Monday, 29 November 2010

Tea caddy

This piece was inspired by the Japanese Tea caddy. Instead of lacquering I have used car sprays to achieve the main colour of the body with the detail being hand painted in acrylic gold paint.

The next one is almost ready the the detail and will be posted in a short while.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Re-Visiting old work with new technology

Lately I have been re-visiting old forms to see where I can develop these further.

This piece is based on my chilli form but has been left natural. The finials I am now producing with the aid of a computer software that enables me to draw the desired finial by hand but to then manipulate this after it has been converted to bezier curves. I can achieve the exact profile I am looking for with manipulation which can be altered many times with ease. The new finial is then added to a picture of a form so that the relationship between the two can be seen without having to make a physical prototype.

This is saving me time in designing/trial and error and has opened up a new avenue. The finials are then created by hand as before but with the knowledge that it is correct. From a commercial point of view this is a big advantage.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Bread and butter

It has been a busy week. Mainly trying to get work made for the outlets I sell in. Most of my bread and butter work is simple bowls, boxes, platters and lidded forms.

Most of the week has been taken up with roughing out boxes and and other bits and pieces so not much to show as these will have to season before being finished.

A few boxes have been finished and are shown above.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Slowly does it

Busy times at the moment with article writing, gallery supplying and bottle washing. However in between this I have managed to get some quiet relaxation by adding to the base/colours of this piece.

Around eight colours have been used together with copper foils, a few processes to get to this next stage. Hopefully you will only see a subtle difference but if you look at the previous picture and the piece as it is now, the colours I hope are more subdued and hold a different feeling of age.

Now I can progress the piece forward by adding an insert and lid together with other natural materials, , more highlights where needed and new natural materials that I have not used before. I am quite excited about trying out as it means a foraging in the local woodland which I always enjoy.

I am very undecided at the moment how I want the lid and insert to look so again it will have to wait until something pops into my mind.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Progressing slowly

This piece previously posted in it's raw form after texturing has now been taken a bit further. I was hoping to work on this much earlier and to have it finished, but I decided to leave it on the shelf for a few months as I find that often I come up with new ideas that are possibly better than my initial intentions.

Various base/colouring techniques have been used together with new materials. as such the piece is already changing beyond what I had initially intended.

IE I had originally wanted to reflect the blue and white ceramics however as you can see blue and white does not feature.

The materials used in this piece have taught me a lot about the way in which they can be used and new ways that it is not intended for. This is an interesting process as I just have to let go and not worry about wrecking the work I have done before.

It is an exciting and honest process as the piece becomes less contrived and alters without my full control.

This natural process is what I have been working towards for a long time as before I found that I would stay well within my comfort zone so the end result could be sent to a gallery to be sold.

Working in this way is much more fun than the normal restrictive process that I normally have to work in.

The colours here are the base onto which I am going to apply various other colours/tones and materials to achieve the effect I am looking for. Again I am intending to include natural materials that I have not used before so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

The benefit in this is that I get to spend a few hours relaxing a foraging in the local woods for materials and do not know what I am looking for until I see it.

The next update will be a while as it is half term and I am doing my child care routine for the week. But this gives me time to spend with my children and think about other things. In turn I hope that some new ideas for the piece will come to the fore.

I will update after the next stage.


Here are a few more pictures updating the process within this piece. They show the natural progression of nature and the slow change which is occurring to the bamboo leaves.

This slow transition for me takes on a natural form of beauty and embodies the philosophy of impermanence and Wabi Sabi.

Hopefully I have achieved an understated piece which reflects the natural order of nature.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Latest piece

Obviously too much time on my hands for two posts in one day. !

This latest piece is carrying on my interest in various Japanese philosophies.

My main interest at the moment is the impermanence of all objects etc, I wanted to include this within the piece by leaving the bamboo leaves in place so that over time they can wither and reflect this philosophy.

The piece will slowly change as the leaves alter shape and colour, with each passing the viewer will see an ever changing piece, until the leaves finally drop and rest on the top of the form.

Also within my work I am currently exploring the subject of Wabi-Sabi, which is a huge subject to try to unravel in itself. Part of this philosophy is that beauty comes from all things, even if we think they can be said to be ugly, as nature intended it to be such then it is therefore perfection. I am a mere student of this subject so if you are interested in trying to understand more there are many good reference books and subjects on the net, one of these I have include here. However it is said that even the Japanese themselves find it difficult to explain the philosophy as it has to be lived to be understood. So look at more than one reference point so that a broader understanding can be obtained.

Autumn is definitely here

Autumn is definitely here. It is one of my favourite seasons as I find the colours inspirational and it really brings home the impermanence of all around us. Mostly we do not see the passing of time, life is a tread mill and I find that unless we spend time to slow down and contemplate then we just miss everything.

When I decided to leave my career in the Police I came home and told my wife that I had decided that finally I had had enough of pushing water up hill and I was going to leave.

The obvious issue in modern life, and particularly in our western society is that we have bills to pay, mainly a mortgage and the associated financial considerations that go with it. Also we had our two young daughters one of which was only just born. So when asked what I was going to do and I replied " I'm going to be a woodturner" it was met with a certain amount of concern.

