Turning Archive 2007

Form: Turned and Embellished

Ron in Drums PA
>I think we can all agree that for any embellishment to work you need to start with a good turned form. Without a good canvas, no amount of embellishment will make a turned piece look better.

I had the opportunity to view first hand a piece from three different individuals, Binh Pho, Paul Petrie and Molly Winton. Their work all had a few things in common, one of which was a sense of wonder. When a person views their work, they want to “discover” what is on the form. One can’t help themselves to look closer.

Another commonality among their pieces is a sense of movement. Binh and Paul’s work seemed to flow upwards while Molly’s work gave the impression of circular movement. Movement along with a sense of discovery makes their work exciting and help keeps the viewer involved.

One interesting thing to note is Molly’s and Binh’s work are more alike than Binh’s and Paul’s, even though the later two are both pierced. Molly and Binh took elements from nature while Paul used geometric forms.

At TTS in Albany I had the chance to look view one of Mike Foster’s pieces, I believe it was called “Summer Breeze” (forgive me Mike if I have the name wrong). It was wonderful, it had movement both upward and circular. You could feel the breeze bending over the blades of grass. Very exciting piece and in my opinion the best in the show.

No matter how impeccable the canvas, if the embellishment lacks form, the work is a failure. Read that sentence again. These people understand that embellishments needs form. That is why their art is so successful.

I have seen more than a few pieces where the turner embellishes their turning just for the sake of embellishing. The most common theme seems to be to draw an big ameba somewhere on a turned form then either pierce or burn smaller amebas inside the large one. This theme can work if properly executed. Paul Petrie’s work is one example. He creates tiny free form piercings so small that they are not the first thing you notice. He delineates them within a geometric forms that overlaps, giving an almost floral effect. At first glance his work reminds you of lace or even stained glass.

I’m guessing people use large amebas on their forms because it is quick and easy. Many don’t understand that embellishments need some form of rhythm and reason to work. When we started to turn we would look at other forms to see what was successful and we tried to copy them. The lucky ones understood why different forms worked while others, even after years of turning have yet to produce a good form. We as turners need to study form, turned and embellished. It is something that can be learned and taught. But it is not a quick and easy process, it takes time to develop an eye and then the skills to achieve your goals.

In my opinion, the people I mentioned are the top artists to watch when it comes to embellishing wood turning. This is not to say that there are not others, Andi Wolfe is well established. Ed Kelle, and Jennifer Shirley are the new kids on the block, keep an eye out for their work. I expect great things to come from both.

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