Jump!…

I don’t know why, but this happened yesterday…

The only thing I can think of is the SCVA visit post brought in some new readers. But that’s a larger than usual jump in hits. I do know that the Sainsbury Centre visited the blog because I had a message to tell me it’s a “fascinating blog”.  I’m glad they didn’t take offence as none was intended.

I confess to have little enthusiasm for much at the moment. Do any readers have periods when they feel conspired against? Well I do. My back, circumstances, the weather, parcel carriers (long story),everything. The fact is that I can’t allow it to get to me too much as I have too much to do and clearly not enough time to do them all.

I have a two-day event at weekend at Wisset Vineyard – an annual event that I always look forward to – a demo and student next week, and only eleven days before the all day demonstration at Classic Hand Tools near Ipswich. And aside from worrying about all the above I have some very urgent commissions to begin/complete.

I either need a break or a pick-me-up. And as one is unlikely and the other a myth I suppose I’ll have to make do and get on with it all.

Back back and visual stimulation…

I woke up this morning to find my back seemed to have taken a step back so decided to take the day as a rest day. A very busy week ahead means it has to fit for work. So we decided to visit the Sainsbury Centre for some family time and a nice easy day looking at beautiful objects in the relative peace and quiet of an almost empty gallery.

The first pieces I looked at with interest were the Negoro tea sets. These are over 400 years old, and a stunning objects with a glorious depth of colour.

Whilst the girls were looking at everything, I was perhaps understandably drawn to vessels, and the Negoro ware was wonderful. The shapes have been copied many, many times, and there are also woodturners trying to emulate the colouring, and it’s easy to see why. Lovely shapes and glazes, and perfect for decorative utility objects.

The next cabinet to grab my attention was one containing a selection of pots by Hans Coper…

I look at images of these pieces quite often in books, but do not see them often in the flesh (clay), and they never cease to impress. There is something about them that appeals to me and I am never certain what it is – is it the shapes, the glazes, the textures? Or all of the above. I especially like the “deformed” shapes, and wonder often if this is because as a turner I can not hope to achieve the same thing without resorting to carving and having only minimal input from the lathe. Whatever, they are stunning pots. And a little later there was almost an overload when confronted with these cabinets of Coper’s work…

And this piece had a lovely effect in the glaze…

Which has me thinking about something similar on a turned piece.

This large bowl by Rupert Spira was another that couldn’t fail to grab your attention. Not only is it almost monumental, but the incised text provides an almost hieroglyphic effect…

I’d love to know what it all says…but I guess that’s the idea…

Another potter of great note is also well represented in the gallery: Lucie Rie. Her vessels are stunning. Simple, honest shapes, and wonderful glazes.

I only found one wood turner represented on display, Steve Howlett. A name I admit to having not known prior to viewing his work. Here’s what was on offer…

The piece in the middle here was the most interesting. technically difficult, and more unique than the other work to my eye, it was the one piece that will remain in my mind.

These two seem to of a theme…

I have to say that all the work put me in mind of Melvyn Firmager’s work, and some Key and Marsh, but I suppose it appealed to the curators for reasons of purity of form and finish, which it has to be said were superb. All the works seem to have been green turned, and still the finish was faultless – not always the case with green turned.

I was a little disturbed – as I often am – that there was no turned work with a contemporary feel in the collection, and a quick search of the online catalogue shows only work by the now non-turning Anthony Bryant.

Sainsbury are not alone in this though. The only permanent collection I’ve viewed that has works with any contemporary flare is the V&A (and then not a lot!), and I can’t help but wonder why. I’m sure readers could think of a handful of potential makers who might be suitable for representation in a top-line museum or permanent gallery. Any suggestions?

I’ll make a start…Nick Agar. Nick has done more for wall sculpture in woodturning than anybody else I can think of, and has produced some truly stunning work. His work clearly appeals to collectors, and I’d love to have seen some of his work displayed at the SCVA…

 Actually, I can think of any number of turners, professional, and hobbyists, who I would think suitable for inclusion in the SCVA collection (or any other similar), and wonder why they are not, and conversely, why some of those that are, are.

I have a feeling it’s related to “right place, right time”…

curators often find “modern” makers at the BIG events – Origin, Made Etc., and so only see those makers who are either bold enough to book a stand, wealthy enough to afford one!, or are fortunate enough to be placed there at the right time by some well-meaning mentor. So they see what they see and must assume that’s the best and collect from this narrow representation. Which brings is back to the almost age-old complaint…why isn’t woodturning represented where it needs to be?

The real answer is money. It’s expensive. Staggeringly expensive in fact. And without some philanthropic soul to bank roll such an expensive exhibition I fear woodturning will be forever in the shadows. Or will it?

The SCVA is a great resource, and well worth a visit. Not the biggest gallery, it won’t take a full day to view everything and Norwich is only a short ride away. So if you want some visual stimulation and you’re in the area I’d pop along and take a look. There’s lots more there than I’ve detailed here and it’s a salve for tired eyes. Give it a look.

