Monday, 22 August 2011

On Retreat

On occassions it is good to take time out to reflect and contemplate various parts of our personal and commercial progress.

Now for me is a good time. A few work commitments need to be honoured and then a change in direction for me and my work is wanted and needed.

Having been very fortunate to achieve the goals that I set some years ago with regards to my turning some of these have started to take over and stifle the making process.

This in turn can have adverse effects on me. However instead of looking at these times as a negative I take them as a sign that I am being pulled or gently nudged down a new path. So the only thing to do is to listen to what I am being told and to embrace this, see where it takes me, and just letgo of what I percieve as being the safe option.

This process is frightening and exciting at the same time often yeilds a far richer end result than playing it safe. The trick I have found is just to let go and have faith that all will be well.

There are too many designs/new ideas in my sketch book and head collecting dust, that some prioritising and re-organisation is require before I can embark on this new direction.

It will involve as ever hard work and much thought.

So time out and reflection on my current position/work is needed as I feel at the moment it lacks the depth I feel and know it should have.

Not getting the time to develop my ideas means that turning just becomes a technical process and the work that I have produced to date has not been taken to it's full potential. Looking at new work means time out to search deeper and this can only be done in the mind and not through technique alone.

I will periodically post work and thoughts, but these may be few and far between but hopefully the time to reflect will instigate the changes required.

Needing to clear space also means staying in my own zone for a while and keeping communication to a minimum.

Although I can be contacted via email, it may just take time for me to reply. Of course business will have to carry on as normal and all such enquiries will be answered quickly.

Thank you for your interest to date.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Beginners mind

There have been and continue to be discussions on the forums about design and developement.

In the past I have discussed beginners mind on both my blog and in the forums. The forum discussions generally end up in a debate that lose sight of the question and essence of what is trying to be discussed. So generally these days I tend to spend less time in them, not because I am being direspectful to those in the forums but there is generally a certain mind set that I use to fight against which eventually I found I could not change, so would rather spend my energies on my own work which is suffering through having too much to do. But things are soon going to give so I can concentrate on spending more time on making, but that is another subjctfor the future.

Then the penny dropped and I realised that it is not my place to change anything, but it is within every ones ability to develop if they so wish by observing, researching and connecting. All the information is out there with people willing to help if we only let them.

We all have this ability to be creative but generally lose most of it by the time we reach teenage years. Then we go through school being moulded by the system and our peers. If we choose a creative craft/art hopefully in further education the lecturer will help us to connect back with our creative side by stipping away the pre-programmed and pointing us in the direction to find the answers.

Some may be born and keep the natural ability of being creative and have an innate sence and talent. Unfortunately I was not one of those so have to work hard at it and continue to do so.

Then our ego's ( especially for men) come into play. " I know what I am doing", " no one can tell me anything about anything".

At this point the door closes and making just becomes an amalgamation of various techniques, which any one can learn with practice and time, they are not difficult at all.
People will have you believe that they are the "holy grail", mainly I believe because they do not want others to see through the ruse that keeps them secure. As they may not be able to acheive anything else beyond this.

This results in a "nice piece" of work, that lacks depth and any real interest for the viewer. Often I hear that technique is the most important aspect of turning/creating, " cods wallop".

Yes safe technique is important, once you acheive it then let go of it and move into other directions. (if you want to of course, there is nothing wrong with being satisfied with where you are at).

My 8 year old daughter Bella this morning was sat happily drawing in our conservatory while I relaxed reading a book.

She came and showed me the above picture which immediately made me smile. The parts/colours and shapes all connect, she even included an offset which draws the eye nicely away from the uniform design/outside circle.

When I told her that I thought it was brilliant and asked where she had gotten the idea from, she replied " I just wanted to play with circles".

Without concious thought Bella used five colours including the white of the paper. All of these have been connected to give a balance through-out the drawing.

So I could be flippant and say that design is "childs play". But there is far more going on than that. This leads back to Beginners Mind.

