I am always experimenting with new concepts of surface treatments of my pieces. While I still firmly believe that the form of my work is the key critical element to make a piece work, various enhancements can help provoke a more deeply felt emotional response from people viewing the piece.
Ideas for these enhancements or embellishments can come from many related artistic fields. I have added texture and color to pieces, used dyes and gilding, but after attending the American Association of Woodturners Symposium in Hartford last year, I decided to try pyrography (woodburning) in a more dramatic way than I had done in the past.
I had used pyrography to add burned pictures to some of my pieces, and even added color to some of the pictures, but this time I was going to change the whole character of the piece. The first real piece I did this on was a multiaxis, cherry bowl, with a highly pyrographed surface.
I liked it, but since this was such a big step for me, I wondered if this was a good direction. It turns out that just at that time Wood Central, a woodworking internet site, was running one of their contests – one on pyrography. I had entered one of their competitions before and had received very valuable feedback from the three well known judges that time and felt I could get the same again.
Molly Winton, Graeme Priddle, and Andi Wolfe were judges for the pieces and are internationally known turners that use pyrography in a significant way in their work. I had met all of them in the past and loved their work. Their work had given me some great ideas, but got really inspired by Graeme in Hartford, while serving as his Demonstrator Assistant. I decided to submit the multiaxis piece to see what help they could give me.. There a lot of good entries and I didn’t end up winning a prize, but I got wonderful critiques from each of the judges.
Rather than be discouraged by their constructive criticism, I was buoyed by the specific steps they thought I could take to improve the pyrography. While they liked the piece overall, they each had a different way of saying nearly the same thing about the woodburning. With these ideas in mind, I started another, more ambitious piece with pyrography as a main feature. My Chinese Flowers hollowform.
I took this piece to the recent Florida Woodturners Symposium and entered it into the Instant Gallery. I was hoping that on the Friday night Instant Gallery Critique that this one would be picked for review. The critiquers were a combination of well know national and Florida woodturners; Malcolm Tibbetts, Rudolph Lopez, James McClure and Steve Marlow.
This year the critique was to be expanded with a dozen or so pieces selected, brought to the front of the auditorium for review. The pieces were being videoed and projected on the stage so that all could see the specific areas reviewers were discussing. I was so happy when I saw that my piece had been selected for review. I was a bit nervous as my piece was projected on the stage.
However, this time the reviewers singled out the piece as their favorite. The positive comments about the piece were all the things that I had heard from previous critiques, whether at Wood Central, my teachers in woodturning classes taken in the past or from other members of the Turning Arts Group, and applied to my work.
This experience made it clear to me that critiques should not be avoided, but in fact sought out. The input can be valuable – if you listen. This doesn’t mean you need to doggedly follow every reviewer’s suggestions, but rather take them as input and join them with your own focus and direction and you’ll be able to take the next step in your work.