On ther mend…

The back seems to be on the mend. Still sore, but getting better.

I’ve spent all week doing not very much at all, but did re-work this clock…

It had been damaged on the edge so I removed the chapter details and colouring and did this to it…

Here’s a close up shot…

 Stains, inks, acrylics, enamel, and metalic media. Sealing tomorrow.

Now how much should it be to recoup a week’s work?

Lumbar problems stop play…

Pulled a muscle on Saturday but it turns out to be a tear. And it hurts and it is getting boring now. I can’t do much of anything while it all knits back together. So play has been stopped and all serious work is out of the question. So I’ve been doing some gentle pyrography – during the day! – and not much else.

I did go to see a customer to discus these fellows…

Caulking mallets. The big one is 14″ and they’re both made of Lignum and ash. That’s the Lignum under the mallets. This is to be a running order so I should get good at them!

Earlier in the week John had to take on the axe duties (oh how I laughed!) to prep some firewood as the temperature down by the river has dropped a degree or two (below the freezer). Inside a rotting silver birch log I found this little fellow…

Other than that nothing to report really. Hoping to be fighting fit by weekend as I’ve a small mountain to do and time is marching one. If I did a “real” job I could sign on the sick for a fortnight and put my feet up, but self employment means you can’t. Maybe time to look at illness insurance? Is there such a thing?

Hand Made…

I’ve not had much time to blog over the last week; it’s been a busy one. A demo on Monday evening had to be prepared for, and most of the week was either production turning or preparing for an event at the weekend. The event was organised by a friend, and she did a fantastic job especially as it was her first event. The venue was a restored barn on the Benacre estate…

I’d made a new shelf system out of some boards that were unsuitable for much else, but due to putting my back out whilst unpacking on Saturday morning I seem to have lacked concentration whilst taking a phone shot and missed it out!…

The event was very well supported, but my main seller was earring stands! Oh well. A few contacts were made, and a change is as good as a rest. (If so, why are fairs so exhausting?)

During the week I had a couple of odd commissions. One was to develop a range if high-end wood lids for these cosmetic bottles and jars…

I’m not convinced they can be hand turned for a viable cost, but I’ve been asked to do a trial, so I will.

I was also asked to turn some spindles, with an acorn in the middle, out of very burred oak!

They should be fun.

I had to take the day off today as my back in causing a great deal of pain, and standing at the lathe wasn’t a sensible option. I took the opportunity to go and look for some new books, and found I’d read EVERYTHING on the shelves of the section I was looking in. Bumbags. Browsing around I found a new book on an apparently trendy theme…Hand Made…

It’s an attractively produced book, and during a flick through I was pleased to find quite a  hand turned objects displayed – some by Ray Key, others unattributed. This is a theme I’ve noticed a lot recently; hand-made. There’s a TV series with Kirsty Allsop on hand made, and a new series in production with Alan Titmarsh. There is also the V&A exhibition , in conjunction with BBC4 on the same subject.

So is this reflective of a genuine renaissance for hand-made? Or is it simply a media driven series of events? I’ve noticed that a few craft, art, and woody bloggers are anticipating that it is a kind of publicly driven ground swell, a reaction to big business and a hankering after “the good old days” and “real” values and a desire to “get close to the maker” rather than feed the ever burgeoning drive to mass market consumerism. Do we really see this happening in any broad sense? I can’t.

I have no doubt that there are those that do enjoy the connection made when the consumer buys a hand-made object from the maker, and genuinely hope that their numbers are rising, but I do not foresee a mass move in this direction. Hand made usually brings with it a cost premium, and in these particularly difficult financial times I cannot see a mass move to a more expensive option despite the media drive which seems to be driving it. But maybe it will make a small difference? And in the nature of what we (the hand makers) do, and the manner in which we make our living, this small difference across the wider spending spectrum will result in a significant difference on an individual level? We can but hope.

Whatever the outcome, it’s good news overall. Anything that awakens public awareness of the hand-made is a good thing, so long may the media attention reign. The last few years have to have been the worst for decades for making a living from what you produce yourself by hand, and many have gone under, diversified to “proper” jobs, and I’m sure there will be many makers eagerly stepping up production in anticipation of the prophesied rise of the maker.

We’ll see.

Re-takes…

I gave the 18″ bowl another coat of black today so I thought I’d retake the pictures as I had the camera handy.

And here’s a close up of the detail…well, a small patch of it…

Whilst waiting for other things I also got close to completing a standing sculpture in the same style…

I tried taking a shot of this in several places and couldn’t get a satisfactory shot…se settled for this…

And detail…

The outer ring – 15″ – surrounds a sycamore disc which is pyrographed, stained, acrylic sprayed and lacquered. The two-disc base echoes the offset above.

I’m not certain if the red will stay…it may end up all black…I’ve really come to like the fact that the matt black causes the viewer to look closely to discern the words and designs…

Back to tedium tomorrow