The AAW, Detroit, and the Future

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by C Edward Moore, Jul 1, 2008.

  1. C Edward Moore

    C Edward Moore

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    I see a parallel with the AAW and the automakers several years ago in Detroit. When GM, Ford, and Chrysler were the dominant carmakers and Toyota and Honda were not known to the American market, Detroit could take the attitude that the public will buy what we produce. They ignored the small car market and produced bigger and more expensive cars. The rest is history. Detroit got its fanny kicked and they may never recover from their arrogance and indifference to what the American public wanted. Members of the AAW are speaking loudly and clearly and stating that the AAW should be about WOODTURNING and not art that is not woodturning and the AAW should be devoid of politics of any stripe.

    I attended the Symposium and like Rear Admiral Duffy, I was offended by the political statement that was in the Instant Gallery. It had no place there. I spoke IN PRIVATE to two AAW Board members and was given the "Free Speech" excuse for their inability to stand up and do what was right. I don't want to see ANY politics in the IG. People may post what they want on the walls outside the IG, thereby exercising the right to free speech, but inside should be WOODTURNING and nothing else. The Board members suggested that I write a letter to the Board. I indicated rather quickly that it would be a waste of time because the Board doesn't give a rat's fanny about what I or any other member thinks. (Hello, Detroit!)

    Has anyone given INTELLIGENT thought to the demographics of the AAW and what is down the road? Folks, a good look around tells us quickly that we are the Gray Panthers and they don't make enough hair dye to hide that fact. And it is a predominantly male population - so many of the members are veterans who have served in the military. And some of the female members may also have served. It is MY conservative GUESSTIMATE that 75% of the members would be offended by the statement that was allowed to lie around in the IG and that they would also prefer NO POLITICS be allowed in the IG.

    The work of a young French woodturner was honored by the AAW. I consider him to be a friend of mine since he was on the Boxmakers SIN panel. I like his work. He had three groupings in the Instant Gallery: a tall pair of turned boxes, a set of three medium turned boxes, and a pair of rectangular columns which had two turned dimples on them. The elegant boxes THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN CHOSEN were bypassed for the rectangular pair that were in no way representative of turned work. When is the AAW going to get it? Folks, it's about woodturning! I am delighted that this artist's work was honored, but honor his best work - his woodturning!

    I have a pessimistic view of the future for woodturning and I predict the decline of the AAW. As the old geezers, myself included, die off the lack of shop in high school is generating a population that will not look to woodturning for recreation nor as a vocation. I can't predict when the decline will start but it can't be more than ten or fifteen years from now. Efforts to make AAW membership mandatory for all members of new clubs was apparently roundly booed by chapter representatives at the chapter meeting. This high-handed approach will not improve things. The AAW is riding the crest now, but the wave is coming ashore.

    I have on occasion been viewed as the one most likely to spot a pothole ahead. Valid or not, I see potential potholes down the road that should be avoided or addressed. I will try to state some in a positive manner.
    1. Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. It's about woodturning.
    2. There should be an absolute ban on all political statements in the Instant Gallery or other AAW venues. The majority of the members would support such a ban and they have rights too.
    3. Nepotism should be avoided at all costs. No wives, husbands, partners, nor family members should be hired by Board members to work for the AAW.
    4. Folks, we are supposed to be playing on the same team. Why did I leave Richmond with a sense that the AAW Board "has an attitude"? The agenda of Board members and the members should be woodturning, not art, and not politics, and not advancing some social agenda.

    Food for thought: What would happen if a group of woodturners started an organization that adopted the positions that I have advocated? At what point would Detroit start to listen?

    Ed

    Professor Emeritus
    United States Naval Academy
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2008
  2. waltben

    waltben

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    I couldn't agree more with almost everything in your post save for being offended by the piece. Just like you, I firmly believe the statement was made in the wrong place. Everyone can have their own take on what's going on today, and being able to speak their minds is why I spent 20 years of my life serving, but the AAW symposium functions are not a place to do so. Our board's desire to be PC at all times and include everything is no excuse for allowing members to hijack events for their own purposes.

    I don't have a pessimistic view of the future of woodturning, but I do have a negative one for the future of the AAW. Your analogy is very appropriate, but I've got to point out that our board is elected by us. The general public never had a say on the leadership of any Detroit corporations. If you and Mr. Duffy (he and I are very retired) have such strong feelings, I'd suggest you run for board membership and implement some changes. I'd vote for either of you.
     
