What are your influences?

This is one of the common questions I’m asked in the gallery…well, that and, “can you tell me how to get to Ride & Drive, please?” But that’s another story. And another pastime. And also a very good tack shop…(do I get a discount now?)…

So…it’s a common question. And it’s also one I’m at a loss to answer fully and honestly. In truth I don’t know where or what they are. At least not specifically. For some reason I’m often asked if they are Aboriginal or African, and I suppose in some subconscious manner they might well be.

I often wonder what the point of the question is. If I were able to answer in the affirmative would this help the enquirer? Would it enable an enquiring woodturner, for instance, to go away, immerse his or herself in the art and culture of say ,Africa, and in so doing provide them with influences and inspirations? So why not just go away and do it anyway? Why ask? If that’s what you see/feel, then surely that should be enough?

I think that in the main, most turners have a myriad of influences. Everything you’ve ever read, seen, touched, watched or owned can have a place in your reference stock, and probably many sources are used within any given piece of work.

For turners lacking the spark of inspiration there are many internet websites devoted to developing sources of inspiration, and to flexing you inspiration muscles. A google search should result in a long, long list. Another option is to read widely in other craft and art areas, use your eyes (and camera to record what they see), and look closer at objects which appeal to you to ascertain what it is you like about them, and use what you find in your work. A diary of inspirations, ideas, snippets Etc. is a good idea, and will bolster you when you have those days where inspiration seems as far away as a just society.

But despite all this proposed effort, you will still have days when all you think to turn is a light pull. And sometimes even then you won’t be able to decide upon a shape!

Not a bad day or two…

I’ve had a good couple of days in the workshop. I spent yesterday doing a photo project…well two actually, but in one…and it was a pain doing the camera work and the turning Etc. But fun. And then today I had a student who was a delight to tutor. So not a bad few days all told. Even had a few real customers with sensible questions, interesting comments, and insightful opinions. Oh joy! The world isn’t just full of gligmaglogs.

And the other day (worrying moment! I can’t remember when!!!!) I had a visit from John from Peterborough Village Turners, which was nice because I’ve only “known” him from the forum. And then just after he left a turner from New Zealand. Boy these turners get about!

Turn East…

Turn East was a roaring sucess. Four demonstrators, over one hundred delegates, a group of busy organisers, and enough food to sink a ship. Everyone seemed to have a great day, and I didn’t hear a single negative word all day.

The presenters all gave great demonstrations, and kept the delegates happy. There was a well supported Instant Gallery which drew the crowds thoughout the day. It was nice to have close-up views of work by the four presenters: Jean-Francois Escoulen from France (who was amazing), Phil Irons (who was…well…Phil Irons), Stuart King (who was a crowd puller as usual), and last but…you know what I mean…Joey Richardson who worked at a bench all day with a room full of people eating up every word and action. If you missed it…you missed it!

Two days of…

What started off as a simple task, make some room for a new workbench, has ended up as a two day marathon clean and re-arrange. It was overdue anyway, so maybe no bad thing. But what a task! You wouldn’t believe shavings could get in some of the places I found them. Or maybe you would if you’ve seen my workshop.

One of the main problems is always the wood. Wood in the plank, blank, log, and “it’ll-come-in-useful-one-day” pieces. Shavings have an affinity for piles of wood, almost if if they think they can be re-constituted by close proximity, and quickly fill up the voids. Well not any more. They’ve been banished.

I also took the hard line with the wood stock and filled an escort van with the saved off-cuts alone! They will now be far more useful as winter fuel for a young couple in a solid-fuel limited home. Another pile is now awaiting the Boy Scouts who will use it for camp fires during away weekends. Who knew the scouts took their own wood for the fire? Where are they taking them? And do they also have to take their own twigs to rub together?

So today I had a job lot of mundane items to turn, and did so in the cleaner environment, with the lathe in a new position, and the extraction on for most of the time. I’ll continue this practice and see what a difference it makes.

Tomorrow I’m off the Turn East to report on the day. It promises to be an even better seminar than the last, which, frankly, will take some doing. Turn East is organised by the Norfolk WTC, and is increasingly popular. In fact, they could have sold a bucket full of extra tickets if space allowed. Maybe it is time for a larger East of England woodturning seminar? Opinions on the bottom of a bowl blank please.

