Four wood turners gathered sometime on June 11. This years turners include Graeme Priddle and Rolly Munro, from New Zealand, Mike Scott, from Wales, and George Peterson, from North Carolina.
Oh, and I almost forgotI, Judy Gotwald, am along for the ride. It is my job to document the groups work and synthesize the experience. This is the first time the event will be documented on a day to day basis and published on the web. In previous years, the resident journalist published a long document at the end of the conference.
Other turners will join us for shorter periods of time. Jack Larimore, from Pennsylvania, will add his furniture maker slant to the group. Chris Tyler, educator, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, will also join the group for a week.
You may also read about my son, Nathaniel or Natty. He is ten years old and ITE has set him up with his own work station. Several experienced wood turners have offered to help him learn the exciting art of wood turning.
Also new this yearyou will be able to participate in the virtual ITE. Look for our interactive web site at the end of June. If you are reading this, you are already in the right place. You will be able to add your two cents in the discussion area.
For the first week to ten days, the turners traveled to visit several galleries and historic sites as well as visit the homes of collectors. The turners come ready to work and the delay is frustrating for them. Nevertheless the slow start is by design. The week of living together and traveling together gives time to build community and to explore ideas. A large part of the ITE experience is the community aspect. Wood workers by nature work in isolated shops in back yard sheds all over the world. ITE brings them together. TOP
A first visit was to Winterthur in Wilmington, Delaware. Charles Hummel, a former Wood Turning Center board member, hosted the group and gave them a behind the scenes tour of the museum. According to Mr. Hummel, this was the first group of ITE residents who showed a special interest in the decorative arts. The group spent about five hours touring the museum which included a special visit to the reconstructed Dominey workshop. The Dominey workshop preserves the tools and working space of several generations of turners from Long Island, New York. The shop remained in the family until its relatively recent demolition. Tools, still in working condition, dated to the 1600s.
The group went on to Washington the next day, but I did not accompany them.
The next week we converge upon our new home for the next few weeksthe George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania on June 11. We stay in a dormitory for the first few days while the farmhouse, which is to be our home, is readied. The first few days are frustrating for the turners, as they wait to get their tools and materials together. The little details seem to be keeping them from what they came to do. They are chafing to turn on the lathes. TOP
The day began with whistles and bells. It was our last morning in makeshift quarters in a George School Dormitory building. Burned toast set off the fire alarm system which brought both campus security and the fire engines to our door.
We moved into the Grumbach farmhouse during a day otherwise filled with shop and work. After our first supper eaten in civilized fashion around the table, we divided up the quarters and had a long discussion on how to make the best of living in community while working toward individual goals.
There was still plenty of time for work in the evening. The usual ITE day can start as early as 5 a.m. and end in the wee hours of the morning. TOP
Albert LeCoff, director of the Wood Turning Center, joined us for dinner, an ice cream outing, and a visit to the shop. Albert took a short look at the wood turners early efforts and organized a mini-instant-gallery. Each turner chose a work from another turners workbench and set up a small display. One by one the artist choosing a work explained their choice and the artist creating the work commented.
The artists are in the early stages of creating. Most are stretching into new territory. Graeme commented that one his pieces was a new attempt at a concept hed been having trouble with for some time. (I will add pictures to illustrate this within the next few days.) While continuing to experiment, he is also working in more familiar territory--a comfort zone--and demonstrating some of his techniques to the others. One such vessel used a hammering technique to create a texture like the rind of a cantaloupe.
Rolly is experimenting with multilayer carving as he continues a series based on the opening of a seed. (Again look for pictures soon.) TOP
George likes to work with large bold images and techniques. He showed a spiral pattern he developed using a chisel as the lathe turned. While he had hoped for a tighter spiral he had trouble controlling the tool. In the end, however, he was pleased with the bolder more open pattern. Georges work is so large that at most tuners at first viewing dont recognize that the works are variations on a fluted bowl technique.
Mikes first displayed effort was a wood doodle. He said he just starting working on a piece to see where it took him and was generally pleased with the result. Mike also experimented with Georges approach. He took a stump of wood, halved it and employed Georges bold chiseling technique. He showed one half in the instant gallery and talked about how he was going to do the mirror image second half. George and he may collaborate on this effort.
Not to be forgotten, young Natty, displayed the first three pieces he turned, which included an experiment with a stick he had found on the grounds of the George School. Natty is just starting to learn his way around the lathe. His first efforts are spindle turnings. TOP
June 30, 2000
We met the self-imposed deadline of the having the web-site launched by the end of the month. Today was our target date and the website became active yesterday afternoon. Jud Randall, the first ITE photojournalist from six years ago and the webmaster for the Wood Turning Center site, facilitated the uploading of files.
The turners are pleased and feel connected to their homes and families. I am working for the next week on creating individual pages for each of them. Rolly's is almost ready. I am taking them alphabetically. George is next.
