Both a forest and a crowd of people look to be nothing but a sea of color from afar. We know, though, that the crowd is made up of individual people, each with a unique face and life story. So too is the forest made up of unique trees of different species, sizes and shapes. We often think of the tree’s wood as uniform, straight-grained and even colored. Many craftsmen seek out this grade of wood for furniture, rejecting any wild grain, knots, insect damage, salting, bark inclusions or other defects.
Turning bowls and vessels with fairly straight, predictable grain and color can be pleasurable and yield beautiful results, but I’m more excited by the wood that gives us a glimpse of the tree’s history. Even when I could avoid wood with defects, or simply cut away a troubled area, I often choose to leave the wood to reveal its struggles. As the tree drew its life from the soil and the air and the rain and the snow, it had to do battle against weather and insects and animals and man. It’s left up to us to ponder and decipher the results of these battles that are now just chapters in the tree’s autobiography.
Fortunately for us, these “defects” can become fascinating “features”. While straight-grained wood can be beautiful, burl or crotch figure can be stunning. When bark inclusions become irregular holes through a hollow form, they become interesting and exciting. The insect’s labyrinth of tunnels through the wood looks like lace-work, and fungal salting becomes an abstract pen and ink drawing on wood. Each of these “features” is really another chapter in the tree’s story. It’s truly a joy for me to expose and showcase these chapters in my work. I hope that you ponder and enjoy them as much as I do.