Monday, June 14, 2010

Virtual Shop Visit with Jennifer Schwarz

Jennifer is a talented woodworker who blends art, sculpture and fine craft in her work. Here is a little about her in her own words.

I work in a studio on my land on the Big Island of Hawaii. When I moved here, I bought raw land, had some of it cleared, and built my wood studio and a small sleeping cabin. I can see the ocean from my place, and incredible sunsets. It takes me about an hour to drive to the nearest real town.
My schedule varies depending on what I am working on. Since I am still actively building my place, I split my time between construction and fine woodworking. I have also been playing with dying silk scarves.
I brought quite a lot of wood with me when I moved here. Most clients in Hawaii want local hardwoods. The best source for the local woods is  small mills. I was lucky enough to get introductions to the owners of two very good mills, and can buy directly from them. 
 I love to have a lot of space to work in. The studio I built has 1200 square feet of workspace. There is an additional office, bathroom and storage room on the building. Unfortunately I have the tool lust common to most woodworkers.I have  beautiful equipment. Of course it would be lovely to have more! It is a challenge here to keep the machines from rusting. I do regular maintenance of the machine beds, and also keep them covered with canvas drop clothes when not in use. This is a tip I got from a boat builder friend. 
  When I am designing a piece, I start with some small "thumbnail sketches". Then I draw the piece full size. This usually takes place in the shop because of the space demand. I actually love the completion of pieces... that moment when you see your imagined piece come to fruition in three dimensions. 
I am just beginning the discussion of several possible pieces with a new client. I will probably use Koa for all of the pieces... I am awaiting a call about dimensions so that I can come up with the thumbnail sketches. 
Q & A

What is your favorite wood to work with and why?
I fall in love with every wood as I use it. Some woods are just so pleasant to use.... with even grain and dependable stability such as Honduras Mahogany. Other woods have fabulous grain patterns with color and sheen that is extraordinary like western walnut, and Curly Koa. Other woods smell wonderful as you saw and machine them... such as cherry and walnut. Each wood has its own beauty and characteristics that make it unique and wonderful.
Do you have a favorite tree?
I love the big old trees.... giant cedars and firs in the northwest, giant Koas and Ohia's here in Hawai'i.
What piece have you created from wood are you most proud of and why?
This bench was commissioned by a woman for her husband, an avid fisherman. She wanted a bench that had carved fish and a feeling suggestive of  water. Technically this piece was very challenging. I wanted the wave pattern of the back rest to be exact. I needed to make a jig that had perfect sections of arcs so there would be a perfect spacing to the repeating waves. After carving the fish, I needed a way to connect them to each other and the bench that would hold up through the years....My client and I were equally pleased with the results! It is a showpiece as you enter their home.

What was the hardest piece you ever made from wood and why?
This piece was challenging in many respects. It is the "Gift Table" for a church in western Washington. Liturgical work involves working with a committee of volunteers to identify the congregation's needs, and then coming up with a design to fit. The design must fit the very personal spiritual needs of literally hundreds of people. This particular table was to include a piece of round stained glass that was made with drawings done by the elementary school classes. The glass needed to be sandwiched between, but not touching, two layers of clear glass. The table itself was to be octagonal to match the other Altar pieces. It stretched me in my ability for interpersonal communication, as well as woodworking skills, and there was a short turn around time on its construction!

Do you prefer working for clients, or doing "spec" pieces?
I like to make  a mix of custom pieces made specifically for a client, and "spec" pieces that I make and then see who falls in love with them. In both instances, it is seeing my work in my client's home, office or place of worship that allows for the final sense of completion that, as an artist, I truly value.
To see more of Jennifer's work, please visit her gallery

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Q & A with John McAbery

John is a talented wood sculptor living on the rugged coast of Northern California. We asked him a few questions about his work.

What is your favorite wood to work with and why?
California Bay Laurel (it masquerades as Myrtle in Oregon) is my favorite wood to work with because it has an interlocking grain which makes it possible to create very thin pieces.  The wood has strong grain definition and has a variety of colors.
Do you have a favorite tree?
I'd have to say that Madrone (Arbutus in your neighborhood) is my favorite tree.  I'd love to work with it but it checks violently when it is cut into.  I did manage to create one sculpture out of it and a couple of spoons, but most of my attempts to work with it have ended up in the wood stove.
What piece have you created from wood are you most proud of and why? What was the hardest piece you ever made from wood?
My sculpture titled "Whelk" on the Previuos Works page of my website is the piece that I most proud of because It was radically different from anything I had done before and probably the most difficult piece I ever attempted. When I started it, I was almost positive that I would never complete it, but it came out perfectly.
Where do you get your inspiration and ideas?
From my enviroment.  "The coast is alive, full of magic, music and motion.  Some of that is bound to show up in my work."
More of John's work can be seen in his gallery-