What happened to the egg cup?

The chickens are in full production now, and there’s nothing nicer than a couple of soft boiled eggs from your own chickens. But recently I’ve been annoyed at myself for having only metal and ceramic egg cups. But wooden egg cups are old fashioned aren’t they? Well perhaps the designs are, because they don’t seem to have changed in the longest time. Not surprisingly there are a number of websites on egg cups…and a blog!


The problem is one of function I suppose. A vessel which will hold an egg, of varrying sizes preferably, be easy to clean, and attractive. So that’s the brief: a contemporary wooden egg cup turned on the lathe. In the moments when I need a destraction this is what I’ll be trying to do. Why don’t you try and we can share the results?

Traditionally you would have a matching set, which is a great project for practising your repetition work, but do they really need to be matching? If not, then the brief is multiplied by however many you want. Two?Four? Six? Six different contemporary egg cups might drive me mad though. We’ll see.

I think I missed an answer…

Three emails and two, count them! two phone calls in response to the last post. I must admit to being a little miffed that people still seem unwilling to commit to a typed post…especially when one had a few interesting and contentious opinions to express. Oh well.

But the responses did raise a few points, and an answer to the “why” that I hadn’t considered. Or perhaps skipped over because it seemed dull. But the answer is “people are interested enough to care”.

That’s all well and good, and at least they care, but we shouldn’t simply accept this as is. We should should ask why they care. A burning desire to see woodturning survive? A burning desire to have their work accepted as art because their artists’ soul yearns for their message to reach a wider audience? A burning desire to have their work accepted as art because it means they can add nought to the price tag on their output?

Guess which answer I’d choose?

Maybe the question should change? Maybe the question we should be asking is, “What is an artist?” And once we have a satisfactory answer to that question it’s a simple matter of applying the criteria to the woodturners and their work.

Even then the problems don’t go away. What about good art and bad art? Even if some woodturning was re-catagorised and accepted as art, would that make it good art?

If I’m losing you, I’m sorry, but the whole issue is riddled with problems. Take painters, for instance. And I don’t mean house painters before you start. I mean artists who use the medium of dance, sorry, paint. There must be thousands and thousands of people in the UK who paint pictures. Thousands do so with great panache and skill, but few are considered “artists” in the truest sense. Few are considered good enough for galleried and juried exhibitions. But to the untrained eye they’re all artists…because they paint.

And I am sorry, but personally I cannot believe in such a simplistic answer. There has to be a something extra that distinguishes the artistfrom the mere practitioner. And whatever that is, it would apply equally to the woodturning artist. Simply making objects which seem arty just doesn’t do it.

The debate that will not go away…but why?

I’m not even sure if  “debate” is the correct word for it anymore; It’s a seemingly endlessloop set on replay. Is woodturning Art? Not that anybody listens or takes notice, but the unequivocal answer is, “no”. But as with most big questions there’s a rider…but it can be.

The debate baffles me on two counts: firstly because this point seems to escape people, and secondly because it continues to be asked, debated, waffled about (and I count myself in this last), and yet fails to reach a conclusion.

So why does it continue to raise its ugly head, and why does all the discussion fail to reach a conclusion?

At the risk of upsetting yet more people, here are my answers.

In my opinion the debate continues because there are individuals who seem to have a vested interest in the answer being “yes”. If the answer is yes, and woodturning is Art, then what they produce is art, and would then carry a premium price. 

The debate does not reach a conclusion because ultimately the answer will not, cannot, come from the woodturning community, but from outside, from galleries, the art community, from collectors, critics, and art publications.

And none if this is likely to come to pass unless we, the woodturning community, begin to work in a different way, promote in a different way, think in a different way, and support the change which is required to achieve the distinction. But more importantly, what we need is woodturning artists. Not woodturners who produce veiled semblances of art, pretty objects, well-crafted objects with decorative merit, but art. And I don’t think the distinction is even acknowledged.

I do believe that there are woodturning artists out there, but suspect that know what and who they are, and simply get on with. They make art. I also believe that most of those clamoring for the distinction, to be enrolled into the hallowed halls of the artist, are not, and probably never will be artists. They will continue to make fantastic objects on the lathe, and they will find a market for them which is willing to purchase and eager to enjoy them. But that doesn’t make them artists, nor their work art. But why do they care? See above.

It seems to me that we miss an opportunity here. If we supported those with a genuine artistic talent, help to promote them, help to get for them the recognition they should have, then we would all benefit anyway. We spend too much time doing precisely what I’m doing here – prattling about it – and none actually trying to get the distinction recognised.

Invective on a postcard please.

Feedback is always good…or is it?

I received some indirect feedback on a demonstration this morning. It took the form of three appended comments (a usual inclusion against demonstration reviews) after a review of a demonstration I gave a few months ago. There was nothing bad in the review, or the comments for that matter, but then you wouldn’t expect there to be…woodturners are far too polite. What was worrying though, was the prevailing sense that colouring wood is somehow wrong.