  3. Ed_McDonnell

    Ed_McDonnell

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    I recall reading that in the future the board members (most of whom are still active woodturners) will have much less of a day to day role in the AAW operations. The AAW will apparently be run by "professional" administrators, like Larry Sommer.

    I may be way off base here, but I've read nothing about Larry Sommers experience as a woodturner. I couldn't find a gallery on the forum with examples of his woodturning. Does Mr. Sommer have any personal experience as a woodturner? If the answer is no, that would certainly explain some of the current confusion regarding what the AAW actually considers a "woodturning" these days.

    Considering other writings by Mr. Sommer, it wouldn't surprise me to see the AAW morph into the IAWA in the not too distant future (International Association of Wood Artists). It also wouldn't surprise me to see some newer organization start up to fill the void left when the AAW abandons woodturners to pursue those "higher value" artsy market niches.

    Ed
     
  4. Keith Burns

    Keith Burns

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    Anyone can run for the board. Only problem is that the current board "committee" chooses the group of finalists that can be voted on. They narrow the list down from all submissions to their final list.
     
  5. rjones

    rjones

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    Thanks Ed,
     
  6. Michael Kuehl

    Michael Kuehl

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    Very strange. When I started reading the analogy comparing the AAW and Detroit, I assumed that the point would be that the AAW needed to be less conservative and more inclusive of new directions in turning. That is the point of what happened with Detroit: the carmakers had in fact become too set in their ways, and not responsive to the buying public.
    Here is where Lathe Meister's use of the analogy breaks down. We the members of the AAW are not the buying public; we are the "carmakers." We produce works of craft/art for our own enjoyment, but also for the enjoyment of others. And for many members, also with hope that a "buying public" will find the work worthy of purchase.
    I for one think it good that we as turners are exposed to all the current trends and that, yes, these trends be recognized. I do not have to admire, emulate, or even like these trends. But maybe I will see something that will inspire me to try something outside my comfort zone. And if you look at all that is included in the AAW magazine, or elsewhere under the imprimatur of the AAW, the vast majority is what still could be considered "conservative."
    However, I do agree on the issue of a "professional" administration for the AAW. Using the Detroit analogy again, it is analogous to turning the running of the car companies over to the "bean counters": There is the idea that managers can manage any venture, no matter what expertice the person may have. We all saw how well that worked with putting a horse-show administrator in charge of FEMA before Katrina.
     
  7. Angelo

    Angelo President Emeritus

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    Steamed

    Wow!!!

    The opinions expressed in this thread really have my blood boiling!!!

    I'd better step back and calm down before responding!

    A
     
  8. n7bsn

    n7bsn

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    What he said

    If you think something needs to be done, DO IT, other wise you are just flapping your lips

    If I think something needs doing, I do it:
    • Right now the AAW is the only club I'm a member of that I haven't been an officer in (since being an officer in my local turning club doesn't count).
    • I've also been on the BoD of two (different) 501C3's.
    • If you can't/don't get on the BoD, volunteer for some comittees, many policy matters are decided there, but a LOT of the real work gets down by them (I've lost count of the number of these I've been on)

    TTFN
    Ralph
     
  9. Bill Grumbine

    Bill Grumbine

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    I've gotten the brush off from one of the board members myself. I even walked up to the guy and shook hands with him at the symposium. I got the impression he wanted to go wash his hands right away. Second brush off.

    Well, this is what the forum is here for, isn't it, to express opinions? You do want feedback, don't you? My encounter with a board member though, gave me the very distinct impression that if the feedback wasn't positive, it wasn't worthwhile.

    I've been a demonstrator in over 30 clubs in the past couple of years, and for the vast majority of them, membership in the national organization is less than 50%. It seems to me that the board might be interested in finding out why that is, rather than try to institute mandatory membership to grow the organization. I've mentioned this in the past only to be rebuffed. So my conclusion is that no one is really interested in hearing what I have to say, and by extension, hearing what others have to say about why they won't join.

    I raised the political issue privately with a board member, only to get an unrelated discourse on how good the journal is. Conclusion? The board is not interested in hearing about it.

    I am a professional woodworker. Most of my income comes from turning, teaching turning, and videos on turning. And, I am outspoken enough to speak out. But I am rebuffed by the leadership of the largest turning organization in the world when I have a suggestion or a comment I want to discuss. How do you think that attitude is going to play with the average person who just wants to have fun and relax with this hobby? Do you think they want politics shoved in their face? Do you think they want to pay money to an organization with an unresponsive board?

