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Art Beat

July 21, 2005


Wood wizards


HOW DO YOU MAKE A WOODEN BOWL our of a hunk of wood? I got my answer at the recent College of the Redwoods WoodFair at Redwood Acres. Woodturner Jerry Kermode demonstrated just that. The process was fascinating. As a crowd gathered to watch him work his magic, he used his lathe and beveled gouges to begin a bowl, making it look like a dance, talking about letting the bowl come out of the wood rather than the carver controlling the process.

[Wizard's hat made of wood]"Just let it happen," his voice was hypnotic as he described the steps he was taking. There was some Zen philosophy thrown in, as well as relaxing breathing and a gentle touch from a teacher who inspired with his words.

The WoodFair included vendors, demonstrations, wood club booths and an art gallery with numerous bowls and boxes. Among them, many beautiful boxes that let the shape of the wood form them with just the wood grain to decorate them and items made with purple heart wood that actually had a violet hue. Wayne Roe's bowls were so finely turned it seems they might be translucent.

Several furniture makers exhibited custom furniture each with its own special style and beauty. Steve Hanlon of Ferndale collected quite a crowd admiring his magnificent canopy bed, the centerpiece of his display. Inlaid with copper discs and gem-like stones, as well as delicate geometric trim work forming decorative patterns, the bed was an intricate and involved work of art. You could lie in that bed and never run out of things to look at. That bed was an event.

There was a Palco booth with literature about sustainable lumbering. I felt a pang of guilt about my love of wood. It always seems a living breathing entity to me. Once it is harvested and turned into a utilitarian object or a beautiful piece of art, I continue to enjoy its warmth and beauty. Yet a tree is cut down to create this beauty.

I want to believe that new trees are being planted to replace those cut. Throughout the wood fair the woodworkers had commentary about the importance of sustainable forestry and it is a serious issue to those creating from wood. Use of fallen timber and boycotting use of endangered rainforest wood seems a common practice.

A juried gallery exhibition held the WoodFair prizewinners. A wonderful work of whimsy by Myron Leven called "Wizard at Work" was my favorite. A wizard's hat formed out of purple heartwood held several three dimensional balls carved with openings that revealed objects within the balls. A small black gorilla greeted viewers at the entrance. I almost passed it by, but when I noticed the title, "C.E.O.," Rip Kirby's gorilla made me smile. A huge "Sequoia Semper Violin" (Monstrument) by John Wiebe, resembling a violin for a giant also brought a smile. I would have plucked its strings, but there were signs everywhere admonishing, "Look but don't touch". Frustrated, I controlled the urge to reach out.

Each piece in the show had its own appeal. I was personally drawn to the cradle made in the shape of a dory by Jacob Fuller and Trevor Dewell. A photo of Fuller's son who slept in it his first four months, rested in the bottom. Anders Whealdon made a shrine of elegant beauty with an Asian influence for his mother, a lucky woman.

A charming bird flock of six "Little Bee Eaters," beautifully carved and brightly painted were as much fun as going to the pet store and watching the budgies frolic and play. The artist Gloria Dinsmore noted that she saw them on a trip to Botswana. Another viewer commented, "What do you do if you make a mistake? Do you have to start over?" Maybe six birds become five.

The "Best of Show" winner was a "Magic Box" by Annette Koehren, inlaid with a squared pattern that took a tilt in the middle. It appeared to have no entrance, but magnetic catches opened with a brass key, also made by the artist, reveal another tilt, as each side held triangular shelves and one shelf with sides that swung out on a hinge. The box held its own mystery.

Throughout the show, woodworkers in attendance spoke about the creative process of woodworking being a Zen-like experience. The wood speaks to the artist, who serves as a channel for the forms he creates. It also seems that more women are getting involved with the art of wood and I am ready to join their ranks and have my own Zen experience. These woodworkers are having a good time creating their works. I'm ready to start my purple heartwood bowl.


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