I genuinely do understand the “wood is beautiful so don’t mess with it” attitude. And for the right piece of wood that’s fine. But what about all those bland woods? Do they not  benefit by having a helping hand? Can an otherwise drab piece of wood not be livened up by the addition of colour, texture, or other after-lathe fettling?

This is one of the problems with the oft-heard cry for more “artistic” woodturning, or for “artistic” woodturning to be pushed forward; I simply don’t believe that there is a large ground-swell of opinion in its favour. If you can’t even convince turners of the validity, or advantage, of adding colour to woodturning, how can you convince them that turnery with a more “artistic” leaning is interesting and worthwhile. And if you can’t convince the turners, well, the public are going to be even harder to convince.

I firmly believe that there will always be a market for traditional turnery…dare I say, conventional, but I equally believe that the market is shrinking, and will continue to do so. In order for woodturning to survive in anything other than a small interest capacity, it must develop to prosper. That doesn’t, and shouldn’t, mean the demise of the conventional turned work, it has its place in the panoply of turning, and long may it continue to do so…but woodturning does need to spread its wings to attract new interest which will serve to sustain its growth and appeal.

I’m beginning to wonder if anything can be done about it, at all. Maybe that’s why those who do produce this kind of work, do so quietly, away from the mainstream of woodturning, and simply get on with it. I know what they know, though…their style of work sells better than the traditional, is more highly regarded by the wider world, and commands a price far closer to one commensurate with earning a living than the conventional could ever attain.

I think it’s time I got off my horse and just “get on with it”. I feel like an arable farmer trying to convince Bernard Mathews to move into barley.

Mothers’ Day…

There aren’t too many things that keep me away from the workshop, but Mothers’ Day has to be one of them. A day out in North Norfolk looking for Seals was requested, and so that’s where we set off bright and early. Horsey was the first destination, a good spot for seal spotting. We weren’t too disapointed to see only the one playful seal, who insisted on putting on a show of sunbathing for us. It was a beautiful day…

Horsey beach at 11am

Horsey beach at 11am

We enjoyed the empty beach, and then set off north. We spotted this field of daffs on the way…what a sight…
daffs in three colours

daffs in three colours

 North Norfolk is a haven for wildlife, and birds are at the top of the list. A visit to the new(ish) marshes centre was fun, and a spot of birding on the beech gave Ellie an excuse to walk around with the bins on.

The girls enjoyed the sun, wind, distant seal, and a good walk…
Strong sun and a light wind...
Strong sun and a light wind…

Is that a Puffin?

Is that a Puffin?

A glorious lunch in Wells By The Sea, another long walk, and it was time to set off home. As ever, a drive down the

Norfolk coast cannot go without the odd stop. Blackeney, another Seal spotting centre, was a given, to collect some fresh off the boat muscles for a quick evening meal later on.
It was a lovely day, great weather, fantastic local food, great views, and a breath of fresh air. If it weren’t for the accelerator cable (or fluid leak…too dark to check!) giving up the ghost on the way home, it would have been perfect. As it was I limped home without a clutch…you can do it!…and cooked a quick but stunningly fresh pot of muscles, white wine, parsley, shallots and pepper. Served with bread from the deli in Wells. Glorious.

More play…

I’ve been playing again today. I wasn’t really in the mood for anything else, so that’s what I’ve been doing.

There has been a length of very old mahogany standing in the workshop for quite some time, and as I rarely turn, and never buy, exotics, I’d been at a loss what to do with it. Until this morning. I seem to have developed something of a theme recently, and it occurred to me that I could extend the theme, from wall hangings and standing sculptural pieces – all with common links in style, colour and decoration – to include an upright, free standing sculptural piece.

As the lump of wood was 28″ long and 4″ by 4″, and I didn’t want to cut it up, I had to decide on a design which would take all of it. Looking at some of the recent pieces the idea came quickly and off I went. The mounting had to be 100% secure…it’s a heavy old lump…and allow for an off-centre mounting, so a counter balance system was used and it worked very well. Although it has to be said that even when you feel certain about the safety of the mounting, that first whir as it kicks in is a nerve jangler.

The half bowl on the right-hand side required a sacrificial addition, which added to the degree of imbalance, and the weight invloved. Slowly, slowly and don’t take anything for granted.

There has been a small change since I finished it and took the photographs…at the front top right, the incised design apparently looked like an inverted Christian cross, which (I was informed) is the sign of the Anti-Christ! Now as a devout non-believer this shouldn’t really matter to me, but the thought of anybody being offended by a piece of woodturning on religious grounds was simply to much to take…so I altered the design to remove the possibility of offence. Maybe I should have had the nerve to stand by my original design? Too late now.

Mahogany standing sculpture - front view

Mahogany standing sculpture - front view