If any one is interested in understanding about this there is a vast amount of information on the internet and many good bookd. There are books related to this and design specifically and large corporations also adopt it as a way to get there highly paid employees to think out side of the box.

This morning my 8 year old daughter acheived in an instant what many of us try to acheive after years of work. Why because there are no preconceived ideas of how "things should be done", she just does it and if it does't work she does not get upset, but just starts again.

Some thing for me to think about. I may observe my daughters more to see what else I can learn.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Chance Meetings

Life is at times a strange way of workingg. Having made the decision to leave a perfectly secure job and take up turning for a vocation I have travelled a great deal and met many people.

Many new freinds and aquantences have been made and often these have started with a simple email about something turning related.

With all the technology available today we can converse with people all around the globe often in real time due to such things as skype etc.

These recources enable us to acheive greater possibilities certainly more than what must have been available in yester year.

Mainly I use my computer for work, research etc. But it is a powerful tool in bridging distance between people and opening up possibilities.

One such instance of this is a freind that I had not met in person, Lee Sneddon, came to my home for a short holiday with his family from scotland, to talk and look at turning ideas/techniques and to relax.

Not all the time spent was in the workshop and a visit to the beach for some relaxation was in order together with visits to other local attractions.

I had a great time and realised that there is more to turning wood than just making hollow forms etc. You can on occassions, as I have done on many, meet new freinds along the way. With this being the age where people are supposed to have lost the art of communication perhaps it should be looked from a different angle, that this is the age where we just work in different ways with new ideas.

Not unlike woodturning really, some will resist against change but slowly it comes and takes us all over.

Here are a few pictures of the four days with Lee, one from the beach at Sandbanks which was amazing as the sun was beating down on the sand while in the other direction there was a storm brewing.

So to all the other freinds that I have met through turning. Have a great day and hope to catch up soon.


The last week has been a busy and enjoyable time.

During the week as mentioned previously I was joined by Deborah a student studying with the Ecole Boulle school in Paris. Deborah while in England is also visiting other craft makers for a week at a time to gain experience in working in different medias and processes.

The week started with basic material, tool theory and techniques. It was evident early on that Deborah had a natural ability to pick up knowledge and techniques with ease to such an extent that through out the week many subjects and projects were covered.

Thursday and Friday were taken up with the making of items that Deborah had designed herself during the evenings. This was an interesting process to be involved in as being a turner I guess I am pre-programmed to look work that is turned in the round.This at times can restrict my ability to look outside of the norm. Where as a student that has no prior knowledge of a subject is not restricted by the process and has a far more open mind set.

This as a positive allows for greater expression in design. The interesting part is moving from the theory/drawings to the process of making. This at times opens up the reality that items when being designed can not necessarily be entirely made using only one process, in this case by using the lathe. Or that the reality at times is that often a re-design can make the production stage much easier. At least, it is useful to have knowledge of the processes involved and the way machines work.

This being the reason why Deborah who is studying a course in Product design came to the UK to obtain practical experience of working with materials and different processes and to see how both design and making need to be linked.

This was encountered on several occassions with the design and making both being altered to facilitate the end result. Some of this required work off of the lathe using other machines. However the gap of theory and reality are not necessarily that far apart when looked at from a different angle and often a solution can be found by the simplest of means.

As with any time spent in a confined enviroment with one person freindships can be formed. My Daughters looked forward to her arriving each day. We managed to pick up a few lessons in speaking French which had all of us laughing especially when some of what I was saying had been translated back to me in English.

We also visited Dansel Gallery at Abbotsbury to look at other wood craft during which time we saw that not only humans enjoy wood.

Below are some pictures of the week.

Various techniques being covered from bowl work/natural edge to skew and finishing.

The end results

Making a box incorporating various surface finishes.

The rest of the week was used to for Deborah to design and make her own items and to cover specifics that she wanted to investigate.

