Well, after almost going a whole year without a blog post, here is one to tell you of some exciting news of a great demo coming in December, less than two weeks before Christmas. A group of like-minded woodturners have banded together under the umbrella name of Woodturners Retreat to offer a series of woodturning demos.
In part, this comes out of the retreats for woodturners that Ron Campbell of AZ Carbide has been running in the USA for the last few years - until Covid brought everything crashing to a halt. But don't despair, we can meet virtually, as many of us have been doing since lockdowns began.
The demo will be on Saturday, December 12th, and will be run on the Zoom platform, bringing together turners from Canada, the UK and the USA. As well as being able to watch 6 demonstrators, there'll be break-out rooms for woodturning talk, show-and-tell, and the thing we've all missed from meeting in person at clubs and shows - just getting together to chat. We hope that many of you will be able to join us.
The other demonstrators are Kade Bolger from Canada, who'll be demonstrating the feared skew; Jeff Hornung from the USA, who will be showcasing his skills with a square platter; Chris Parker from the UK, showing fluting and embellishing; Tod Raines from the USA, demonstrating weed or bud vases; Joanne Sauvageau from Canada, who will be showing ways of decorating wood turning with stamps and inks. It won't be a surprise to anyone that I'll be showing some colouring techniques with paint after turning a platter!
To attract an audience from around th world, it will run from 5pm until 1am GMT. We want to be able to have time to talk with anyone, as we would be able to do at a show, rather than just being on screen for our demos only. So buying a ticket for this event not only covers the demos, but also the chance to talk to the demonstrators and turners from around the world. We're all excited to be taking part and hope to see as many of you there as possible.
Tickets will be available from the website soon. Feel free to ask any questions and check out our Facebook page for more details about the event as well as a way of getting in touch with us. If you haven't like the page yet, what are you waiting for?
I look forward to chatting to many of you at the event - even if you want to try to persuade me to stick with round and brown!
I still take far too much stuff with me to demos, but I figure it's best not to run out of things to do! Rather than show how to make a platter from start to finish, I focused on different colouring ideas and probably revealed too much about the lack of artistic skill needed in some of the processes - after all, there's not much that is daunting about dabbing some stain on with a bit of kitchen roll. Colour choice is obviously important though, so there was the opportunity to deliberately demonstrate some colours that shouldn't really be put with each other. I should have listened to Sheila!
The best part of the demo was speaking to people afterwards who felt ready to take the plunge and to have a go - I hope any of you this applies to have fun and send me some pictures of what you make. Feel free to get in touch if you have anymore questions.
The barbecue on the Saturday night was very well attended - and as well as great food, there was great entertainment from a string quartet, a magician and a musical comic duo. If you dig deep enough on the web you might find Terry's pole dancing move and a very dodgy recording of 'The Woodturner's Song' performed by Andrew Hall and others in various stages of alcoholic excitement.
I loved watching the other demos and learnt a lot from all of them - so thank you to Phil, Gary and Pat. Pat was standing in for Emma Cook, the Tiny Turner, who was unfortunately unable to attend the weekend. I hope she can make the next one. While there were pauses in the main demonstrations, it was great to talk to people running the 'clinics' - various woodturning clubs and also the AWGB, who had some of their travelling exhibition with them and copies of the Ray Key tribute book of his part-turned blanks finished by over a hundred turners from all over the world.
Finally, a huge thank you (again) to Terry and everybody at Chestnut Products.
STOP PRESS...dates for next year have just been posted...Yippee!!
I've just about unpacked from my busiest week of demos yet - on Thursday I was in Oxford and on Friday in Mytchett, Surrey. There is a distinct lack of visual evidence to prove I was there - I think I need to take a photographer along with me. I did get one shot of some of the audience settling down for the Friday night demo, which was to about 80 people. I wouldn't normally have done two back-to-back demos in a school week (yep, the day job is still going!) but I had thought it was in the school's Activity Week when the bookings were made last year...ahem....in fact, this week is Activity Week, so I managed to lumber myself with a day at school followed by a drive to Oxford for an evening demo starting at 7.30. I made it in time and had a great evening with plenty of complimentary comments. Then there was the drive home back to Brighton. Excitement and adrenaline are great stimulants, and I felt great when I got home just after midnight. However, I didn't feel that great on Friday morning! And after another day at school, there was a drive to Mytchett...this one was not so far away: only two and bit hours instead of the three and a bit hours to Oxford. And I was pretty whacked by the time I got there. The Surrey Association of Woodturners have a great set-up - and a large hall for their meetings. I have to confess to feeling a bit foolish before it started and wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew with the demos right next to each other. I needn't have worried...the adrenaline kicked in all right and I had another great evening. It was probably the best demo I've done, all modesty cast aside!
