’t know whether that’s the highest price paid for a piece of wood turned art, but it’s the highest price I’ve ever seen. It was an amazing way to end the night.

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.