Don McIvor's presentation will focus on his lathe-based work. Don will discuss his arts background, influences and inspiration for his woodturning, and the process of developing a piece from tree-to-gallery.
I have been working with wood, sometimes professionally and sometimes out of passionate interest, for more than 35 years. I have built houses, furniture, cabinets, and turned objects. Early on I worked with Charles McRaven restoring and building custom log and post and beam homes in Virginia. We took structures apart in numbered pieces, moved them across counties and states, and put them back together on a new site. The job provided the opportunity to work with terrific materials like heart pine and chestnut that have long vanished from the commercial market. That was also an interesting experience for the connection to the past. Some of the houses we restored were built in the 1700s; examining the tool marks left centuries ago gave me an immediate connection to those craftsmen.
I’m a firm believer in the notion that everyday objects can be imbued with artistic design that enhances their function and enriches our lives. Woodturning appeals to me in part because a vessel can be completed in a relatively short period of time, and with careful crafting it can reveal a perfect curve that engages our primal instincts, all while catching the eye with the warmth and complexity inherent in wood. Humans and vessels have a long history together, and to this day we still need a place to put our stuff, whether pocket change, a collection of polished stones, or a salad. I also enjoy the exploration of more abstract concepts that the lathe allows—fundamentally, a lathe is just power-driven wood carving.
The idea of honoring the wood is one that takes different forms in different cultures, but it is a uniting theme among people who are lucky enough to get to work with this medium. So much time and patience are invested in the life of a tree. Depending on the species and the luck of the draw, some individual trees can live for more than a thousand years. During its own lifetime, a tree provides shelter and food for so many other lives. The pattern of growth rings is a record of the natural world during the life of the tree, revealing wind, snowpack, rain or drought, fire, insect outbreaks, and so on. I like the idea that crafting wood into an object that can be handed down for many more generations honors the long life of the tree that came before the bowl or table or whatever else I create.