I started by asking how many of the audience coloured their work. A fair few hands went up. When the question, 'Who hasn't, doesn't and won't ever colour wood?' was asked, only two hands went up. I had to thank them for coming and invited them to heckle as much as they wanted - if they did, I didn't hear them!
So, when it goes past the point you aren't happy with, take it off and start again.
Another concern I hear is about 'ruining the piece of wood'. I understand this, especially if you've spent upwards of £12 on a twelve by two inch beech blank. But I think we could be a bit less precious about our wood if we want to improve any of our skills. When I started turning, there was almost an obsession about making something from each piece of wood. It felt like failure if there wasn't an end result. It was as if success could only be measured by having something to take indoors to the family, who no doubt were waiting with bated breath to see what glorious creation would emerge, who would then be amazed and in awe of my talents. I'm pretty sure this isn't something only I felt. But now I see most pieces of wood I put on the lathe not as a finished item waiting to be revealed, but a piece of wood to continue developing ideas on and to try out new things. There are some pieces of wood I put on my lathe with absolutely no intention of them ever being something finished. I learn far more from trying out things that go wrong, or that go too far (apparently, you can put on too much colour!) than I do from another finished item. In a two inch thick blank, there are many colouring opportunities as you turn the blank into its finished shape - flatten off the back and try out some colouring, learn something from doing this, and then turn it off as you start shaping the back. Try out another colouring idea, and then turn some more off. By the time you've got the back shaped, you could have tried out at least half a dozen different ideas (and not ruined your wood). You can do the same on the face side. Many of my finished platters have in fact had a fair few experiments with colour tried out on them. And if you hate all of the attempts, no one will ever know you've tried them out unless you tell them.
I used this technique at the end of each of the demos as it's quick to do and means some audience participation as I get several members of the audience to shake my cans of paint (not a euphemism!) I was asked at the Surrey meeting where I got this idea from and I answered it honestly - I pinched it from someone else! There are many videos available showing the work of street artists who create amazing space scenes with spray cans. They tend to use a couple of colours - I use five; so although I've pinched the idea, I've tried to make it my own. And for one member of the audience on Friday, this was the moment that the colouring light bulb lit up for him - all the other things I'd done hadn't done it for him, but he loved this idea and told me so at the end of the demo. These are the moments that I do demos and videos for: someone seeing something they want to have a go at, or seeing how they could adapt an idea and try something new.
I had started the Friday demo feeling tired and a bit apprehensive; I ended it buzzing - not because I thought I'd done a good demo, but because there were so many appreciative comments at the end. And that's where I'd like to end this blog - thanking all the turners who spoke to me at the end of the demos. I hope that some of them will end up with paint and stain on their hands, even on their turning smocks, but definitely on a piece of wood!
I've just finished the most exciting few days of my woodturning life so far - the British Woodturner of the Year competition (I didn't win...) and Makers Central 2019.
Well, it's been far too long since the last blog post, that's for sure! But I haven't been sitting around idly. Honest! This weekend saw the start of the Artists Open Houses as part of this year's Brighton Festival. And it was the Open Houses that got me onto the internet with my website and YouTube videos just over two years ago. And it's been fun ever since - especially getting the opportunity to go to other woodturning clubs and demonstrate some of my colouring ideas.
In the last two years, this wonderful activity has also taken me to UKIWS 2018 to demonstrate, and this year to Makers Central (next weekend - gulp!), and later this year to Chestnut Products Woodturning Weekender. And on Thursday this week, I'll be in London at the Oxo Gallery for the British Woodturner of the Year competition as part of the Celebrating British Craft Exhibition. It's been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest.
I hope to see lots of you at both Makers Central and the Woodturning Weekender - don't be shy: come and say hello as I don't bite (well, not often!)
