If you have been following previous articles (blogs) that I have written, you know that my wife Barb has the spousal right to abscond just about anything that I create. Last year she managed to claim an oak bowl and I was faced with the challenges of making fruit. Barb continues to make claim on what fancies her but this article mainly addresses the ongoing support and encouragement I continually receive from her. If you have noticed, I really enjoy turning vases and as you know, wood and water really are not that compatible. So, my initial vases were mainly ornamental or would contain a dried flower arrangement. Since Barb is an avid gardener she wanted wooden vases that would hold freshly cut flowers from her garden. With some trial and error I have managed to make some of my vases to hold inserts, enabling fresh flowers to be put safely into a wooden vase.
Several years ago, Betty Wilkinson (a good friend of Barb’s family since about the 30’s) and one of the founding members of the Fenelon Station Gallery started growing straw flowers for my vases. She taught me how to wire the flowers together and make a nice bouquet for my vases. (Indecently, Betty was the main reason I am at the Fenelon Gallery today). Anyway, since Barb is the avid gardener she attempted to grow straw flowers but with limited success. We tend to lack the required sunshine, so living in a forest has it’s draw backs.
With some research and a lot of experimentation I have developed a technique of turning discarded branches into flowers. I use aniline dyes to give the flowers color and use the skills that Betty taught me to put a wire stem on each flower. I was so excited that at the very next Kawartha Wood Turning Guild meeting I turned a small vase and a bouquet of dyed flowers for the Show and Tell table. When Art (the president of the club) held up my piece, he asked who had turned the vase. I indicated it was not the vase I was showing but the turned flowers in it. Out of a group of 75 wood turners not one realized that the flowers were turned from wood. Not only the Guild, but also my customers think that the flowers are indeed straw flowers. Now I keep a sample of a flower still attached to the branch from which it was turned to show how it was done.
Well since that time, I continue to experiment with different species of wood. Maple is my main source but I am starting to use sumac and not using any dyes. The variations between the sap wood and heart wood give an appealing contrast.
To date, I have given seminars in Peterborough, Barrie and Toronto along with private sessions to individuals and (can you believe this?) I even get paid for doing something I love doing.