Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eames Inspired Mid-Century Modern Bowls

In the 1940s an architect and an artist married each other and blended their creative talents to produce some of the most iconic design concepts of the the 20th century. Their names were Charles and Ray Eames. Their ideas about design and function were so effective that the entire mid-century modern design concept has become known as Eames Era.

Where is this going I hear you ask and what does it have to do with hand carved wooden bowls? Well it may seem strange but I don't really see my bowls as all that traditional. They're modeled after traditional forms and techniques but these antique designs, driven by function, have been altered to accommodate our modern ideas of style and design. For a long time I've thought about creating a bowl style inspired by mid century modern design norms. I feel that people who are interested in minimalist design shouldn't have to rely on mass produced, molded plastic to satisfy their taste. Where is it written that hand carving cannot produce beautiful natural items that are perfectly at home in the ultra modern kitchen or dining room?
There were a couple of technical problems to over come with this goal however. The first was the actual style of the bowl. I've played around with various shapes before settling on the form you see in these pictures. The arch at the top of the bowl is a shallow arc, giving the bowl a defined rectangle shape yet maintaining a natural flow. Also the curve of the side walls is shallow at about forty five degrees. This gives the crater of the bowl a greater perceived depth than is actually there while maintaining a low profile so as not to leap off the surface on a modern table. This form allows the bowl to sit atop a surface neatly, without overpowering other elements of the room. It relies on the natural beauty of the wood to attract the eye.

The second technical problem to overcome was the thickness of the wood walls of the bowl. I felt that any mid-century modern piece could not have thick heavy sides. These would make the piece look and feel primitive and even rustic. For some time I've been working on getting the walls of my bowls thinner and thinner. I believe this is a display of skill with tools that is immediately apparent to a customer or jury member. In the past few months this skill has made huge strides forward where now I can confidently create a piece with walls thin enough to feel like a modern piece. The walls of these bowls are carved down to as low as 1/4 inch in thickness. This gives the piece a definite modern design feel even though it is a traditionally made, hand carved bowl. These are available through my Etsy page or directly from me. They retail for between $200 to $300 each.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Problem with Green Wood

Every now and then I completely ignore some of the extensive and painful lessons my journey in wood carving has taught me. Make sure the angle grinder is turned off before you plug it in, secure the piece properly in the vice 'cause if it comes out it gonna hurt an awful lot, and never....and I mean never get tempted by green wood. Turners swear by this stuff. They're able to turn it easy and quickly and get it into a controlled environment. This fact gives them a success rate worth the effort. I however carve the bowls so the process is much slower. I don't get the rough hughed bowl into a controlled environment quickly enough and so carving starts to fail before I even get it off the bench.

Above and on your right you see the results of one of these misadventures in green wood. I got bored one day and decided it was time for something a little different. At the back of our house an old cottonwood had been cut down by the city to protect power lines. This wood had been sitting outside for over a year so I decided to have at it. The log was light and felt like it was pretty stable. I decided if I was going to deviate from my normal wood source I was also going to abandon my traditional style in favor of something radical. Once opened the wood had a beautiful spalted pattern that added great detail to the golden base color of the wood. Excited, I carved with abandon, ignoring the little voice in my head saying that this was all a great waste of my shop time.

My plan was to rough carve the piece, place it in a paper bag with some wood shavings (what turners do) and leave it for a few months to further stabilize. The correct course of action is to weigh the bowl before placing it in  the bag, and weigh it periodically until the weight stops dropping. This means that the water content of the wood has reached equilibrium with the environment in which it's stored. At this point I was going to finish the bowl and gaze upon it's glory until it sold. Unfortunately the reality of green wood encroached upon my fantasy world with remarkable speed and ruthlessness. The bowl showed cracks and fissures before I even got it off the bench. Alas it just wasn't to be folks. But at least I got a blog post out of this and someone out there may learn the lesson I repeatedly chose to ignore. Now for some of the recent success stories.

This cute little thing is a piece of cherry about 10 inches long. Should be up on Etsy soon.
I'm getting near the end of my sassafras, this will be one of the last.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My first Juried Show

Every year for fifty three years Columbia Missouri, my adopted American town, hosts Art in the Park on the first weekend in June. This event is a spectacle of the finest artist in the Midwest and beyond. The process of being accepted to participate in this show is to apply with a photographed selection of your work to be presented to a panel of jurors who are experts in various different fields of art and craft. These jurors decide who is admitted to the show and have traditionally being spoiled for choice with the quality of the work.

Well this year folks the collection of artists will include Yours Truly, AKA Twinwood Carving. I am honored and humbled to be included with this fine collection of artists who represent the best of American art and craftsmanship. This summer I hope to have the inventory to stock three shows. I haven't quite decided which I'll do yet but the Art in the Park is a fantastic start. I'm including the pictures taken for the jury process for your viewing pleasure. They were taken at Art Impressions Gallery in Sedalia MO.  On the Right you see a walnut trencher currently for sale on

This bowl is carved from cherry and sold online before Christmas last year. Cherry is wonderful to carve but finishing it is a challenge. It polishes to a glass like finish which means that even to smallest scratch is obvious to the naked eye. Needless to say sanding is a laborious process.

This bowl is carved from Sassafras, a wonderful, aromatic wood that is easy to carve and finish. The wonderful eucalyptus smell lingers in the shop for days after tackling one of these. This bowl was bought by a neighbor when she came across my stand at a fundraising show for the Alzheimer's Association.

This bowl is carved from Walnut. The wonderful grain pattern is formed where the mill cuts a piece of wood slightly across the grain. This bowl sold online before Christmas to a lady in Georgia.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Blizzards and Coughs

All the plans in the world can we torn asunder by a cough, a sneeze, or 20 inches of snow in 12 hours. I haven't been very active on the blog lately but the time has come to post some musings on my current predicament and the incredible Christmas sales that Twinwood Carving experienced.

Over the Christmas Holidays I sold every one of my bowls, that's right, anything that could be described as a vessel for holding something sold. Thanks to all those who purchased from me and supported handmade items made right here in Missouri USA. This allowed me to purchase all kind of items for the wood shop and restock my bowl blanks with all kinds of woods including Butternut, sassafras, walnut, and cherry.

I entered January committed to carving three bowls a week at least. But as they say "the plans of and men" etc. In order for me to get into the shop my twin boy need to go to day care. Unfortunately between coughs, blizzards, and snow days they haven't got into school any day this week or last week. According to my calculations I've only had six days in the shop so far this year! O well, here's a selection of some of the few bowls I've made so far.

This bowl is carved from Sassafras, an aromatic wood that has a beautiful golden color with a distinctive triple bladed leaf.
This bowl is carved from a large piece of Missouri butternut. Butternut is rare here in MO so this piece is quite a find. The wood was sitting in a guys basement for twenty years but he posted on Craig's List of it's existence.
This bowl is carved from Walnut, it is long and shallow with a beautiful grain pattern formed when two branches join in the tree. This pattern believe it or not is called a "crotch" pattern.