So the next update should be a good one. Until then, happy and safe turning.

And on a final and cryptic note…best wishes to a Suffolk turner who has recently had an unexpected health scare. Take care and get well soon.

New Etsy Shop…

I thought I’d give Etsy a try after a long time thinking about it. What’s to lose?

I’m not sure how real this apparent online eagerness to buy “handmade” is. It could just be a ploy of the site builders. If it is, then they’ve done a good job in convincing any number of people. Anyway, I’ve opened a cobwebcrafts shop on Etsy. Curiously I was added as someone’s favourite after about 5 mins! How does that happen? I’ll keep you posted.

Buy Handmade

A day off…

During the school holidays it has become the norm for me to take Monday off. And just recently I’ve been glad of the break. (see previous posts!) Last Monday we spent the day touring around the north Norfolk coastal towns. Nice scenery, nice villages, great fresh produce available at the roadside beside peoples’ cottages. But otherwise it was a depressing day. Clay Next The Sea is a lovely seaside town which is spoiled by a mile long street of shops filled, mostly, with imported *rap. You could buy just about anything you wanted in any colour of plastic, and in the main, for just a pound or two! What an attraction!

But Clay does have a superb deli, a famous restraunt, and some lovley old cottages and buildings. And the beach is so far away you can take a scenic small-scale railway to it for a few pounds. Otherwise, I’ll not be rushing back unless it’s out-of-season.

One thing Norfolk does have in trumps, is great wide  and sandy beaches, which are often empty and beautiful at sunset.

Further down the Norfolk coast, nearly home, is Gorleston. Not a great sounding name, I grant you, but a place that time and trends has tried to destroy, but the locals seem to made efforts to save. It’s a lovely old-fashioned sea-side town, and whilst it does have the trappings of a Blackpool underdog in miniature, it has a lot going for it: a great beach, some good buildings, ammusments for children which don’t dominate, and rather quaintly, an old-fashioned Yacht pond, which seems to be well used by an enthusiastic band of land-based marriners.







So that was Monday last…this week I’m sitting here waiting to start some much needed jobs at home. And avoiding them by updating the blog! I should get started so that we can go off to the beach later.

How a day can change your outlook…

Yesterday was one such day. Just at the point where I was getting weary of certain things, along come a few people to change my outlook. But I guess that’s they way it goes.

And after a good day yeaterday, today brought its own rewards. A couple stood watching me turn…not an unusual thing at all, people do it all the time, but this couple began at the very start of something, and watched patiently until the end. I offered the finished piece to them to look at…it seemed the fair thing to do…and they promptly bought it. Which was nice. I pyrographed it with a personal message, and away they went happy.

But they returned and wanted to commission a complete wood dinner set…bowls and plates Etc.

So what is it about one day and another? One person and another? One type of person and another? What makes the difference? And if one type is happier, more at ease, more at home, even, in a craft environment, then why do the other type bother? I guess I’ll never know.

And then this morning my F.I.L brings me two “finds” from the local carboot…

The first, this rather nice old drawer knife with beech handles. A little worn, a little worm damaged, but such a lovely tool. And how much did he pay on behalf?…


The other item was an Elwell axe head. It’s a small axe, but with a new shaft and a sharpen, it’s a very nice lightweight tool, and one I’m sure will become a favourite everyday tool. And how much did he pay for this one on my behalf?…

10p !

So a good day so far.

But then a friend, Fred, brings me an odd-shaped, and very old, board of ebony, of all things. “Is this any use to you?” he asked me. Oh, I think I might find something to do it with it!

But the freshest news of all is the appearance at the craft centre of a new artist maker. A mysterious character who has been spotted planting reclaimed steel sculptures around the place. Known only as The Earl of Art, this mystery artist has deposited a handful of weird and wonderful sculptural works about the place, but efforts to discover more about him and his work have been hampered by his shyness. Maybe in time we will discover more. In the meantime here’s a terrible photograph ( my fault) of his Raptor