Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Like many others who have become serious woodturners later in life, I had my first exposure to the lathe in high school shop class. I completed two projects, a walnut bowl turned with very dull scrapers and a gate leg table that was mostly shaped with sandpaper. While these projects were challenging at the time and turned without any finesse or skill. The most important thing I learned was an appreciation and love for wood.
My life has been quite varied. After military service I moved from being a teacher to a professor to consultant to school administrator. There was always lots to do to keep my type-A tendencies at bay. It seems, however, that I have always spent a lot of energy in a search for meaning and purpose. My thoughts frequently focused on the how and why of design. I developed a deep admiration for those who created objects of beauty. Without realizing it, I was setting the stage to make another big change in my life.
On a whim, I purchased and restored an old Oliver lathe. At over 800 pounds and running on a leather belt, this lathe turned out to be a very competent machine for a beginning woodturner. I began where I had left off thirty years before—dull tools and literally sanding the work into submission. Then a fortunate event took place; I attended a Utah Turning Symposium. There I was exposed to the work of turners such as John Jordan, Michael Hosaluk and Hans Weissflog. I remember having a very intense emotional reaction to the beauty of the creations I was seeing for the very first time. I recall a level of excitement and wonder that I could not explain. I knew from that day that I wanted to create work of that caliber.
A chance meeting with another person who shared my fascination and interest in woodturning led me to discover the value of collaboration and sharing. Later I met others who were seeking to learn new skills. This led to an acceleration of my learning and to the opportunity to develop deep and satisfying friendships. I learned that the turning community has strong traditions based on sharing and friendship. There is a very obvious network that has led to the rapid evolution of woodturning as an art form.
Hollow Vessel with Carved Figures by Jim Christiansen
My personal work has largely reflected my deeper feelings about the mysteries of life. I am constantly experimenting with new ideas only to move on to something else when the spirit moves me. I have been fortunate enough to have my work included in many national and some international exhibitions. It has been featured in several books as well as in a number of periodicals. I have published articles on critique and design, and I have had the opportunity to travel widely teaching others about critique and design. I have also curated two major woodturning exhibitions with Gerrit Van Ness. I spend a lot of time sharing my studio with anyone who expresses an interest in becoming a wood artist.
Woodturning is a very large movement. I feel I am fortunate to be a part of it all. I am pleased to have a continued association with a large number of very dedicated wood artists. They will help us shape the future and provide excitement and meaning to the lives of many men and women who will follow. We are limited only by our imagination.
More work by wood turner and sculptor Jim Christiansen can be seen in his gallery
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
1. What is your favorite wood to work with and why?
Pacific yew, Taxus Brevifolia, because it is rare to find in a decent size to work with. But once found and turned it produces beautiful pieces with almost no need for a finish. The tree has healing properties as described on the National Forest Service website: “Pacific yew is again being used for medicinal purposes. In the late 1960's, taxol-a complex compound extracted from yew bark-was identified as a possible anticancer agent (18,48). The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has found taxol to be one of the most promising of more than 120,000 plant compounds tested for anticancer properties. Taxol appears to be effective against a wide range of tumors, and good responses have been obtained in the treatment of refractory ovarian cancer (9,38)”.
2. Do you have a favorite tree?
The beauty and mystery of Madrone, Arbutus menziesii, is unique. It has deciduous looking leaves but is an evergreen. Its bark is smooth like it has already been stripped. The bark sheds like a molting animal. The wood is pink when freshly cut. Turning it very thin when green produces wonderfully warped forms. In order to create a, uniform shaped bowl, the rough turning must be boiled to avoid the cracks that usually tear an unboiled rough turning apart.
3. What piece have you created from wood are you most proud of and why?
Spalted translucent Monkey Puzzle, Araucaria araucana, bowls take a lot of work but the end result is gorgeous. The pieces are turned end-grain very thin, sanded thinner and then soaked over and over in a concoction of boiled linseed oil, varnish and mineral spirits.
4. What was the hardest piece you ever made from wood and why?
I turned a tree’s fork in end grain orientation once, and only once. I wanted to make a bowl with a rabbit ears look. The spinning ‘ears’ were like a boring machine trying to bore a hole through me. The finished ‘object’ wasn’t what I thought it would be and I abandoned further attempts.
5. Is there a question we didn't ask that you would like to answer?
The ‘addiction’ of turning includes the thrill at getting a phone call from someone with a downed tree; traveling to see the wood, seeing promising blanks in the log, cutting it up with a chainsaw and harvesting the promising blanks, the journey back to the studio with the new found treasures, the roughing to discover the grain orientation and form, waiting for the rough blank to dry, final turning, sanding and finishing the bowl, the approval from a buyer who appreciates the bowl for the beauty of the wood and what became of the tree after the phone call.
To see more of Roger's work, visit his gallery
Jim also curated the book
Masters: Woodturning Major Works By Leading Artists
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
A wonderful article about Fine Wood Artists member Andrew Pitts has been published in WoodShop News April 2010 edition, you can read about it on his website here (.pdf document)
And see more of Andrew's work in his gallery here