It’s an almost magical transformation. Put a rough, gnarled, bark covered log on a lathe, apply a sharpened steel tool and watch the beauty of the wood emerge. Each twist and turn of the grain is revealed, knots and imperfections pupate into intricate features, as intriguing and individual as fingerprints. And the smells; the cyanide tang of cherry; astringent pine resin and the rich, regal aroma of oak.
Wooden bowls have been made for millennia and we can never know what those who made and used them thought of these vessels. My hunch is that they were valued both for their practicality and their beauty, but I am biased.
For me, turning a bowl is an adventure. I’ve done enough to make some educated guesses about how to transform a particular chunk of wood, but there is always something unexpected 'twixt log and lathe. Hunched over the spinning bole I am constantly adjusting my expectations, knowing what I want to do but having to listen to what the wood is telling me. No two pieces are ever the same. Split a single log into identical halves, turn both on the same day on the same lathe with the same tools to the same dimensions, yet each will be unique. Like identical twins, you expect them to be the same but it’s their differences that intrigue.
I have a number of bowls, boards, caddies, wine stoppers and so on for sale. I also take commissions. My stock is constantly changing so please do get in touch if you are interested in buying any of my work.
For all our ingenuity, humans have yet to produce a material as durable, versatile and above all as beautiful as wood. An oak beam can outlast a steel girder. And who would want stripped steel joists rusting gently on their living room ceiling? The best dance floors are made of wood, no synthetic material can withstand the pounding of feet yet need nothing but a quick polish to restore their lustre. Indeed the cheapest plastic furniture is often given a faux wood finish, aspiring to a height it can never attain.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about wood is that to produce it, all we have to do is to allow a seed to germinate and wait. Admittedly often a few generations, but trees require no energy to grow other than sunlight, no nutrients other than those they scavenge from the ground, and no care other than to be left in peace.
"Wood does not need embellishing, merely revealing"
All text and images copyright Toby Murcott 2013.
"Each bowl is unique The feel of the tool on the wood, the aroma of the shavings, the shape that emerges is always different.
My speciality is simple, clean lines and elegant curves. No harsh angles and no unnecessary detail. Wood does not need embellishing, merely revealing."