My grandfather was a woodworker who made furniture, cabinetry, and occasionally wood turned items. He was extremely friendly, interested in the people around him, and always willing to share his enthusiasm. He passed away when I was young, but my memories often involve toys and contraptions that he made for us out of wood. Because of his influence, I have always had a great deal of respect for woodworking and for the craftsmen and women involved. Shortly after leaning I was going to be a father, I began woodworking myself. I jumped right in and committed to making a crib out of maple and cherry wood using traditional joinery. In a way, I wanted my memories of my grandfather to be the model for how to approach parenting.
My initial experiences of woodworking involved following precise plans, and taking detailed steps over several days. But years ago, I discovered woodturning and it has completely changed my approach. I joined a local woodturning guild and was immediately hooked on the craft. With a gouge in hand and a lathe spinning at 900 rpm, a block of hardwood is transformed in minutes to beautiful work of art. It is freeing to carve through the dense material like clay at a potter's wheel.
My passion for woodturning grew at a feverish pace. I practiced at the lathe constantly, consumed stacks of material from the library, watched hours and hours of woodturning videos, and spent a great deal of time overcoming obstacles to produce a better result. In my first year woodturning, I learned more about wood movement and its properties than I had the previous 5 years of traditional woodworking.
In 2016, I received a grant from the ND Council on the Arts to study as an apprentice with master woodworker Duey Marthaller. We spent many nights discussing form and technique, which expanded my design vocabulary. With intuition, I could feel when things were off. Now, with the vocabulary on curves, weights, or thrust, I can articulate and effectively critique my work. It has opened my eyes to a much deeper understanding of the medium.
It's hard to articulate why this art form means so much to me. It's incredible to see beautiful things sculpted and brought to life from an otherwise unremarkable block of wood. To an unknowing person, the process is almost mystical. At the lathe, I feel a connection with my grandfather; I hope my joy can be shared with others, as he shared his with me.