My latest video is currently exporting as I type this and I'm really pleased with this one, though it might not appeal to everyone. This is one of the shallow bowls I've made that had more meaning for me behind the decorative element. It was an idea that was floating around in my mind for some time - connecting lines in a haphazard pattern with circles of colour at the intersections. As with lots of the decoration I've added, I didn't want a solid block of colour, rather a build up of different layers and shapes. On this bowl, this idea worked well for me. I see the lines as connecting and joining and linking up and the circles as the points of joining with a depth to the colours and I hope a sense of light coming through. In the video I came up with all sorts of pretentious ideas for names until my wife said 'Dreamscape', which I've gone with. I like it a lot. For her, it suggested something of the visions seen in a shamanic experience. On a more prosaic level, but for me no less beautiful, is the suggestion of sunlight through leaves. My daughter says it reminds her of bokeh patterns in photography. So, at least three different responses there - let me know if you have a different one!
Although it's taken me a couple of weeks to write about this (a serious bout of real man flu has laid me low for most of this month), December started with a wonderful weekend under the expert eyes of Les Thorne and Nick Agar. I can't praise their skill and expertise enough, or their generosity with sharing their advice and encouragement. The weekend was one of the AWGB's workshop sessions, several of which are arranged throughout the year. More on this later.
This workshop was on Creative Box making. You can see some of the results in the picture above - as you can also see, Nick and Les were still smiling at the end of the weekend! We were a group of 12 who were lucky enough to get on this course. The course was held at the Max Carey Woodturning Trust. This is a fantastic training facility, fully equipped to easily cater with our group size. There were even lathes to spare. The Trust run a number of courses and are held in very high regard for the work they do in promoting woodturning.
Both Les and Nick offer courses themselves, and you can find details of these on their respective websites.
Each day started with Les demonstrating the skills needed to turn a variety of different shaped boxes. If you've seen Les demonstrate, you'll know that not only does he bring a lot of humour into his demos, his explanations of technique and skills are clear and precise. Such clarity and precision really helped me improve my box-making. Later in the day, Nick then showed a range of ideas for how to texture, colour and decorate our boxes. Nick's level of expertise and talent needs no comment - if you've seen examples of his work, it is impossible not to be impressed with his use of colour and texture. Great teachers inspire and enthuse - and this is exactly what Nick and Les did. I just wish I hadn't been struck down with illness immediately afterwards, as I was desperate to get into my workshop when I got home. Still, Christmas holidays are coming, and workshop time is getting closer.
I tried a couple of ideas that Nick demonstrated for the boxes I made. My first effort needed a bit more work on the colouring and my knob was too small, but I was happier with my second one. While neither box is yet finished (that annoying man flu again), they will be finished off soon. I'm pretty sure that the next few boxes I make will of course be influenced by what I learnt on the course, and I'd like to acknowledge the part the Les and Nick have played in setting me off down this course. There is a generosity in the woodturning world about sharing ideas, but there has to also be a recognition of those who have influenced us, even if we end up making something quite different by the time we get further down our making path. So, Les and Nick, thank you for a fantastic weekend - and thank you for the way your teaching and encouragement will help shape the future direction of my woodturning.
As I said at the start, the weekend was one of the workshops offered by the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain. I only joined this year, and wish I'd done so when I started woodturning. Many woodturning clubs are associate members of the AWGB, but an individual membership gives you the chance to enjoy a range of benefits. I highly recommend becoming a member - who knows, it could be you on the next course Nick and Les offer!
...but this time, I got in to the shed! In fact, I got into two sheds, as I visited a friend from one of my woodturning clubs on Saturday morning and spent a couple of hours going through some airbrushing techniques. It was a very well organised shed as well - having everything needed for turning and colouring. I don't know how many of us get to spend time to fellow turners, but it should definitely be encouraged.
My own shed time came today, when, inspired by my texturing techniques video, I finally got round to my first completely useless piece of textured and coloured work. There was definitely a plan in mind, and some of it was realised. Alas, some of it fell a bit short of my imaginings...need to get the skill set improved. And how do you that? In the words of the huge multi-national corporation...you just do it. So I did. Well, nearly...or not so nearly, depending on how critical your critical eye is. Suffice it to say, I'm calling it naive art (some of you might go for primitive; some for childish!) Still, it was a very valuable learning experience. I'm not sure if it's true, and I can't actually be bothered to work out the maths, but I have heard you need 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery of a skill or craft, or mistressery or whatever the gender neutral term of choice might be. So I still have many thousands of hours to go.