The rest is history, I am not going to say that it is easy as it is not, however I now do not see myself as having to get up to go to work each day, but instead go into my workshop to play. I am very fortunate.

What I am getting to is that what we do in our every day life is no different than the changing of the seasons. we can either stay in the rut or go in a different direction. of course it is easier to stay with the devil we know and to take such a big step is, I can say, frightening and exhilarating at the same time.

This can also be equated into our work. When starting turning I was very much into the traditional way of doing things. Wood should be left untouched to allow it's beauty to show through and should never be altered. Then over time I found myself wanting to explore what more I could achieve with my ideas. Keeping to the traditional ways restricted me and this caused conflict with how I thought my work should be, for it to become accepted by others, and what I actually wanted to do/experiment with.

As soon as I started colouring and texturing I found the responses at times less than favourable. People are still today very quick to criticise or say out load that they do not like work that has been ruined in their eyes.

However just like the changing seasons I have now let go of the concern of what others think and the restrictions that this holds. Also the part that I find the most refreshing, is that the amount of people now that enjoy looking at my work within the traditional fraternity has grown. More often than not when I demonstrate the pieces that hold the most interest for people are indeed the textured and coloured pieces.

More than this people now actually want to listen and accept the ideas behind the pieces. Of course there are those that do not always like some of what I do and prefer the wood to be left alone, as I do on occasions. This I do not have an issue with as it would be a very dull place if we all agreed.

So I see more and more the changing views of people towards a different selection of work.

What is important is to take time to contemplate, to contemplate not only what and why we like something but also why we do not like something put before us. Before we can say we do not like something then we need to understand why.!. To just come out with the statement is for me empty and blinkered. To understand why will help us to understand how to progress and to elevate our work.

After all how can I progress if the only thing I can say is that I do not like something without knowing why. If my reasons for not liking are personal taste, then this thought process has to be discounted. Or the personal connection/taste will also restrict my ability to create fresh new ideas.

This ties back in with my last post with regards to critiquing others work.

The picture above was taken near to my home. My camera is always on hand to take pictures of anything that I enjoy in the hope that I can find ideas from the colours, textures etc etc, as many of the previous pictures and posts have indicated.

Below are some more pictures taken of different items around my home.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

New piece

This is a piece I have been working on for some time. Well mostly it has been sat on the shelf waiting for me to progress it further. !! I will start a detailed piece like this and leave it on view for quite some time, often several months as I work through each of the stages.

Some of this is due to being busy with other work but also that I have found that more often than not I will change my mind or find a better way of doing a particular technique that initially I had intended to use.

Invariably the piece will end up totally different than I had initially imagined it. For me this is a valuable process to go through as it involves much learning and ultimately I have a far greater connection with the piece than just churning them out for the sake of it. Far more is learnt by me in this way and normally much more than is actually seen in the end result.

The piece is intended to be along the lines of my previous Japanese inspired work, but I wanted to take time and include many different ideas I have had for a while into one piece.

This is the very early stages, turned and texturing started with a Dremel. Further pictures will be taken today and I will post them later.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Enjoyable Weekend

Well the weekend was spent in the company of Norwich Woodturners.

The day was very enjoyable and a big thank you to Roger and Gina for inviting me to stay with them for the evening before the demonstration on the Saturday. Wonderful food and hospitality.

The day started with me demonstrating one of my lidded forms, followed by a fill in/small project before lunch of an ornament/paper weight.

Lunch was local fish and chips which always go down well.

After this I showed the procedure to make a textured and scorched wide rim bowl. banter was thick and fast which made the day fun and very friendly. After the main project in the afternoon I finished off with a small textured and scorched pot and finally a small hollow form.

One thing that was very evident was the table display of the members work. All of which was of a very high standard and included a wide range of items from coloured and textured bowls, pierced items, boxes, ply vase, burr form and a massive wall plaque which I would estimate to be about 5 ft long. It was obvious that the members liked to experiment with colour, piercing, as well as natural work.

As I said all the work was of a very high standard with myself being asked initially by Roger to critique the work. I find it more and more difficult to critique others work unless I know what each individual was trying to achieve with the piece.

I do not subscribe to some of the traditional thoughts on items and how they are made. IE my personal feelings on boxes and a plop fit is that it is not necessary unless the item is to hold something small and is likely to fall over. I also do not feel that thin walled items are necessary unless the piece originates from green wood. As this for me is the only time I feel it totally necessary to go thin, as it were. So if someone intends make a chunky bowl with an unequal wall thickness, then the item is right for the maker.

This is not to say these methods are wrong if people so wish to adopt them, but I am not sure that imposing my thought process on another's work is necessarily helpful for that person to develop. After all my observations are only my opinions based on my personal preference and tastes, this does not make me or another in my view correct when critiquing work.

There are forms that I prefer and some that I think are just not right. But again this is based on my own observations and programming for the way I think, based on my own research and slant.

The best way I believe to progress work is for each individual to be ultra observant in relation to what is seen around them, add to this detailed self critique of the work and I believe this should be enough. If we are honest with our own work to help us develop the next piece the development with naturally develop. This partly goes back to a previous post which included "beginners mind" within the subject.

