Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jim Christiansen - In his Own Words

      Offering to Narra by Jim Christiansen

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

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