Monday, 23 April 2012


Thin wall vessels I rarely make, but as I have mentioned before in my blog I am rather eclectic at best with how I work.

Recently I have returned to them as a form of release and meditation when I want time out. I do not turn them for the sole purpose of seeing how "thin" I can go, although this is the end result it is not the aim. The aim is to become lost in the "here and now" to the exclusion off all else other than the cut.

Wood turning is great for this and has many similarities to Aikido and Zen that I have studied but now do not have as much time to give to these disciplines due to being self employed with a young family, which I hasten to add is in no way a chore, just a reality. However Zen and woodturning are actually closely connected

When I started turning I did not see the depth and benefit of the process other  than producing a nice item to show to my loved ones and for self indulgent praise, which we of course all naturally and rightly enjoy.

Over the years having studied Zen and through continued talks with my teacher I soon became to realise how they are similar in many aspects. As it is with any discipline or task that we take to a refined level of skill.

Speak to any top level sports person or formula one driver and they will tell you how important sports psychology is and the single focus of the mind within this.

Whether we call it Zen, "working in the here and now" or sports psychology and "The single focus" the two derived simply from different cultural visions of the same.

Often it is difficult for us in the west to grasp this unless we can understand it from a personal practical application, if not it is often discounted as a spiritual form of brain washing which we steer clear of. This is a great shame as our mind is the most powerful tool we have, as it can also be the most efficient adversary if not tamed. 

Climb a three stage ladder or take the time when we discover in the depths of winter that the dark patch just before the bend we are approaching, is in fact black ice, and we can start to understand the focusing of the mind to the exclusion of all else.

From a personal perspective I try to work this way in all of the processes of my work, from the initial stages when I am out looking at mundane items to incorporate in a new piece, the turning of the main form, the hours of pyrography  to the final stages of applying the finish.

As for me I am not convinced that I can produce the best work I can if I am not totally absorbed in its making through-out, or it would be for me be a simple process of repeat manufacturing.

One of my favourite books helping to explain this is Zen in the art of archery being an interesting book written by a western/German professor of phsycology that studied Japanese Archery,  and shows that through single mindedness and repetition we can train the way in which we are able to repeat a process to a level of perfection. A powerful tool for sports people and makers such as turners, potters etc. But it is a book that must be read and practically applied to gain anything of the subject.

This piece I turned yesterday while the roast dinner was sitting in the oven ( which my wife was kindly cooking for me) is turned from Maple 125mm dia x 75mm high x .75 mm wall thickness.

It is sat on a piece of slate that I had under my work bench to add a simple contrast of material, colour and texture. 


George Foweraker said...

A lovely simple form I like it a lot

Philip said...

You never let us down Mark with your work and may i say your words as well.

Mark said...

Hi Philip

Thank you for taking the time to comment.

For me being connected to my work is more important to actually finishing a piece. Obviously I need to finish some to make money :-) but I get the most from it if I enjoy and learn from the process.

Thank you again.

john smith said...

Hi Mark,As I said on the AWGB forum great piece of work,I never get tired of looking at your pieces and you photograph them so well.Regards John

Mark said...

Hi John

Thank you for your comments it is the icing on the cake when I get such comments about my work.

Not sure if you are Middlesex way in May but I am there for a full days demo at Middlesex Woodturners on the 13th of May.

Thank you again and hopefuly we will get to meet up one day.

john smith said...

Hi Mark, Thanks for that.I have met you a couple of times at Yandles.
On the 13th May I will be at Woodworks Daventry.Regards John

Mark said...

Hi John

My sincere apologies. I am terrible putting names to faces, I always remember a person on seeing them but connecting names has always been a none entity for me. This is why we had a wall in the station with the pictures and names of all the local crooks on it.

Have fun at Daventry it looks like a good show.

Next time you meet me please make it plain to me as I need all the help I can get, :-)