Above all I believe people should make what they enjoy and which gives satisfaction, as surely nothing else matters.

I am now back to the office, making more ply pieces for the galleries, lidded forms with various colouring and texturing with new techniques, which seem to change as I go along, mainly due to them not working as I had initially thought.

Still seeing what happens at the end of it is the most exciting part. But then if it does go wrong then there is always the chimnea. !!!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010


This is a piece I made some time ago based on various interests I have in Japanese philosophy. It is the only one to date that I have made but will be exploring these ideas in a few smaller items involving the tea caddy.

Will try out a few new ideas and change a few of techniques used in this one.

I am a great one for trying out a technique and then not running with it to see how far I can develop it. So I am going to revisit this piece and see what I can do while incorporating a few new forms to add interest.

I will keep you updated and will start on the main base form today.

Sunday, 26 September 2010


Here is a latest piece. Simple hollow form made from high grade birch ply. The material gives many advantages for me over working in natural wood, particularly from a process point of view.

This piece is part of a range of interior items I am producing which eventually will include mixed media but for now I am just getting the simple lines of form and the modern feel of ply in my work and out to the outlets. All of whom to are looking forward to receiving more. Seems they are very popular which is much to my relief. As said not a new material for interior items at all but when you change direction there is a certain amount of concern especially when you put time effort and money into making not knowing if you are going the right way.

Still will have to see how it progresses. Quite exciting really to have a renewed interest using a traditional craft method.

The piece above is not the only direction I want to take my work. Much more sculptural work and forms only using the lathe as a part process are in the design book. But until these have been made, photographed, refined and out in the general public domain I would be committing commercial suicide to disclose the prototypes here and now.

Something I have learnt over the last few years is that I not only have to develop my design skills, be more aware of the commercial viability of products outside of the traditional woodturning sphere, but also that I have to be far more switched on in relation to business matters.

The traditional making methods are very enjoyable and rewarding, and I will still continue to make my traditional work ( which I have no doubt I have said somewhere if not here before), but it is obvious to me that to stay with methods, just because it has been done for time in memorial is also commercial suicide. If not we would all still be writing with the quill.

Not that there is anything wrong with this, but for me it is now over and I have to move on to new methods and designs to run along side my original work. I may in future move totally away from turning as I now know it and to use the lathe more and more as just a part process. I certainly want to use less and less wood. But I am in one of those moods hence why my work and ideas are so eclectic, and tomorrow I may be back to all things traditional. But I have to say that I doubt it as I feel I am again shedding a skin.

My friends will tell you that not so long ago ( a couple of years) I would not be seen dead colouring or altering through texture or adding mixed media to wood. Then I started colouring and texturing and become acutely aware of the enjoyment of letting the mind go and making from within, having a connection with the work more than just making a bowl.

Now this playing and experimenting has started me on this new ,what I will class as ultra modern type work. Again the designs I am producing are well away from the hollow form above, But I still have to keep my feet on the ground and and I enjoy making this sort of item so it will continue.

It also is apparent to me that I am becoming less and less of a conformist to the mass mind set I come across, for me it does nothing but restrict and blinker the creative process. I have tried hard to conform to certain ways of thinking but again it is time to move on to a different place as I find little interest in conforming to ways that are restricting me in my work. hence now becoming more interested in new materials and methods as I find the makers open to my way of thinking in the approach to making.

Hopefully I will have some pictures of the new pieces in the next month or so, but for now you will have to put up with me just expressing my thoughts through my blog.

Friday, 24 September 2010

still working at it


Thought it was time to give an update. Busy times for me with various bits and pieces and my new project which is a range of work based on what I have been doing but including different materials is under way.

Unfortunately I do not have any pictures at this stage as I am still working on the different characteristics of the materials and trying to work out how to use them. Also my original ideas have changed since my last post and some have been shelved as being too time consuming and not commercially viable. ( Apart from when I get time to play).

It is the most fun part working in different ways with different tools etc. But I can get carried away and before I know it another month has gone by without much being done apart from experiments. ( which doesn't put food on the table). But hopefully will.

So I have also been making a lot of bread and butter items for the galleries I stock ( again behind schedule) but hey life is too short to go working too hard.

Part of the new range I am working on has involved looking at the way I work, how efficient this is compared to the traditional methods of roughing out unseasoned wood, seasoning, re-turning etc etc. Most traditional woodturning methods are pretty slow from a commercial point of view, but with a few alterations I have found my productivity raise perhaps 3-400%, if not more. Not that I have done any highly scientific trials, just a few time in motion studies for the pieces I have worked on.

One of the issues I have is that, and this dawned on me when speaking to another maker/friend, is that, I may have an idea but in 8 months time I have change my mind. While with my lidded forms I can just finish those for my bread and butter work. Some pieces just get left, as my original idea does not seem worth exploring further. Or I have just gone down a different route.

Being eclectic with my work keeps it interesting but means that some days I do not set foot in the workshop as I just do not know what to do. What piece to tackle. Also I am doing a lot of research etc which takes up the time, and probably will not been apparent in the final pieces..

So also now I am working through pieces just to get them finished.

Oh by the way my new pieces are not that far removed from my normal work, so I hope people are not expecting the next woodturning revolution. It has been done before, just I am doing it my way.

