Sunday, October 24, 2010

Back to Class 1

I am a fortunate woodworker. I live in an area homesteaded by people with the strength to withstand the harsh climate, and the resilency to carve a home and living from the prairie. The spirit of these immigrants still lives here, the importance of craft and family is strong. Several guilds make their home in my small city, inventiveness and collaboration make this a hot spot for fibre, glass, ceramics, paint, and every other media at an artists disposal. The Saskatchewan Woodworkers Guild, Hub City Woodturners, The Saskatchewan Craft Council, and The Saskatchewan Arts Board encourage local innovation and excellence in wood.

If I were to choose one person who embodies the spirit of Saskatchewan art, it would be Michael Hosaluk. Tireless innovation, constant consideration, and a complete lack of pretention has made him the backbone of local craft. His mastery of the lathe and complete approachabilty has resulted in him becoming an instructor in high demand, his work has taken him around the world. I had the opportunity to take two classes under his instruction this week, the first was about woodturning.

Mikes class ran all day, and covered a lot of ground. The day started with spindle work, demonstrating clean, fast work on a number of small production items. Door stops, rolling pins, spatulas, Christmas tree ornaments, and tops spilled off his lathe in rapid succession.

His personality is easy going, his instructing style intelligent yet informal. We were allowed to move around as we pleased, I spent much of the day standing behind him and watching over his shoulder as his tool made contact with the work.

Here he is making a wine bottle stopper. After he used a chatter tool to cut a design on the top he demonstrated doing the same to the sides with a gouge, a technique he laughingly calls "chowder, not chatter".

He also did some multi-axis work, which results in a mind boggling blurr as it rotates on the lathe.

He then switched to bowl turning. Here he is making a thin walled Madrone burl bowl, using his hand as a steady and a light to gauge the wall thickness. A damp cloth is kept nearby, the green wood walls so thin they must be moistened periodically to prevent them from drying and distorting on the lathe.

From there he made a practical bowl of birch with walls thick enough for daily use.

Next demonstrated was his techniques for making a perfect friction fit lidded box. After the initial form is turned, it is cut apart and reglued into a fantastic shape impossible to make on a lathe.

Througout the day the demonstrations were punctuated with lessons on design. Mike's philosophies on shape are well thought out and eloquently presented. He brought examples of his work as inspiration, and was glad to explain the technical operations behind each piece.

I left the day knowing much more than what I started with, excited to put his ideas to use. I am lucky to have started on the turning leg of my woodworking journey with such an enlightened tutor.

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I'm a woodworker on the Canadian prairie.