I've called it Sand Sea Sun - not very original, and it's very far from an original idea, but it did allow me to do a number of different textures and use most of my spirit stain colours!
Well, it's Saturday night and I should really be doing some marking...but instead I've been playing around with Adobe Spark learning how to use it to make short videos and social posts. My latest YouTube video is up and running - here's a taster for next week's!
Well, last night, I 'volunteered' to do the club demo at South Downs Woodturners - thanks, Jim for volunteering me! I hope those who saw it enjoyed it. I know I did. As I had already done a demo last summer on a wide range of colouring techniques, this time I focused more on making a complete platter, though I promised there would be no sanding as it creates too much dust and no lacquer was applied as there wasn't time for it to dry. It was also very flattering to be told by Barrie Fitch that I had done some proper turning for a small oak hollow form which ended up 'round and brown'...there'll be a video of this coming up soon.
Demoing at your own club is a great way to take your turning a bit further. Yes, there is some banter, but it's good natured and amusing, rather than cutting and scathing. And the atmosphere is supportive - especially helpful when you find out your mini-compressor has given up the ghost and your carefully timed plan to include airbrushing needs to be adapted on the hoof! Talking and turning can be tricky, though.
I nearly completed two platters - one turned on the night, showing how I shape the back and include a shallow recess for the chuck. I keep the recess on the finished platter, but it's only a couple of millimetres deep and I disguise it with texturing and round over the sharp edge of the dovetail. I then started working on the front: truing the face, texturing with a Proxxon, spraying with ebonising lacquer - and all this completed in time for tea and the raffle. In the second half of the demo I painted over the textured area with gold acrylic paint mixed with Kleister medium which gives the paint some transparency. Then, despite my promise not to do any sanding, I sanded off the high spots of the texture and then wiped on several coats of red spirit stain from Chestnut Products. To complete the platter I still need to lacquer the rim (and probably redo some of the black on the very edge) and then turn out the centre. You can see the progress so far in the pictures below. It has to be said, that the lacquer will add a lot to the quality of the finish.
A second blank was then put on the lathe - I had already turned the back, coloured the edge of the rim with black spirit stain, and added most of the texture with a carbide cutter in a Dremel flexi-shaft. If watching paint dry can be rather boring, watching someone texture a whole rim like this can only compound that boredom! So I only had about an inch of the rim left to texture and then it was time to airbrush it. This was when my compressor decided it didn't want to play nicely - thank goodness for Chestnut's diffusers which meant I could blow stain onto the rim (remember not to breathe in when using these...)
The other exciting news this week, is that I'll be taking part in next year's Brighton Festival again. Friends who had an Open House last year have decided to have one again next year. Look out for more information about this between now and May next year. There'll be an opportunity to see a range of artists' work in the house - after you've bought one of my platters of course!
Sometimes, the idea in the head and the realisation of it in the wood doesn't quite come off....and this is certainly the case with this week's video...
I'm not too keen on it; though I do like the individual elements, the overall look leaves me underwhelmed. However, the videos I make are almost all first efforts at something, so in keeping with this, I decided I would post this on YouTube anyway. I will be having another go but I hope it will come out much better than this one did. It says something if people prefer the back of it to the front!
The blues are my favourite part. I do like the yellow textured section, but they don't work very well as a bowl - partly because the design is too messy and not well-executed. Partly because the edge of the bowl is broken up by the texturing. If I had thought about it a bit more, it might not have been a bowl at all, but I've not made any 'art' pieces purely for display....yet. This could be the direction to go with this technique, but I think I'd need to up my artistic skills to pull something like this off. Oddly, I did think it would have been better without any colour - but that was only a passing thought!
Still, it has had some encouraging comments and as I make the videos to share ideas and hopefully prompt others to have a go, my efforts weren't entirely wasted. It was also reassuring to see that it got a thumbs down from someone - most of my videos do get one thumb down...I'm beginning to wonder if it's the same person??
Well enough speculating about that - I need to get ready for a club demo night on Thursday next week and get some practice done in the shed ready for it. It won't be a mutant starfish fossil platter!
Keeping sane and finding creative expression in a piece of spinning wood