Must go and take the next piece out of the oven.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Day out

Today I took my daughters out to the opening of Somerset crafts which is a new craft centre opened by creative makers who make and sell in the Somerset area.

I always enjoy meeting other designer/makers especially when they produce work using different methods and materials than myself. Often I find it refreshing just to talk about different ideas, materials and how they are used, methods of design and how others go about their work.

Also a friend and fellow maker is involved in the group so we went along to see what it was all about.

There were various disciplines being displayed with all the work being of high standard. wood, glass, mixed media, furniture, sculpture, soaps photography, jewellery and more was on display. Together with a jazz band, food, drink and a bouncy castle for the children it was a good day.

What I found interesting was that some of the disciplines being shown are those that I have had an interest in including in some of my work for a while. The makers were happy to show me some ideas and give me details of products to play around with, these have now been ordered and hopefully add a new dimension to the new ideas I have yet to make.

This for me is what is so exciting about making creative work which is not restricted by utility. I can think of an idea and at the last minute by meeting other people and seeing new directions my designs can be turned on their head and I go back to the design/technical stage again to try to work out how to include the new materials.

The internet is a great help to get hints and tips for using the materials but one point that was evident from the makers that the best way to learn is experiment and make mistakes. I am looking forward to the new materials coming and will update when I have done some.

In the mean time here are some pictures of the makers work etc.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Evolving - Dissolving

It has been quite some time now since I have posted anything. I have been very busy with teaching and various other distractions. There is as I have said in a previous entry a new project that I am working on but to be honest this is still at the starting blocks as I decided to leave it until I returned from holiday, although I have been playing around in the background with ideas.

The "new project" while no real secret I am not posting at the moment as I am still undecided in which direction I want to go.

In fact I am frustrated and unsure about my work in general and have lost interest in the current format of both environment and working methods/processes in which I work. This frustration is I know part of the natural creative process. Or at least I hope it is.!! Not having been down this road before and letting go fully and having the willingness to see where I end up is both exciting and frightening. Mainly as I have to make money to support my family from what I do, but I realise from my recent experience of making and selling, letting go from a creative stand point, is the way in which I want to move my work forward.

The traditional environment for me is frankly ,dull, uninspiring and restrictive in relation to the creative mind set and work that I want to develop. I now realise that I have to move in another direction. This is old territory and I have been over this before. People that know me will say that I go over the same old stuff time and time again.

However I have found is a natural transition of moving away from my safe zone and then slowly going back to it, moving away again until the natural order of things slots into place. Often that pushing too hard down a certain route is counter productive and that letting things develop at their own speed can be more productive in the long run for me. It also provides a more honest work as it is less likely to have been produced through external pressures and conformity.

Still, now that I am back from holiday in the sun I can start a fresh direction while continuing some of my standard work along side. This means working in new materials, methods and designs totally different to what I have worked to date. While some will be developments of my signature work.

It will be some time until I have any pictures of work as I have loads to do behind the scenes with sourcing materials, trying them out, perfecting them !! and then making a viable product.

In the mean time I will post a few pictures of textures that I took while on holiday and a few general holiday snaps.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Garden sculpture

How the time goes.

July already and I have not added an entry for a few weeks. Very busy at the moment working on a project which I will reveal when it is ready to launch.

Before I started turning I made free form sculptures. These were carved using various tools and methods. I found that the time to make these was for my mind set too long, so lost interest.

About a year ago a new group was set up. "The Contemporary Wood Collective" This group was set up by a few like minded creative makers to help support and help individuals that are interested in creative work, be it mixed media, wood, turning, sculpting.

One of the ideas behind the group was to try to think outside of the box so to speak. For me the group has been very beneficial and as such the way I think and work has changed radically.

I have now gone" full circle" have have found ways in which to use the lathe to make sculptures by using an off set process. Nothing new in this as many turners have been doing it for decades. It means however that by adapting it to my way of working I am now able to speed up the process of making sculptures and as such have started exploring these again.

The previous "Human Form" sculpture I posted was a marquette for the larger pieces one of which I have posted above. Interestingly enough now that I have started making these the need to source a garden where I can take the sculptures to be photographed came to the forefront. This has now been achieved although the picture above is taken in my own garden which is not big enough or elaborate enough to do the pictures/sculpture justice.

I am now developing these and will post some more as and when. Don;t know when that will be as like I say I am busy.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Great weekend

Well this weekend was a lot of fun. I was invited to demonstrate for two days in Wales. Saturday was at Crow Valley woodturners with the Sunday being at Mid Wales woodturners.

The last time I went to Wales was some 21 years ago and I had forgotten how beautiful the scenery was. The people that I met on both days were a pleasure to meet and I look forward to going again in the future if I am invited.

Thank you to Peter Bradwick and all the members of Crow Valley turners for a great day and lunch. Very hospitable and friendly people.

Also a big thank you to Jack and Judy Townhill the Chariman and Judy his wife from Mid Wales Woodturners for allowing me to stay at their beautiful home and sample Judy's wonderful cooking, the cakes are to die for.