Visit to Dansel Gallery at Abbotsbury.

Our K9 freind adding his own personality to the window display.

The three pictures below are supplied and used with kind permission of Dansel Gallery.

Visiting Shaftesbury with Deborah and my daughters where I grew up. A short distance from where I live now.
An interesting seat designed with local buildings for the back support. Design ideas can be found in most places.

It was a brilliant week and very enjoyable for me and my family to meet Deborah. We both learnt a great deal and it was particularly interesting to get the perspective of a design student, and I wish Deborah all the best in her endevours.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Inspirational Links

A while ago I updated my web site with an "Inspirational Links" Page.

Here you will find not only Turners/sculptors but photographers, cermacists and other people who's work I have perconally viewed and believe others will anjoy and benefit from viewing. Each maker/artist has their own way of working and can give inspiration and insight into a broader word of making than what we may be currently exposed to.

I hope you enjoy the work as much as I do. More will be added as and when I get time.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Ecole Boulle School of fine Art and Crafts

Back in January I was put in contact with a French student who is studying product design in the Ecole Boulle School of fine arts and crafts Paris. This student is now with me for a week studying woodturning as part of her project of looking at the Arts and Crafts movement of Great Britain.

Obviously I was very priveledge that my work had impact enough for a student from abroad to want to come and study with me for a whole week.

While it is my job to tutor and to teach woodturning including my slant on the craft. It is also a great opportunity for me to meet a student, who coming from such an advanced fine art and design school will I have no doubt teach me a lot also.

One of the valued parts about teaching is that I always learn from my students. Many have experience in other feilds such as teaching, industry, University etc, and have skills that due to my background I have not formally followed.

This in turn ties in well with a philosophy that I continue to study and try to keep at the forefront of my everyday work, this being "beginners mind".

For me it is an invaluable mind set to work with. Not only does it help me to understand how I should teach a beginner, (often having a certain level of skill in something will cloud the mind and hinder how I get the process across). By Keeping this "beginners mind" at the forefront I can look at the craft not only from a studentss point of view, but also to explain and quantify the techniques of the craft in a language that can be understood. It also anables me to look at the way I am working from a fresh perspective or different angle.

To assume that we know it all is obviously a dangerous place to be. Of course I do not, far from it and that is why I am very excited about working with this student.

I may be the teacher from the technical aspect but I have the feeling that I will be the student from a design perspective as I do not have other than engineering, CAD CAM qualifications
(which are out of date), have any formal design/art training. While I have studied water colour and pastel painting, drawing, classical guitar etc etc, these have always been persued as an interest, rather than a formal study.

All of my training is self generated from research with trial and error, there are of course freinds who mentor and help me along my way. But having a condensed, focussed and structured course to follow must be an amazing thing to be part of. (One for the To Do, list when the children leave home).

It will be interesting to talk about my design philosophies which are based heavily in Zen and Eastern ways of thinking, compared to a more formal background.

What a great week it is going to be. So much to teach,learn and exchange.

I hope to post pictures once the week has progressed.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Time away

Over the weekend I went to London for two days so that I could have a look at the wonderful work that has been produced by artisans from all over the world.

So I took in the sights at the V&A Museum In which I was in my enviroment as there is a dedicated Japanese exhibition. In fact the museum has 40,000 archived Japanese items alone, put ontop of this the Chinese, mongolian, Tibetan, classical works and art.

Then it was a trip to the National Gallery

followed by a trip to the Natural History Museum

and Science Museum

all of which have free entry. Wow is all I can say, and they have to be visited as my eyes were open to a new and varied way of thinking.

Of course I had to buy the books too and take over 400 pictures a few of which I have included below. But you can not unfortunately see the true beauty of the items from these pictures.

The fine detail of craftsmanship can not be seen to its full impact so a visit is a must.

The picture at the top of the page was a huge glass instalation above the entrance desk at the V&A. It was around 10 foot high and very impressive.