Craft Nova Scotia has created a series of interviews with the Makers featured in “Life’s Work – Conversations with Makers”, produced and directed by Breakwater Studios. This interview is #2 in the series, broadcast March 1, 2021 and features Crystal Garrett talking to myself about the effect the documentary had on me and the direction my creative life has taken since the film came out. The film is 37 minutes in length and can be played full screen. I hope you enjoy it. – Steven
In a time when I was travelling and giving classes and demonstrations around the world, I worked on blackwood boxes to show techniques to my students. There was never enough time to complete a box and so the partly finished pieces would join others in my workshop when I returned from my tours. This year there has been no travelling and no teaching and I decided to work on these originally ‘demo’ boxes, to give them a life and purpose beyond the original. I incorporated new texturing, including a light red ink wash and appropriate inlays and really have enjoyed the creative process in doing this. The colour addition to the texturing gives a warm feeling and added perception of depth to the decorated surface.
A new spinning top made for a collector in the UK. This one is African blackwood, thuya root burl (from that huge burl from this post) and tagua nut finial. Further details are in the photos below. Clicking on the images below will open the photo gallery of my Turned Art where you can see them in full screen mode.
When you see a beautiful box like the one pictured above, have you ever wondered what the piece of raw wood it was made from first looked like when it arrived in my studio?
The trees that produce these burls are quite small and grow exclusively in the Atlas mountains of Morrocco in almost inaccessible regions. The wood has also been called Thyine (and is mentioned as such in the Bible in Revelation 18:12). It is also known as Citron burl. These burls have to be transported down the mountainsides to the lowlands by donkeys or mules as there are no access roads. They grow, not on the trunk of the tree as we often see in the woods around us, but on the root systems, very much like a potato, underground. Many of the root burls have been hidden there for very long periods of time as the trees disappeared up to 100 years ago and the roots remained buried. As a result of the dry climate and the resinous qualities of the burl, they remain perfectly preserved, to be discovered and excavated many years later. Because the tree has been gone for so long, it can be challenging to know where the roots and the burls might be.
Where to make that first cut?
I’ve been eyeing this burl up for a long time, hoping it wouldn’t sell, so finally I took courage and brought it home! Next comes the scary bit – where do I make that first cut? It’s important to maximise the wood that will be available to work with and it’s not possible to see the intensity of the figuring until the first cut has been made. There also was a hole on the side that penetrated the burl quite deeply and it was impossible to predict the direction and depth of this flaw.
After seeing my original post on social media about this purchase my neighbour, film-maker Kimberly Smith, was extremely curious and offered to record the moment of the first cut to reveal the beauty in the video you see below. Many thanks to Kim!
And here is the burl open for us to see the beauty inside!
And a closeup of the cut surface of this burl.
From here the hard work begins, to fashion the box you see above from smaller pieces cut out of this block. I also use this wood as accents, inlay and to line the interior of some of my boxes. Because this wood is so rare and precious, I prefer to use it for these, as it pains me to lose so much in the shavings and sawdust that result from a finished box.
This is a brief end of year message to let everyone know that I have gift certificates available for one on one wood turning tuition with me, should anyone wish to give the gift of learning! More information on the courses is on the Tuition page on this site. https://stevenkennard.com/blog/tuition
Also, I am letting prospective students know that the price of courses will be increasing starting January 1, 2020, from $325 per day (plus tax) to $350 (plus materials). Any courses booked before the end of December, 2019, to be held during 2020 will qualify for the 2019 price.
I was commissioned to remake my “Hat in a Box” as the original is in my own collection and not for sale. It was originally made it 2004 and this revisiting of the process was interesting as I had to work out again how to make it. Here Ellie took a photo of me shaping the tops of the legs in the final stages.
Below you see the photograph of the finished box.
Ellie made a post about her photograph which you can find here: https://www.elliekennard.ca/fine-detail/
I am remaking one of my older boxes – the “Birthing Box” and these two photos show me turning one of the ‘pearls’ from Tagua nut, a vegetable substitute for ivory. The first photo in the gallery linked below shows an older “Birthing” box made for another collector a few years ago. You can click to view enlarged. The interior of the box contains loose tagua nut pearls.view the full turned boxes collection
World renowned artist wood turner Hans Weissflog stands behind the case of his work as shown by Del Mano Gallery, in SOFA, Chicago, 2008.
Creativity is fed and nourished by the things around us and our experiences. Some of those are visual, some are more visceral. For all of us our ability to create is fed by those things. Photography (making photographs) compels me to be observant of my surroundings and my environment in a broad sense and in a more focused sense in the details. I believe our brains have the capacity to record everything that we see and the subconscious memory of that is often visible in the things we subsequently create ourselves. This can be seen in forms, surface textures or colour, for example.
Composing images requires a careful balancing of elements – what is to be excluded, what included and how these elements are placed within the frame – to create the visual harmony along what, in photography is a two dimensional plane. Three dimensional works whether turned items, sculpture or even furniture all need to have the same consideration applied to achieve successful results. For me, the creating of images and the creating of three dimensional works are interrelated and connected and often this relationship can be seen in my work. Sometimes this connection is clear, at other times more subtle.
We need to keep feeding our brains and imaginations using the elements that are available to us wherever we might be.
Original Post November 21, 2011:
Symphony Nova Scotia had an annual fundraiser and asked Nova Scotia artists to create something using some of their old and unusable musical instruments. I got this wonderful French horn (which I still managed to play as you can see if you look closely at the photograph below) and made a series of photographs of it.
Imagine the music this instrument provided for so many people for years and the pleasure that it gave to those who played it.