The Journey was an interesting one especially seeing that when I left Crow Valley I accidental type the post code for the location of the next days demo into my sat nav. What I should have done was to input the location of Jack and Judy's home being around forty five miles Crow Valley side of the demo on Sunday. But ninety miles later I arrived at my destination in time for dinner. The extra miles due to the wonderful scenery were a pleasure and I must have stopped six or seven times just to take in the view.

the demo on Sunday was very enjoyable, not only due to meeting the members but also getting to eat some more of Judy's cakes.

A very enjoyable weekend meeting fellows turners who were very friendly.

It was also interesting to see that my creative work and ideas were most talked about and admired, with many wanting to know how I produced the various textures and finials etc.

Also I have started to notice much more coloured and varied work on display by the members and people are trying many new ideas that I have not seen before. I fell in love with a beautifully made box produced by Kym the secretary of Mid Wales woodturners which I just had to have for my collection. We came to an agreement and it is now sat proudly in my display cabinet. A fine piece of work indeed. Thank you Kym.

Still today I am having a break and relaxing getting ready to get back into writing articles, doing my books and my new designs. Oh yes and sorting my workshop out.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Inro box

The Inro box is a fun object to make and one that I can include various media, from leather, gold leaf, wood, raku fired beads and in this instance bamboo.

The boxes use to be worn under the Obi as pockets were not part of the traditional wear. The boxes were used to carry small items. Later in the society they became a symbol of status.

Again this is an amalgamation of various techniques and ideas that I have been using. The box is not a copy of any particular Inro design but rather my interpretation of the item.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Putting it all together

Well it has been a busy week., being half term and all. It gives me time to reflect on the work and processes that I have in my workshop. Pieces that I have been working on for some time that I fit in when I can. Most of my work involves more simplistic items such as textured bowls and simple lidded forms but little if ever any production work. I decided some time ago that I wanted to be more of a studio turner making gallery pieces rather than being a production turner, although my workshop can hardly be called a studio.

This piece is an amalgamation of many techniques that I have gathered from fellow creators, research, experimentation and observation.

Often I am asked where I get my inspiration from, how do I come up with the ideas. Well there is no easy answer or solution, not that I have found anyhow.

This piece is based on many hours researching the various subjects connected to the particular subject/piece I am making. I am more interested in the philosophy/background to the idea than the physical piece it self. What I mean by this is as in this piece my reference was the Tea ceremony and in particular the period prior to and that of the Tea master Rikyu 1522-1591.

Before this period the tea ceremony was very much for the elite. It was adorned with highly polished extravagant tea houses and utensils. Rikyu changed all of this by stripping away all of this extravagance and changed the ritual to be simplistic and more in harmony with nature. More connected with the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi and the austere way of the Zen monk.

Rikyu's own master took this as a challenge and demanded Rikyu's ritual suicide. Despite this the Tea Ceremony continued the way he had developed it and still does today.

Taking this I wanted to produce a piece that was reflective of the time prior to Rikyu. A piece that had once been extravagant , highly polished and adorned precious metals etc. This symbolises the material objects that were revered at this time as well as today.

Taking that everything in life is impermanent and forever changing, be it coming or going, growing or dying , it is always impermanent no matter how hard we try to hold onto it.

This is reflected in the piece being aged via various processes. The gold even showing signs of de-lamination from the backing surface. The symbolised grasses within the finial and insert bowing and flexing with the change of time, blending but still decaying.

So the basis for this piece being impermanence. This is also symbolic within the materials that I have used.

When starting turning I became embroiled in a purist mind set. Nothing but wood should be used in its pure form. No colouring, texturing, cracks or inclusions.

Over time and slowly progressing towards a more creative mind set I found a desire to include different materials, techniques and ideas.

Within this piece I have started to use polymer clay. It is not a new material to the creative crafts or indeed turning. It is basically a PVC polymer material which can be manipulated like modelling clay in many many ways and then baked in a conventional home oven which cures it.

The benefit of polymer clay over wood is that in fine work it retains a flexible strength where as wood with its short grain becomes weak. It can also be textured, coloured, painted etc, so is very versatile for creative work.

Hopefully I will start working with more materials as I find that taking the best of each material makes for a much more exciting and creative process. Although I am always trying to play catch up with materials and techniques to be able to realise the ideas I have rattling around in my mind. I guess this will continue the more I push my ideas.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Polymer clay additions

For some time now I have been using small amounts of mixed media within my work. Be it jewellery beads, acrylic artists paints, copper and gold leaf etc.

The advantage of using different media within my work allows me to take may work in another direction and to enhance what I have produced. Also at times wood having limitations in its structural strength when very thin.

I have for some time been experimenting with polymer clay which is basically PVC which can be moulded, manipulated, textured, coloured etc etc, and then baked in an oven to harden.

The benefit of polymer clay is that due to not having a grain and having a consistant structure which is as hard when cured, yet still slightly pliable, enables me to make items for my work that are much finer and detailed in its construction.

Here is a basic finial that I have made form my standard lidded forms. before the inclusion of polymer clay I would not have been able to make such a fine finial in wood as it would have been too fragile to be a viable option. The top third of this finial is below 1mm in thickness and ends just under .5 of a mm. Despite this it is strong and still slightly flexible.

