Bits & Bobs…

It’s the wind-down week prior to an enforced break at Christmas. After my argument with the bowl I’ve taken it a little slower this last week. The bruising and pain has begun to settle now, but remains enough to serve as a reminder.

A few jobs had to be completed by close on Christmas Eve; a set of four over-large finials for an over-large curtain set which caused a few problems that weren’t expected. But done now.

A repair to an antique west African carved statue which also proved troublesome. The statue is over six feet tall and had broken at the hip…due to being used as a coat hanger! Clamping the break was an excercise in ingenuity. And once cleanly joined the break was drilled in two places and two turned dowels glued into place to firm up a weak area. The statue was carved from a single log, and the “hip” was right over the pith of the log, leaving a six inch weak area. After cleaning and waxing it looks fantastic. A few people have said they couldn’t live with this piece, but I love it. The skill  of carving such a thing is staggering. Especially when you consider it was probably all done with simple hand tools.


A regular student brought me a couple of additions to the old tool collection recently. They don’t appear to have been used at all, and seem to be custom-shaped spindle tools, perhaps for a production turner of large spindles. Made by Mathieson they are lovely solid tools with carbon blades and beech handles with a solid brass ferrule. One is a pointed diamond shape, and the other a rounded scraper. Any ideas?

In case I don’t post again before Christmas, I’d like to wish you all the very best for Christmas, and a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year. Take care all.

Searches today…

It seems that the internet is hot with people searching for info, blogs, websites that mention SSA. Just look at the searches that brought people here today…

That’s eighteen searches about SSA. They must have hit a nerve somewhere.

I am curious about the person who googled the URL for this blog rather than simply type it into the browser window!

And the three searches concerning Yew and the dangers reminds me that I STILL have had not a single response…new tack?

School of Saatchi 3b…

After spending a few hours of my enforced day off doing paperwork Etc., I decided to re-watch SSA whilst I had my lunch. A second viewing can help to temper quickly formed opinion, but sadly, or not, mine weren’t tempered on this occasion; merely enforced.

Matthew Collins – Saatchi School of Art 2009: “Some artists who really make an impact in contemporary art are a mixture of genius and charlatan, genius and phoney”

I will treasure this quote forever.

Matthew Collins isn’t the final arbiter on anything, and I doubt he’d claim to be, but his comments and thoughts throughout seem logical, considered, sensible, and believable, and he seems to be a highly respected art critic, so I’m happy to accept his opinions and comments as authoritative.

But what does the above quote actually tell us?

The obvious – that “Some artists who really make an impact in contemporary art are a mixture of genius and charlatan, genius and phoney”

The extrapolated – that the opposite condition applies to some contemporary artists? That some are not charlatans? Not fake? Not chancers with a glib turn of art-phrase?

That even if you are a “genius and charlatan” you can still have “work” taken seriously? Still sell the “work” as art?

And perhaps more telling…that nobody seems to mind! Least of all the rich benefactors brandishing fat cheque books and talking up what they must know to be a load of old b*^^*$£s.

I think there’s a great message here for all Woodturners who are wannabe artists, who want their “art” to be recognised…and, no doubt, achieve mind boggling sums at sale…and that is this…

Stop fannying around with mixed media, for its own sake, at least, stop giving woodturnings a name, for its own sake, and stop trying so hard! All you need to do is sit down with a dictionary, learn a few choice phrases and words, develop the language of art…ES: I want my work to make people stop and……….think! (how difficult can that be?), and then go for it. White walls, white wine, white linen, and a few suitably phrased white (‘cos they won’t change the way the world works) lies and bob’s your uncle…or if you’re lucky, Charles’ your uncle. (I can think of a few who are already ahead of the game here…)

For me, It was all a little dispiriting. A long time fan of contemporary art, Tate Modern is still my favourite gallery in the UK, I love the art of a number of the Brit Art pack, but am now sadly dubious about artistic integrity… if such a thing exists at all.

In truth I always suspected it, but was happy in my plebian “I-know-what-I-like” state of mind. Now I’ll look at something and the first thing I’ll think is, “am I being taken for a ride here?”

I’m certain that at times the answer to the above question will be immaterial; I’ll still like the art work. Or not. But somehow it matters.

I feel like Matthew Collins has shown me the truth about the Emperor…or at least made me accept it. The Emperor really is naked!

So next week look forward to a new work to be posted here.

The work will be called Myth, and be loosely based on my studies of Greek Mythology. The work will incorporate elements of classical and post modern approaches to storytelling and tribal memory, and deal in a sympathetic way with ideas of death and loss in the 21st century, and I would like to think that it will make you…………………………………………………………………………………………think.

And I’m sure it will…

The Unexpected…

Somebody once said, “always be prepared for the unexpected”, and whilst not at all as funny as I imagine they intended this throwaway line to be, they were right; we should be prepared for the unexpected. Only I wasn’t…

I was recently give a very large, and very pretty piece of spalted beech by a friend. There was only ever going to one thing I’d turn from such a piece of wood…a large and simple bowl. A statement bowl. An impractical bowl. So that’s what I did. Well almost…

The bowl was 15″ in diameter, with thick walls, probably 3″, and simple flowing lines around a rounded rim. The spalting was stunning.

And then just after abrading, sealing, de-nibbing, re-sealing and buffing, I applied Danish Oil and let it soak in. I was just buffing it up when there was an almighty BANG.

The bowl has split in half, smashed the lathe light, punched a deep hole in the MDF “wall” behind the lathe, and knocked me 5 feet backwards. I now have a lovely 4″ welt on my chest, some black bruising, and it’s sore as hell.

Now I didn’t have a full-face visor on at the time…the bowl was finished after all!…but did have my safety glasses on as it happens, but if that large chunk had hit me in the face…well it doesn’t stand to consider it too long.

Now I’ll miss a day’s work because I’m sore, and with a demonstration tomorrow evening I need to be in good shape.

It could have been worse, and wasn’t, but it’s my own fault, I wasn’t prepared for the unexpected. And that hurts on a few counts.

The bowl had split along a continuous spalt line, rim to rim, and prior to this there was not a sign of a crack or fault. Just weakened spalted wood I suppose. I had CA’d the spigot, and sealed all the spalt with cellulose sealer several times, and would have bet real money that the blank was sound. So, unexpected, you see?

So take care, and do be prepared for the unexpected!

School of Saatchi 3…

So despite all the judges, and I imagine, viewers too, thinking that this pretty young thing is a “chancer”, and after listening to her quickly decided drivel justifications, she won! And the two who showed most promise and originality were shunted into a face-saving second, and a non-runner…

Did the programme do anything to reverse the public’s often quoted mistrust of Contemporary Art?

I very much doubt it.

Overall was it worth the effort of watching it?


Did it deliver the expected (on my part at least) lessons?


Would I bother watching another series?

I’d rather watch the X Factor…at least the winner of that particular show could actually sing.