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art fairs, Bloopers, etsy, Woodworking

Wretchedly Happy

Thoughts on What the Hell I Can Make Out of a Gnarled but Beautiful Chunk of Wood

Over the last few weeks, Creekview Woodshop has had the opportunity to participate in two holiday events: the Berea’s Holiday Makers Market and the Christmas Market at Michler’s. They were both outstanding events, super fun, and we met awesome people.

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(Thanks to Marie from Funky Junk Gifts and https://www.backroadbluegrass.com/ for the great photo!)

Since then, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what motivates me to make the kinds of things I do on my lathe. It likely sounds strange to even pose the question considering I’m asking myself—and technically should know already since it’s, well, me—but even I wonder sometimes on a broader philosophical or artistic level why I might choose to make something a certain shape or color, because half the time there is no “plan.”

Overall, I’m mostly motivated by my curiosity: what can I turn that knotty, nasty hunk of wood into? Is there something beautiful in there (beauty being relative and all)? What would happen if I tried to balance this crazy thing between centers and gave it a spin?

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The guys at the wood lot handed me a crazy looking piece of oak in the shape of an egg because it would “burn good and long,” but fortunately I had other ideas. In fact, that “egg” didn’t go in the back of the truck. It got to ride shotgun and later became a series of oak burl bottle stoppers of which these are a few.

Well, I can tell you what often happens – big hunks of bark and wood go flying around the woodshop, landing even in crazy places like the storage loft above (just found this out as I wrestled with the boxes of Christmas stuff to get them down to take in the house the other night). About 30 percent of the time, that crazy piece of wood turns into something pretty cool. The remaining 70 percent of the time, it joins the other scrap in the fire pit. You don’t know until you try it.

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William the pen cup was one of the lucky 30%.

With some of these chunks of wood, I already have some sort of idea of what it might work out as – for example, a pen cup or a vase. Sometimes I’m motivated to try things out based on what kind of music I’m listening to or what birds I see hopping all over the nearby feeders. I just never know what I’ll come out with when I walk into the shop, and that keeps things interesting.

One thing I can say for certain is that I like things to look a bit wretched, as I call it. But wretched in a good way. Not miserable and pitiable. More raw and imperfect.

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Lori almost shed a tear when we sold Layne at the Berea Makers Market. Wonder how I came up with that name?
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I recently started making candle holders and am in love with this wretched little piece.

This is especially true for my pen cups, bowls, vases, candle holders, and even some bottle stoppers and pens. I’m always interested in how I can keep some element of the piece of wood as I found it, whether it’s got striations, tears, bark, cut marks, crazy grain, interesting cracks, worm holes, big knots, holes birds once lived in, you name it. The imperfect is somewhat perfect in my book, and I like to maintain some element of the tree in my work.

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Once a home to birds, this branch that was destined for the wood pile was transformed into a sculptural piece on my lathe.

A lot of turners are always on the lookout for that perfect piece of wood to make the perfect bowl. I’m okay with not having that “perfect” piece of wood. Hand me that root ball or dead knotty tree branch and let’s see what I can do with it. Most of all, I don’t like things too perfect because I don’t want it forgotten that that bowl in your hands was once part of a beautiful, living plant. We should honor the memory of the tree – not make it into something that doesn’t even look like wood, but again, that’s my thing.

Christmas is approaching, and I’ll be back in the shop shortly spinning more chunks of wood and creating fun and wretched (in a good way) things within the next few days – once I excavate the layers of dust and wood chips covering the shop after all of the hustle and bustle over the last few weeks preparing for the holiday markets. I hope you are doing well, and I appreciate you stopping by. ☺

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Office supplies, Woodworking

For the love of office supplies

When it comes to writing, I admit I’m pretty old school. Not like writing slate in a one-room school house old school, but I do actually prefer to write things down on paper vs typing things on a computer. Notes, lists, lists of lists, lists reminding me to look at the lists…you get the picture. I even leave post-it notes around for me to do things like file bill stubs:

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This note to myself was weeks ago telling myself to file shit and not get distracted. Not only did I get distracted, but I’m rebelling against my bossy self and refusing to do it until I feel like it. The struggle is real.

So many things are done electronically these days – case in point, I’m writing this post on a computer right now – but if I could, I’d write it down on paper and snail mail it through the interwebs for you all to see. This is not from some sort of antagonism towards technology. I just like to write things down, and I LOVE office/school supplies.

It’s a sickness, really. Continue reading “For the love of office supplies”

Bloopers, etsy, Woodworking

Ode to My Sh*tty First Bowl

We all have that thing we did when we first started a hobby (if it even remained a hobby after that first wretched disaster…), and I have several of these things laying around as reminder of how not as sh*tty I am these days, haha.

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This is me getting ready to embarrass myself with my collection of sh*tty lathe disasters. (The bowl on the lathe in this picture is not on the list, thank God…instead, I’ll be showing it at the Harrodsburg Oktoberfest this weekend. Click here to check it out on Etsy.)

Continue reading “Ode to My Sh*tty First Bowl”

Bloopers, Woodworking

Just call me Pig-Pen

The non-glamorous (but fun) life of an archaeologist and woodturner

My better half likes to call me Pig-Pen sometimes (well, actually a lot these days). Not the most flattering nickname, but I can’t blame her. I have a job where unless I’m working on a report, I’m out in the field, and when I’m home, I’m usually working in the yard or in the shop. That means I carry a lot of dirt and sawdust around with me, and I bring it into the house….What can I say? Even though I think I’ve brushed myself off, I inevitably leave a trail of debris wherever I go, only to have poor Lori follow me around with a dustpan and broom, haha.

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Me out in the field messing with my mittens while mapping points with a total station. We work year-round.

Continue reading “Just call me Pig-Pen”

Craft Fairs, Woodworking

Cowboy boots on a hot day

Last weekend was a bit of a whirlwind with the Paris ArtWalk on Friday and the Pumpkin Festival all day on Saturday. Thankfully, the weather was awesome, and I can say truthfully that I had a blast (even in cowboy boots on a hot day). It was great to see my fantastic neighbors and friends, and get to know new folks and talk about one of my favorite subjects, woodturning.

I also got into (many) tangential conversations with folks I met about archaeology (I can’t help it – I live and breathe it – and when people find out you dig up dead people’s trash, they often have lots of questions), Downton Abbey episodes (who doesn’t think Michelle Dockery is stunning in everything she wears?), and whether IPA beers should be wiped off the bar menu of every pub in favor of good porters. Continue reading “Cowboy boots on a hot day”

Storytelling, Woodworking

What’s in a name?

My wife would like for me to remind you that I’m taken 😛

When I started woodworking, I never thought about starting a blog or a website, let alone an Etsy shop, so it’s been quite a journey (as much as I joke around about and generally hate that term). But as I’ve gone along, what I considered to be a personal thing—me hanging around in the woodshop with my furry assistants, dancing around while I make stuff (yes, there’s a bit of dancing, sometimes waving around a bowl gouge during a particularly “motivating” tune)—I started to consider this as something more and wanted to share what I’ve been working on.

It also was a good idea to free up some space in the house. I think my wife was starting to wonder how we ever were going to use that many bottle stoppers, I already had given her a bunch of pen prototypes, and what can one do with that many bowls or pen cups? I haven’t posted any bird houses, but I assure you, they’re Continue reading “What’s in a name?”