I’ve always had an obsession with names. As a kid, not only did I name all of my toys and stuffed animals, but I also often had names for my bicycle, potted plants, and bugs I met out in the yard. Basically, if I could name it, I probably did, or I at least considered, “If that thing had a name, what would it be?”
The practice still holds true today. My car is named Tallulah, my Dad’s truck that I inherited is the Great White (his name for it, not mine – I think I would have gone with The Duke), and the cedar trees in our backyard that I rescued from a coal mine are Gary, Rich, and Diane…. Our furry clan of pets include Steve and Carol (cats), as well as our dogs, General Sherman, Walter, and Eggnog (also known as Snoogie). I’ve had cats named Mushroom and Casserole, and the Yaris I owned before the one I have now was named Jerome. You get the picture. I love names.
So a lot of people have asked me how I come up with all of the names for things I turn on the lathe, as well as how do I decide to name them this or that. Being a “name enthusiast,” I’m always paying attention to names when I see them, whether it’s walking around a cemetery, doing archival research for an archaeological field project, or just hearing certain names I like. I’ve named bowls after people I know as well as interesting (and sometimes famous) historic characters, and I’ve also named bowls after members of various bands/musicians. Who knows, by tomorrow I may be naming bowls after physicists or soil colors listed in a Munsell book (10YR 3/2 very dark grayish brown anyone? Haha).
For so many of the bowls and other things I make, I just like the names and they feel right. For others, there was additional inspiration or a round-about way I got there. Anyway, here is a brief overview of the inspiration I’ve had when naming a few my turned wares (you’d be reading a dissertation if I went down the whole list).
- I loved the name, Keturah, when I found it on an old tombstone at the Paris, Kentucky, Cemetery. I named a tobacco stick pen after her. Seemed appropriate.
- Two bowls with gnarled grain and inclusions were named Layne and Staley. If anyone knows anything about Alice in Chains and the tragic demise of Layne Staley, you get why I named them that.
- Two bowls (Stevie and Mick) and a platter (Peter Green) were named after present and past members of Fleetwood Mac. Now, I have to say, I’m not a Fleetwood Mac fan, but I got on a kick a few months ago researching the crazy history and drama involved with this band. The bowl I named Stevie was made out of cherry burl wood and has a lot of voids and some very dark sections of the wood. What can I say, I loved this bowl and think it is beautiful. The real Stevie is/was beautiful, and she had a long-term cocaine addiction that nearly ate away her sinuses. Mick Fleetwood is a curious character that seemed fitting for that bowl, and Peter Green, while he lost it for a time, was a pretty stoic character, just like the hackberry wood of that platter.
- The African mahogany bowl, Oona, is named after a song.
- The rainbow tulip poplar bowl, Grace, is…well…graceful.
- My dad loved Russian names, and I originally was going to be named Tatiana, but my mom convinced him to shorten it to Tanya. One of my favorite lidded bowls is named Tatiana, and another lidded bowl is named after my middle name, Alexandra.
- The spalted beech plate, Lytton, is named after the author, Lytton Strachey. The painter, Dora Carrington, was in love with him for years until he died. She eventually committed suicide.
- The beech wood platter, Henry, was named after my father. By far, that is still one of my favorite platters, and I’m just so glad it went to a good home. ☺
- Violet, the cake plate, is named after a character played by Miss Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey.
- Galen, the walnut plate, is named after the son of one of my mother’s old friends. As a kid, I remember Galen and his brother, Lance (I named an acrylic pen after him), who were both teenagers, hanging out in the basement of my mom’s friend’s house playing records. While I didn’t really talk to them, and they had no interest in talking to 8-year-old me, I thought they were fascinating and so cool. I wish I could remember what they were listening to. Based on the time period, I’d go with Rush or Supertramp.
- Two vases, Margot and Petra, are named after my German uncle’s first two wives. Don’t ask why. As far as I know, there has not been a #3.
- Several items are named after Civil War characters, such as Stonewall and Sheridan.
- Harold is an acrylic pen that I named after a man that lived with his mother all of his life until he died of a heart attack, and he was a good friend of the family. While I don’t remember very much about him, I do remember how he brought a plate to my mom from Intercourse, Pennsylvania (as a kid, I couldn’t help giggling about that), and he liked to give me mixed tapes of 1950s songs. He also had really long nose hairs.
- In general, the acrylic pens all have more context since I include a story with them. For example, who can forget Captain Party Pants, Gary the Roller Boogie King, and Jazzercize Bobby?
I hope that this has given you a little insight into my zany naming process, if one could call it that. I appreciate you stopping by. ☺