Establishing the site has been the major thrust of my work. I have sacrificed time with the group to the solitary work of web creation. With the basics done, I hope to spend more time in the shop, taking pictures, interviewing the turners and trying my own hand at woodworking.
Events of note: The turners attended the reopening of the newly renovated Rodin Museum in center city Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Robert Ellsworth was their host/guide. They visited with sculptor and former Wood Turning Center staff member Susan Hagen.
They have gone on several wood procurement trips. Several of the turners are starting several large pieces. George Peterson in particular has a number of massive pieces started. This morning he turned from his rough, bold work to refine a more delicate fine bowl. Unfortunately, when he had neared the desired thickness in his turning the wood split into three pieces. Here is a picture of "the agony of defeat."
Rolly, on the other hand, spends hours working on his intricate carving techniques. Graeme and Mike are somewhere in between these two extremes, roughing out and then stopping to work on a texture.
The turners are counting their days before their final exhibition. There are roughly 20. TOP
July 4 was a treat. We were all guests at David and Wendy Ellsworth's home. They have hosted other ITE groups, but this year they were able to entertain on a holiday and they put out quite a spread. Former ITE artist Gail Montgomery from New Zealand was visiting as well so Graeme and Rolly, fellow New Zealanders, had a chance to visit. A highlight of the day was the tour of David's studio which included a good look at his collection of tools and lathes. He also demonstrated a photography setup he built himself. It consists of three 500 watt lights positioned in a large half drum covered with sail cloth and a secondary light of one similar bulb. He suspends a light piece of card board on strings to give the cardboard a curve. Wendy showed us her beading studio and her beadwork. Interestingly, she too, was following a marine life theme in her beading. Both Rolly and Graeme point to the sea as a major influence.
The group visited Mark Sfirri on Thursday, July 6. Mark teaches at Bucks County Community College and is known for his artistic series of baseball bats.
The turners are well aware of the limited time left before the exhibition in late July. They work early and late. Graeme has a few finished pieces. George has a prolific collection of work which he sits out in the sun to maximize the splitting and cracking of the green wood and to deepen the colors on some of the pieces. Rolly has been concentrating on intricate detailing of a few pieces. He hopes to present four finished works for the exhibition. Mike photographed one of his pieces and emailed it to a colleague in Wales for some extra input and ideas.
Open Community is next weekend, July 15. The turners want to have a good display for that day as well. TOP
There are two additions to the turning team. Chris Tyler, an educator from Halifax, has arrived and Jack Larimore, a furniture maker from Philadelphia. Jack started work on a table with a concave surface--like a very flat bowl. I commented that it was somewhat like a birdbath in form. He agreed.
George has taken ill. He discovered an insect bite which may have been a tick. He fears lyme disease but will not know for several days. He feels just plain yucky and is not turning today.
Rolly is pleased to have finished two pieces. He is aiming to finish four before the exhibition at the end of the month. The piece he is working on now is complicated--four interlocking pieces which must fit precisely.
I am working on the technicalities of daily uploading new web pages. It is supposed t be a simple process, but I am having no luck. I have been sending files to Jud Randall who was part of the first ITE. He uploads them from Oregon. This is frustrating. I suspect there is a security setting which is not allowing me out of the George School system. I am looking into this.
Young Natty is into his first full week of turning. He has been part of a camp on the grounds of the George School. But camp is over and it is now time to work. He is mastering the basics. Spindle turning for now. He is somewhat frustrated with his own limitations. Surrounded by professionals, he wants to start doing the same things. But Eli, the shop facilitator is urging him to stick with spindle turning for a little while. TOP
Rita Weiner, who works with Eli Scearce in running a camp for young turners, stops by. She starts to work with Natty, using him as a guinea pig in testing projects for the upcoming camp. Natty is happy to be freed from the tedium of spindle turning. He is now sanding his first bowl, which is beautiful. Even those who are not his mother say so!
Nattys second work is a maple plate. He leaves a dimple in the middle because he likes it. He will finish it tomorrow.
Natty has a friend, Drew, visit and the two of them work on new projects. Natty starts a bowl from a beautiful piece of bloodwood. Drew begins with a plate. Rolly stops by their workstation and comments that their work has given him an idea.
Rolly is busy carving a new piece. George is still not up to doing much. I spent yesterday photographing Mikes finished work and will have those pictures on the web soon.
Chris is busy observing. He explains that his background is in pottery--a vertical lathe. He has been working as a curator of a small gallery and as an educator. He task for this week is to observe and try his hand at turning. Yesterday he worked on the basics of spindle turning and enjoyed it. Jack has two projects going--his birdbath table and a sphere made from laminated wood. He was turning the laminated sphere this morning and it was looking pretty good when the chisel caught. His sphere is now a smaller sphere. "There is something powerful and captivating about the form of a sphere, he says.
Jack is conscious of time. He is a one-week resident and one of the days of this week is a trip to the Wharton Esherick Museum. He carefully schedules his work. "I think I'm OK, he says. TOP
George is back in good shape and turning. He started back to work yesterday. Margaret, his wife, is visiting. She just completed a trip to Paris and brought some turnings back with her.