There are now numerous polymer clay accents being produced and I will post these when they are finished.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Been keeping busy

Well things have been hectic, so not much time for serious additions to my blog. There are new ideas on the horizon but as with most things they take me far longer to realise than I would have hoped.

At the moment I have numerous gallery orders to fulfil as well as new outlets that have been in contact and want to sell my work. This is all wonderful stuff but it means more time making and less time experimenting and developing.

Although much of what I make evolves in my mind from looking at reference and building up the foundation of the piece until I am happy. Then I just go out and make it knowing that it is probable that the techniques required to get to the end result will have to be refined. It is normally this that takes me the time and not coming up with the ideas in the first place.

On top of making new items, I have been teaching, demonstrating and writing articles, all of which I enjoy very much. Having numerous strings to my bow so to speak enables me to keep a fresh mind but also to meet and keep in contact with other creative and enthusiastic people.

Oh yes and my second DVD will be out soon "What a Relief". But more about that nearer the time.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Human Form

Well at moment I am enjoying the process of finishing lots of bowls and platters which I find very relaxing as the process is repetitive and fluid. They are destined for numerous outlets that I supply as well as those that I supply my more unusual pieces.

Lots of teaching and writing to do which I also enjoy very much. Needing to pull on different skills keeps the mind working and helps reinforce other aspects of my work. The writing helps clarify techniques during teaching and visa versa, etc etc.

As one of my interests in in creative work, outside of the round with enhancements I am always playing around with ideas and trying to find new ways in which to work. The ideas are generally not new in themselves, but being able to use them so that I can apply my own interpretations and express an idea through them in a visual medium I very enjoyable.

This being one of the reasons I enjoy writing woodturning articles as I am able to share my ideas with a larger audience.

Another related interest is reading source material, watching documentaries and researching any thing and everything of interest.

At the moment on BBC1 on Sunday evenings is a program looking at how the four modern masters have influenced our society, much of the time without us realising it.

The first program this Sunday gone was about Matisse. It was brilliant and any one interested in looking at artists and how they work to transmit their ideas should watch the remaining three programs.

The work of Matisse I found very inspirational. The way he smashed convention and broke the rules making up his own as he went along and the resulting works he made I found another avenue or inspiration.

The piece above while not inspired by Matisse and I am in no way saying it is in the same realm as his work, struck a chord in my mind while I was watching the program.

The way in which Matisse revealed a picture in a few minimalist strokes of his brush or scissors was fascinating. For some time I have enjoyed looking at how to produce a subject matter with as little direction being given to the viewer as possible, so that the subject can be seen, without me telling totally what it is about. Thus leaving the viewer to interpret its message/content.

The sculpture above is one such group of works that I have started experimenting with. It is designed to represent the human form. I had in it's a certain attitude that I wanted the sculpture to express. This was based on the teacher figure within the Pink Floyd Wall video. However I wanted to see if people would see what I saw in it and was pleased with the response, so I have now drawn up several new pieces to work on.

The sculptures are made via offset turning on the lathe. Two separate sections are made with abrasives and oil being the only other additional tooling/sundries used.

It was finished in oil and specifically included cracked oak wood to add to the organic/natural life based form.

So hopefully some more will be out of the workshop soon to view and go to the outlets.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Beginner's mind

A few weekends ago I was privileged to be one of the tutors for a two day " Youth training and development program" that the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain hold several times a year to help promote, introduce and teach woodturning to youths up to the age of eighteen.

This course is the second that I have been invited to teach at. For me it is a rewarding and very enjoyable two days and I know that all the youths that attended also enjoyed the course.

One of my observations on both the courses was the open and responsive mind that, dare I say, the younger generation seem to have. Um, I am not sure I want to put myself into the older generation bracket but I guess compared to the 14-18 years old youths I am.

During the two days it was very apparent to me that younger people seem to naturally follow instruction and practice without any preconceived ideas about how it should be done or if they get it wrong. They just enjoyed the moment and the process that they were involved in.

This I have tried to follow for many years within my other studies/forms that I have undertaken.

As I try to progress my work more and more creatively I have found the need to return again and again to what I saw in the youths that I taught, and that is "Beginner's mind".

Over the years my skills with the tools have I hope developed to the position where I can make what ever I want without worrying if I have the necessary tool skills to complete the project. I do not believe I am the most proficient, but can now use them as an extension of my body without thinking about what I am doing with them. Similar to when I drink a cup of tea, I do not need to think about where my mouth is in relation to the cup. I can sip and watch television or read a book. However from time to time I spill my tea and also have spillages with my work.

This I started thinking about and realised that I had lost "beginner's mind" which the students I teach have in abundance.

The thought process I had adopted was always thinking of the the next step, more connected with I was "to" do as opposed to the "moment". The connection with the tool had been lost. While I consider myself as said to be fairly efficient at what I do, there is no doubt that I can refine and become better within my work, to think anything,be it tool skills, creativity, finishing or selecting of the wood, or just connecting with what I am doing in more depth.

After all how can I be truly connected with my work through a creative thought process if I am not concentrating with the moment with an open, clear mind.

Realising this I decided to concentrate on my "beginner's mind", with working in the moment. By taking every step I do right back to the beginning and looking afresh with an open mind helps me to refine the process, or at least I hope. After all I have asked myself, how I can expect to refine what I am doing if I consider that what I am doing is the only way in which to proceed.

