woodturning, art

Unique art or uninspired copy

Normally at this point in the month I would be blogging about my latest HWA challenge. Unfortunately however I missed this months meeting, and I was gutted about it. It would of been ok if I had made other plans and simply decided to give it a miss this month. But no, I simply forgot. It completely slipped my mind, going about my 'normal' Monday evening routine, until about 10.30pm when I looked across my coffee table and saw my wine bottle coaster Which I should of taken to get critiqued. Any how, to console me from my failure to attend, Kat decided that she would set me a task for this month. Her criteria were

It must have no functional purpose It must involved off-centre turning and it must use at least 2 colours of wood.

That's a pretty broad brief in some ways, and pretty vague in others. I am not an artist and normally adhere to 'form follows function' But what does form follow if there is no function??

I sat down with my trusty makers notebook and started sketching out some ideas, at first this was little more than shapes, whilst I groped for inspiration. Eventually I came up with two ideas I liked. And so far I have made the first one.

I decided for this project not to take any pictures of the making process. I'm not sure why but it seemed that unlike a functional piece, as a piece of art it should evolve naturally and only be seen in its final form.


The road to making the initial idea into reality was not easy. I first made the bottom piece from a slice of spalted beach. This looked fantastic, except that it was really flaky and impossible to get a good finish. Several sections, particularly at the bottom of the ripples looked fairly bad when finished. I guess I need to learn about wood stabilising if I want to get much use out of the remaining beach that I have. It's unlikely that the rest will be much different.

Ultimately I used a piece of oak, this particular piece came from a colleague at work who gave me a couple of branches he'd cut down at his mothers house. It had cracked quite badly, but I'm learning to live with that as a by-product of working with smaller branches that are given to me. And sometimes a crack can enhance a piece, in this case I quite like what it adds to the aesthetic, the ripples were intended to show the wood as fluid, reacting to the impact of the droplet. Having a crack run to the centre of the ripples is a nice contrast.


Originally the piece of oak was much thicker, I had intended to have a bowl like finish beneath the centre, with the offcentre section 'floating' But I decided this looked far too chunky, instead slicing it to be much thinner and placed on a small stand to make it all float slightly off the surface.


But here is my quandary, and the reason for the title of this blog post. Is it art? I freely confess that I was inspired by a piece I saw in January's woodturning magazine(p38) by Martin Edwards That piece was beautiful, showing ripples in wood and 'droplets' hanging off the rim. It was crafted to a much higher standard than my piece. So what is the line between 'inspired by' and 'copy of'. Many paintings are all of the same things, houses, landscapes, people etc. By that standard I'd say my piece is art. After all nobody looked at the Mona Lisa and said 'great, another picture of a woman... Seen one, seen em'all' However by my own 'nonartyness' having seen the process I went through, it feels like I just followed some simple rules. Take an idea I've seen, apply the guidelines provided for this project and presto.

That said my second idea is something I don't think I've seen before. It's still evolvinng in my mind and I have no idea if I even have the skill required to make it. The first attempt to make one part of it failed utterly to work out they was I imagined. And so I'm already re-working things. I guess I will see how I get on, and decided at the end if it feels any more 'art' like than this.