Mike is finishing the pieces he started and has been working on for the last few weeks. Check out his personal ITE page to see some of his ITE work.
I took some pictures for Rolly and Graeme for the benefit of their sponsors, who provided tools.
The group worked hard in the morning, but today was a scheduled travel day and everyone stopped at 11 a.m. We had a tour of Wharton Esherick Museum, the home and studio of the noted artist and sculptor who spent most of his life in this area. His studio/apartment now houses a collecton of his work and innovative design ideas. In fact the studio and renovated house is part of his work. He took a personal interest in designing the property and steadily renovating it from 1927, when he bought the lot, to his deathi n 1970.
The property is a showcase for his unique approach to design, his fascination with color, form and line.
|The complete 2000 ITE (from left): Chris Tyler, educator; Mike Scott; Judy Gotwald, photojournalist, with son Natty Leach; Margaret, wife of George Peterson, with George; Eli Scearce, shop facilitator; Graeme Priddle;Rolly Munro and Jack Larimore, furniture maker. The picture was taken at the Wharton Esherick Musuem, near Valley Forge, Pa.|
|After the museum tour we drove to Greenville, Delaware, and the home of Bruce and Marina Kaiser. Bruce is former president of the Wood Turning Center and is currently Vice President of the Centers board. Their home is a showcase of many artists, particularly of glass and wood. The turners spotted many works of their colleagues and former ITE residents. Albert LeCoff, center director, joined us as did Susan Hagen, board member. Bruce and Marina treated us to a spendid evening, a tour of Marinas outstanding gardens and a very fine dinner. Thank you, Bruce and Marina! TOP|
Today was OPEN COMMUNITY DAY, a special event sponsored by the WTC and area woodworking clubs. The turners took turns presenting a short description of their work, including a little about their history and work and demonstrating special aspects of their techniques.
The day began at 9 a.m. with Graeme Priddle. Graeme stressed the importance of sharpening, including dressing the sharpening stone. I begin each day dressing the stone, he explained. He demonstrated sharpening and commented that he rarely hones. Later in his demonstration he noted that just before he makes a last pass, he gives his tools a final sharpening. The piece Graeme demonstrated was one in his series of off-center turnings which draw upon the movement of water flowing around rocks.
Mike Scott spoke about some of his work on display and gave a demonstration of a honeycomb pattern texturing. Later he showed charring or scorching techniques.
Rolly Munro showed a number of pieces from his portfolio and described how they had been developedone from another. He showcased his pieces drawn from marine themes and passed around one of his current projects. He talked about leaving teaching arts to pursue his passion of wood working.
George Peterson demonstrated his spiral technique and spoke philosophically about how he came to see his markings in wood as not unlike the markings created by nature. He referred to an experience he had with one piece of wood which he had carved around a knot. As he worked on the wood the knot fell out leaving a hole--a mark on the wood which had not created but was now part of his work. This changed how he felt about the marks he WAS making. George said that moment was pivotal in his thinking about his art and that it freed him experiment and led him in new directions.
It is hard to count how many people visited the wood shop on this special day. The group began with about 40 visitors and swelled during the day. Visitors came and went . There were perhaps 100 or so throughout the day.
This was the last day for Jack Larimore and Chris Tyler. Jack returns to Philadelphia and his furniture making. He commented that he could have used more time. Chris felt too that he could have used more time to grasp the intricacies of what is for him a new field. He saw value in the ITE experience in that it gets wood workers talking together, something he sensed was needed in the field. TOP
Please enjoy the pictures below.
|George demonstrates spiral turning. This is the largest piece he ever turned and the lathe must turn slowly to prevent wobbling.|
|Albert LeCoff, Center Director, greets the early birds who await Graemes talk.|
|Above: The day starts with Graeme Priddle addressing the early comers. Later (left) Rolly Munro takes his turn describing his work. (Rolly is in the center.)|
|10-year-old Natty Leach gave his first talk on wood turning and inspired several young turners in the audience.|
|Jacks sculpture. He originally intended to put his sunflower tabletop on this but discovered that he was really creating two pieces. A smaller top was developed.|
|Mike Scott showed honeycomb texturing. Later he demonstrated heavy charring as opposed to light charring on the same piece.|
The last week of ITE is here. This week has been a week of packing, cleaning and letting off a little steam. Monday was photography day. One by one the artists brought their work to be photographed. Meanwhile, shipping crates were being constructed and readied for the final trip to Berman Gallery.
Tuesday was final packing day. Wednesday was moving day. A U-Haul backed up to the woodshop and the pieces were loaded and hauled to Collegeville. In the evening the group went to Center City Philadelphia to view the new headquarters of the Wood Turning Center, still undergoing renovation. A pleasant evening was spent at an nearby Italian restaurant.
I have been spending this last week readying a final gallery web page for each artist.
Saturday is opening night for the exhibit. TOP