This thought process I have worked on for many years, but have also found that when I become proficient in a particular form, I then in turn spend less time keeping an open/beginner's mind.

This I have been discussing with my Zen teacher and looking at ways to incorporate it within my work. After all my turning is in the moment and has to be practised, just the same as with my creative work, both go hand in hand.

I realised that I can not continue to progress, to become more connected with what I am doing, and therefore to express myself fully through my work, unless I look to a higher form other than just being proficient with tools. To believe this to be the case I feel would only blinker me to the wonderful rich creative process that exists if only we can open our minds. The tools that I use are only after all an extension of my arms, that in turn are moved by my mind.

Realising this, which in itself is obvious but forgotten I decided to look at going back to producing bowls along side my other work.

The bowl is a wonderful vessel that can be more than just a utilitarian item. The practice of making a bowl as I have been taught is not about the bowl itself, but the empty space within it, the material that is removed and not what is left behind.

Each piece of material removed is a chance to refine and practice. Not being mindful of this meant that I had merely become a mechanical machine producing items. The negative of this I have seen in a days work when I have not been totally connected with my thought process. The work in turn seems to loose something, to have no depth. Where as on the days I am for want of a better turn "On form" the work made if I am fully connected seems to be set apart, to be special.

My practice involves connecting fully with what I am doing and trying to complete a cut on the outside or inside of the bowl in one out breath. This may sound strange to some, but within all the forms that I have studied where movement or exertion is applied, it always occurs on the out breath.

The lifting of a heavy weight or any other form of exertion is on the out breath. This being the natural law of the human physiology for all movement requiring a degree of exertion. So why, I thought to my self, have I forgotten to concentrate on this within my work. Probably because it now becomes so natural that I have forgotten about its relevance.

Buy concentrating and thinking of each moment as I connect with the tool I can look deeper into what I am doing and in turn look afresh and the whole process of my work with an open mind.

This at the moment is where I am. Looking at the whole process, with an open mind, taking on "beginners mind", while concentrating on the moment.

It is not easy but then I guess if it was it would not be worth doing.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


Finding new ideas for work is a constant endeavour. Always trying to include something slightly different within work for me holds the interest and focuses my mind on adding a bit more to what I make.

I have to say I have a sketch book full of new ideas, some of which have been waiting to be realised for over a year, ( so I guess they are no longer new).

Finding inspiration as it is sometimes called for new ideas can be perceived as difficult. I say perceived as I now realise that inspiration is not at times as hard to achieve as I would once have thought. It does not come as a lightening bolt but is held within my mind from what I see around me and eventually something is triggered, and an idea pops to mind.
When the penny dropped for me it was a wonderful feeling. The feeling that actually I did not need to have a special mind set, that all I had to do was truly observe items around me was such a basic reality, that I did not see why I had not seen it before.
For me being able to observe comes back a certain degree to my last post about being honest. If I come up with an idea from seeing something I no longer worry if others may find it wacky or weird, I do not allow what I see to become tainted by what I think others may think about it.
We really do not need to look that far or deeply to find new ideas. They are in fact as I have found all around. When I walk to the shops, talk to my children, walk my dogs or go on holiday, new ideas are everywhere. I just have to see them.!!

Recently I went on holiday to North Devon. Always having my camera near for a visual reference I decided to try an exercise to find new ideas. It became apparent to me that while I would look for ideas, I would not truly observe with an open mind.How many times do we look but not not see the object in front of us. Mostly perhaps we are thinking of something else without the mind being fully connected with what we should be doing, looking for new ideas. Or we just see a shape and the surface of the object leaving the depth behind as we look away.

The exercise was to pick out a small area within a rock pool to see exactly what I could find that I could use in my work. By really looking/seeing it is amazing how much there is available as a resource within such a small space.
The area I picked was around two meters square. There were sea shells or varying shapes and sizes, but by looking further I could see within these shells, textures, colours, shapes within shapes.
Rock formations held shapes and colours of interest. After I had spent some time within this small area I decided to go for a walk along the beach, near to the rock pools.

I found drift wood with amazing shapes and textures including corroded nails that held a myriad of colours was found lying in some sea weed.Even the under belly of a baby crab held shapes and colours within its small anatomy.

Coming away from holiday I had a camera full of new objects from which to take reference. My mind started running over new ideas.
I have included some of the pictures below and will look at some of these individually to be included within new work and will post how I take these objects and add them to a piece of my work.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Shedding the ego and being honest.

Well I am back from a wonderful holiday with my family in North Devon where I collected various pictures and items that I found inspiring and that I will show and discuss later in another entry.

As a person who has always been creative in one way or another I have generally been dissatisfied with the paintings, sculptures or turnings that I have made to some degree. But why has this been the case?.

Making items that are purely aesthetic gives me an unrestricted scope within my work, and yet it can at times be all too restrictive unless I am honest with myself and the work that I am trying to make.

More often than not in western society we are mindful of how others perceive who and what we are. How we dress, the car we drive and the amount of money we earn at times can give us a false sense of security about our identity and the place we want to be/ In turn showing a false persona to others that we may or may not be trying to impress and therefore perhaps hiding our own insecurities.

