My first wood turning experience was in seventh grade. It was fun! From then on, I tried to include turning in my other projects. My first lathe was a motor and an L bracket with a screw for the tail stock. It was scary, but it worked. I loved turning, but without a good lathe, it was always a frustrating experience. About fifteen years ago, I developed my own lathe, which gave me the freedom to truly explore wood turning. Along with the lathe came the tools that simplified the process and made "impossible shapes" possible. I am basically a self-taught turner, however I have studied with Rude Osolnik, Dale Nish, Richard Raffan, Dell Stubbs, attended many workshops and demonstrations, all of which have greatly contributed to my understanding of the art and have given ideas which have guided me in new directions.
I prefer to turn green wood. Green wood gives the artist more latitude as to size, shape, grain direction, and cost of materials. Natural edges and the double bull's eye of the heart wood on the sides of a vessel are examples of this. The final shape of a piece turned from green wood is not totally predetermined. During the drying and curing process, many strange and wonderful things can happen. Trying to control this phenomenon is fascinating, wondrous, and not always successful.
Recently, I began dying dowels, gluing them into turning blocks, and turning them into unusual pieces. I next dyed veneers, glued them into turning blocks, and the results were no less spectacular. I saved the shavings from all these pieces, glued and pressed them into blocks and turned them. The result of this technique is extraordinary and almost unbelievable.
I have always worked better exploring the "how to" part of doing something. Do it, make mistakes and learn from them. Don't dot all the i's and cross all the T's; just get on with the program. Work out the details later. The "how to" part of doing something is a solo event. It is the culmination of learning and experience that usually leads in new directions. I really believe that sooner or later it is time to get on with the project. Once one has mastered the notes it is time to compose your own music. Studying with a master provides some avenues of direction but it is up to the individual to start their own composition and develop their melody.
If there is one given it is this: you can't wait for technology. You must create it, if you want to accomplish your goals. You can not allow your imagination or your creativity to become stifled by present day knowledge or conventional wisdom. Create the necessary technology, tools, and develop a new wisdom to reach your goals. There are no constraints for the creative mind. The limit is finding sufficient time to implement new ideas. Ideas keep coming. These "zingers" usually come in rapid succession; vague images that I have to grab immediately for fear of losing them. I feel compelled, nay, driven to explore and test them to the exclusion of all else. It gets lonely sometimes because I am not quite sure where it will take me or whether it will be worth the effort, because the bottom line is the nagging requirement to make a living.
Howard Lewin l992