Saturday, August 29, 2009

Group Magic – Sharing is the key to learning

Last month (July 2009), I taught a 5-day hands-on Woodturning Workshop at Craft Supplies in Utah. It was an incredible learning experience for all of us!

We started with a group orientation, and stating our individual goals for the class. Sharpening, tool control, and design were all high on the list.

My goal is to share to what I know, and to help each participant to achieve their own goals for the class.

The first day, we did a tool control exercise, using push cuts to create the 3 basic shapes that make vessel forms. We then spent the rest of the day turning vessel forms. No hollowing, just lots of vessel shapes out of nice, easy, fun wood to turn.

Day two started with a spindle exercise, and then on to making finials for our vessels. The idea of these first two days is to loosen up and get into the woodturning groove.

At our daily group critiques, we explore how to look at our work. For me, group critiques are the best part. Something magical happens when we start sharing ideas with each other. Learning how to look at our work and see both success, and room for improvement, is one of the most difficult skills for artists to learn. And it is essential if our work is to keep progressing.

On Wednesday we made my signature “Fabulous Finial Box” as a group. All of that exercise and practice really paid off! The Finial Box is a complicated and demanding project. After some “design opportunities”, and miraculous recoveries, everyone had a completed Finial Box.

For the last two days of class, everyone was encouraged to follow their own inspiration. It was a bit chaotic, but we had some incredible creative energy flowing. There were 4 or 5 different projects going at once: Mushroom boxes, Square Bowls, experiments with brightly colored dyes, more Finials, and Hollow Vessels.

A couple of the participants hollowed a vessel for the first time. Thanks to the Jamieson Captured Hollowing System, the hollowing process was a relaxing and successful experience!

Myself, I was in heaven watching, and helping, everyone explore different projects and techniques. Such marvelous individual, creative expression! I always get such a charge out of teaching a woodturning class!

After 5 intense days of serious Woodturning, I was pleased to see turning and sharpening techniques improve. Everyone picked up new ideas and new ways of looking at, and improving, their work.

We all left inspired. And, most important of all, we have made some new friends in the world of woodturning. Sharing is the key to learning!

To read about one participant’s experience, check out Katherine Kowalski’s blog post from August 3, 2009:

If you missed this class, be sure to catch me next time! Look for my upcoming demonstrations and classes on the “Itinerary” page on my website:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Art is what it’s all about!

Art shows are gold mines of inspiration! The atmosphere is charged with energy, from the artists and the art collectors. At the Loveland (Colorado) Sculpture Invitational (Aug 7 – 9, 2009), I was exhibiting, and expecting to sell, my own artwork. Attending a show like that is a tremendous opportunity to meet other artists and to connect with their energy and passion.

One of the artists that I met made a profound impression on me. Lillian Pitt is a well respected Native American artist from Portland Oregon. I enjoyed visiting her booth and experiencing her work. In her brochure was this quote:

“My ancestors were traders and innovators. They traded goods and exchanged ideas with people from many Native traditions. I honor my ancestors by carrying on this tradition of exchanging goods and ideas through my art.” – Lillian Pitt

I read that and thought “That is really why we are all here at this show!”

Reading Lillian’s statement, I was struck by the realization of exactly what this art show is about! Through the art that the artists had all created and brought to Loveland, we were carrying on a time-honored human cultural tradition of exchanging goods and ideas.

The artists exchange ideas and passion with the art patrons, artists exchange ideas with each other, and we all exchange goods through the sales of our artwork.

This exchange is the essence of human cultural relationship. We grow as individuals, and as a community, when we exchange our ideas and passions with each other. Art is a powerful transmitter of spiritual energy.

The exchange of goods is also an essential part of our spiritual growth. When we exchange goods, the art patron goes home with a tangible piece of the artist’s passion. And the artist gets money to live on, making it possible for them to continue making art. The artist needs financial support to continue, and we all need to continue that sharing of our energy for our culture to thrive.

With this exchange of goods and ideas, the lives of artist and patron are connected, and the energy is free to flow onward. This is how our community grows.

That is why I don’t just stay at home and make art that never leaves my shop. Sharing my work with the people who connect with it and invite my energy into their lives, and share their ideas with me, is what completes the circle.

Buying a special piece of artwork, inviting an artist’s passion into my home, is just as powerful as creating artwork for others. David and I bought a piece at the Loveland show, and every time I see it, I experience the spiritual connections that we all have with each other.

That, to me, is what life is all about!