I know that this has been true of myself in the past and probably to some extent still today. So if I am not mindful of the reasons behind where I am going with my work or if they are being made for honest reasons, how can I expect to be truly creative and expect others to receive my work as genuine.?

For me to be creative means more than just throwing together various materials into a strange shape, giving it a name and calling it art ( or what ever the label should be). It has to be more than this, it has to come from a genuine place, with no connection to any outside influences other than those that come from within me, from an honest place. By this I mean that if I am making, it should be based on "my" ideas and feelings and not altered to impress or show myself to be better than others, or altered to fit in, for the sake of satisfying my own ego.

To try to clarify a bit further my thought process, I will explain it as this.

When I started my journey in sculpting and then woodturning I was always looking for where the next hand full of money would come from. If the piece sold it must be good!! or was it.?

Did the fact that the piece sold mean that it was good or that I had been controlled by outside influences, in turn causing me to create the piece in a way thereby fitting into the likes and negating the dislikes of the buying public to achieve the goal of selling the work. ??

I began to think that if this is the case then what was the point of me bothering to make such work, as you can buy plenty of pretentious glitter items void of any depth in just about every high street shop that sells anything to do with the home.

There is a place for such items but this is not what I am about within my work and this was what I was starting to struggle with. I felt that I was just making for the sake of selling and not making something that was more honest and it then selling. For me there is a difference.

This did not sit comfortably with me so I started to look deeply into my own thought processes and the reason for the making of my work.

Many years ago I studied karate and then moved onto Aikido, shodo as well as Zen classes and other routes of contemplation through meditation etc. I still study some of these today as a way of continually challenging who I am as a person and the reason for doing what I do. One of the lessons that I recall is the "cutting of the self".

No this does not mean falling onto a sword and rendering yourself incapacitated. But the way I see it, is the cutting through the self/ego and revealing the true self. How after all can I come from a honest place as a maker of creative items if they are clouded by the ego or by outside influences that allow me to feel comfortable, by fitting in for the sake of it.

When I started making/turning I could not wait to turn a hollow form like all the others who had established themselves in the world of turning. Why was this the case?, was it to show I was as good, or to impress others, if so were my intentions coming from a good place??.

Do I need to impress, if so what makes me feel that I do/did ?.

Do I as a maker need others to validate what I do ?. If so am I allowing my ego to again cloud my reason for the creating of the item?. If this is the case is the work honest and as perfect as it could be?. Or is it in fact as perfect as I can get, just to conform with the others who tell me through their own ideas, that it is perfect/the way it should be?. If so am I genuinely creating at all,? or just churning out items to feel good and to feel that I fit in and have a safe identity.?

Before I can even try to make anything that is honest, I believe that as an individual these questions have to be answered before I can put any energy into what I do. To strip away the ego and shed it from who I am to understand the process of the creative path is as important to me as the end result. Or I believe I am doing nothing more than conforming to a pre set group of rules, set out by others who also have ego's and agenda's, so that I merely fit in and satisfy my ego and insecurities.

If as a maker of works that should come from within, do I really need to conform or impress others or to fit into a pre set box. ? I do not think so.!! Do I do this?, I hope not, but it all comes down to the here and now and being honest and mindful of what I am doing, where I want to be and how I go about achieving this.

Much for me to think about and churn over. Or does it matter at all. ?

The picture at the top is of an opportunist sculpture made while walking along the beech from drift wood.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to my blog. It is my intention to post my thoughts, feelings and pictures in the following entries so that I can share with you the journey I tread everyday within my work, but more importantly why.

I am very thankful to many people for supporting me in my work, my wife Lizzie, my mother Elaine and in particular my friend Philip Streeting who showed me the way to start to open my mind and develop the creative thought process. I continue to build on this on a daily basis, meeting Philip was a breath of fresh air. struggling for many years to be able to develop my work outside of a pure craft based foundation and to move into mixed media to express my thoughts has enabled me to be totally free to explore something which has mostly been left unexplored, my mind, thoughts and feelings. Putting these ideas into my work is exhilarating to say the least.

Some of you may know of me from the various wood working forums. These are a great place to share and belong to a community that can help develop your technical skills in the craft of woodturning. Unfortunately I have found that they can also stifle my ability to create works that are outside of the round and brown.

Working outside of this restrictive thought process is the place I feel most comfortable to be in as it challenges the way I perceive myself, the works I produce, the methods I use to produce them and the philosophy behind them.

It should be pointed out by myself very early on in my blog that I am passionate about wood. It's smell, workability, spectrum of colours and grain patterns. It is a beautiful medium to work with in its natural state. I continue to work within this sphere and will continue to do so. However to limit myself to only being allowed to work with wood in it's natural state, without, colour, texture or the inclusion of other media thus allowing me to express my thoughts and ideas does nothing for me or my ability to advance and develop my work. It only takes away from me the small amount of precious time I have on this earth to express myself.

It will be a while before I post again as I am off on holiday to spend quality time with my family. I will be taking my camera and sketch book as the North Cornish coast is a beautiful place and is full of inspiration, or not, I guess it depends if I can see it!!