Turning Archive 2006

My Summer Vacation-LONG *LINK*

>Hello everyone,

Well as some of you may know, I spent last week at the Appalachian Center for Craft in Smithville, Tennessee. I enrolled earlier in the year for the Graeme Priddle class and was fortunate to get the last spot in the class. I say fortunate because apparently there was a waiting list and now I know why. I have long been intrigued by Graeme’s work and am always drawn to it every time I see it in person
I can think on two occasions where I've had opportunity to bid on them in auctions but never seem to have deep enough pockets. So for me this class was not only to learn some new techniques from him but to also take a class from someone whose work I truly admired. The only other class I've taken was with Mic O'Donnell at Arrowmont in 2001, and while it was a really great class, I wasn't very familiar with his work prior to the class. So for me, this was going to be a chance to learn some great stuff from someone whose work I really loved.

If you haven't heard of the Appalachian Center for Craft it is located between Nashville and Knoxville on I-40. It is a branch of TTU Tennessee Technical University. It sits on 500 acres of some of the most beautiful land I've seen in a long time right in the heart of the Smokey Mountains. It was a fantastic campus, the housing was great, the food was good and the studios were top notch.

All over the grounds were sprinkles of artwork everywhere. In the trees, among the gardens, even imbeded inthe sidewalks. The atmosphere was most conducive to being creative!

The Wood studio is a full blown furniture and lathe operation. The flat borders and turners don't have classes in the same weeks though so you have the run of both shops during your class. The class sizes for turning are limited to 7 students which was really nice. We all turned on the new Powermatic Variable Speed lathes, and were equipped with a full set of tools if you didn't have your own, and all the Oneway gadgetry you need. Chucks, grinder jigs etc.

If I can find one weak spot in the lathe side of the studio it was dust collection. They didn't have dust hoses at each lathe and it really got to be a drag during sanding. I was glad I brought my Trend Air shield. There were a few times when the air was thick with dust. We all made it a point to mention the dust issue in the evaluation sheets we filled out at the end of the week. They really need to address that.

When I got there and checked in Gail, the Craft Center director welcomed me and told me where my room was and told me, that I was in a class of all men this week. I told her that was fine that I was sort of used to it. What I didn't realize is that 4 of the men all knew each other and had made this a summer event every year for the past 4 years. Well as it turned out this was without a doubt the most wonderful group ever assembled for a class or workshop that I have been in.

(from left to right-Charles, Tommy, Sammy, Graeme, Moi, Paul,..these are the 4 banditos that come every year)

(here's the full class-Charles, Bill, Graeme, Moi, Tommy, Paul, Sammy, Michael)

These guys were so fun and had me laughing and busting a gut the entire week. I couldn't have asked for a better group to have taken this class with. Complete gentlemen but just crazy enough to make the week one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had. The other classes were saying all week they wished they had signed up for woodturning because we looked like we were having so much fun. And we were!

One of the things that I feel like I've been struggling with recently is the challenge of finding my own style or signature in my turning. Graeme talked a lot about exercising our minds to discover things within our own lives that we hold dear and are passionate about to incorporate into our work. We did a morning exercise every morning to get our minds going and ping pong ideas onto paper. It's amazing how many design ideas you can come up with within a 5 minute time limit. It was a great exercise that I plan to continue to practice this in order to keep the thought processes going.

Graeme really stressed getting away from the workshop and looking outside the ordinary for design ideas. He mentioned how he spends time at the seashore to find his inspirations and gather ideas to incorporate into his work, and to just refresh his energy. Well to our surprise on the second day he had organized a chance for us to do just that by planning a half day on a pontoon boat at the fantastically beautiful Center Hill Lake right near the Craft Center. This was what he called a "design module", sketchpads and pencil required, and as we found out it was one of the most important parts of the week. To put the icing on the cake John Jordan and his wife Vicki and their daughter Jennifer came along too! How many times do you get to spend a day floating on a pontoon boat with two of the most influential turners talking about woodturning, tools, life, inspirations etc. etc. It was fabulous! It was fantastic to finally meet John. I had met Vicki last year in Kansas but John's and my paths never crossed.

Sammy, Bill, Michael, Vicki, Paul

The lake was incredibly beautiful with several amazing waterfalls and the most awesome sheer limestone rock walls that looked as if a stone mason had stacked them by hand. I think each one of us sketched the stacked rock as an inspiration for future design elements.

One of the neatest things about this day was that all of us in class really got to know each other early in the week and that made the dynamics of the class that much richer.
On the way home we stopped at this overlook to eat the picnic lunch that the dinning hall crew had packed for us. It was a great way to top off our day.

If you ever take a class from Graeme one of the things you'll notice immediately is his willingness to share so many of his techniques and tips and tricks. He showed us how he makes his trademark swirl wood burning brand and emphasized that the swirling symbol was not his own by any means. That it is found in nature and different cultures all over the place. We recognize it as his by the way he uses in his work regularly. One of the things that became clearer to me last week is that when we pluck these tiny symbols and textures and elements out from the bigger picture and use them in our work and incorporate them into our own designs, that is when we'll find our own styles and that's when you own your own work and it becomes recognizable among the crowd. This for me was the most important part of the class. Now if I can just DO that!

Throughout the week our class, as in years past when these guys come to the Craft Center, got the reputation of being the wild class. We would end our shop time relatively late compared to the other classes around 10:30 p.m. or so and then finish up with a late night "adult beverage". On the last night one of the men in our class, Tommy, turned 60 years old. He was without a doubt the campus social butterfly. Tommy was so fun to have around and made everybody laugh. So there was an all campus birthday party for him (I'm certain the staff didn't organized this event!) Attendees came complete with party hats, libations and even some fire stick batons and wastebasket drums! It was a scream. I think everyone got up a little slower Friday morning after that night.

Birthday boy!

On Friday afternoon the Craft Center sets out tables in the Cafe for everyone to show the work they've completed during the week and it was really funny to see the look on some of the other student's faces. Our table was chocked full of some really nice looking work and I think they were shocked to see that we really did do some work during the week and weren't just partying and taking boat rides! As you can see here Graeme looks like a proud papa in front of our work.

So my summer camp is over but I have to tell you this is a week that I will not soon forget. The things I learned about the art and craft of woodturning, the people I met and the rejuvenation I got from being there were well worth the price of admission. I can hardly wait to go back!


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