    Issues like Ed raises need to be addressed. At the very least, the leadership of the organization needs to acknowledge that the exist. Playing the part of the ostrich is not going to make them go away.
     
  10. Ed_McDonnell

    Ed_McDonnell

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    The question I would ask is "How many goals and objectives can the AAW have before it's efforts become so diluted that it is not really meeting anyone's needs." Is the purpose of the AAW to foster a wider understanding and appreciation of lathe-turning as a traditional and contemporary craft and a form of art (taken from the AAW bylaws) or is the purpose to increase the marketability of products produced by members of the AAW, whose production may or may not involve the use of a lathe in any significant manner..

    If you answer is "both", then I think we have a problem with the way the organization is currently organized and operating. An organization with a focus on use of a lathe as the the predominant unifying characteristic of the membeship will be a very different organization than one that is focused on making money by producing whatever people will pay top dollar for as the predominant unifying characteristic of the membership.

    Ed
     
  11. john lucas

    john lucas

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    I'm confused. There were 1000 different turning in the instant gallery. There were samples of just about everything you could imagine. Like many of you I found some I liked, some I didn't like and some I just passed by. So what's the big deal. We are wasting a lot of space fussing about 2 pieces. One I simply didn't agree with so I passed it by. The other one being discussed I liked very much. I'm sure there were many other people who did the same.
    I also heard the statement "is this a turning show or carving show" while I was walking the instant gallery. This argument gets tiring also. I've been turning for 20 years or so. I've made my share of bowls, vessels and boxes, 90 percent of which were round. I got bored with this and started carving and painting. How many others have done the same thing. Unlike Detroit, I changed with the times. That doesn't mean you have to, it only means that I should have the right to do so. Your market may be bowls or boxes and that's fine. In my market bowls don't sell as well so I make other things. My rectangular boxes sell better than my round ones so that's where I go. Is there anything wrong with that.
    The AAW continues to grow. Someone's doing something right. I may not agree with all of the decisions but then who does in an organization this large. We are simply a very diverse group of people from factory workers and farmers to lawyers and doctors. You don't think there will be some differences of opinion. With all this diversity there are going to be different styles of woodturning. It sounds to me like you want us all to be the same.
     
  12. Ed_McDonnell

    Ed_McDonnell

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    In a perfect world that might be a viable solution. In the real world, people are more likely to vote with their feet. If the AAW becomes irrelevant then people will move on to something that is more relevant. People unhappy with GM / Ford didn't campaign to become a member of the board. They took their money elsewhere.

    Are there enough professional wood "artists" in the world to sustain the organizaiton if the woodturners decide to move on?

    Ed
     
  13. C Edward Moore

    C Edward Moore

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    Volunteering

    Ralph,

    The Smith Mountain Lake Woodturners started at a party held in my home. For several years I was the Program Director and I never took a penny for hosting woodturners. I did accept gas money when I drove a turner to Arrowmont after a demo.

    Now the Blue Ridge Woodturners asked me to serve as Program Director for them. I agreed to do so with the proviso that Willie Simmons serve as co-Director.

    I ran the Boxmakers SIN event in Richmond (with Mike Stafford's able assistance) and received encouragement and support from the Board, with one exception, and that exception turned out not to matter.

    So, Ralph, I have put my money where my mouth is, so to speak and I have not just flapped my lips. My health would not permit me to take on the stress of serving as an AAW Board member. Besides, wasn't it Groucho Marx that said he wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have him. :D Carry that over to serving on a Board.

    Bill, thanks for your support.

    Angelo, think about what is written, wait a day or so, and then respond. Maybe I am just trying to help the AAW avoid a pothole.
     
  14. C Edward Moore

    C Edward Moore

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    Excellent!

    Ed,

    You have made the point explicitly that I was trying to make implicitly. Thank you. It is the voting with their feet that I am trying to help avoid. It probably won't be seen that way by Board members, but maybe some will open their eyes. The naive will probably attack me. :rolleyes:

    Thank you, again.
     
  15. Awoodturner2

    Awoodturner2

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    The board

    Perfectly spoken Ed. The change to accepting political statements is coming from one board member. The board member that personally approved the entry. From another site quote:

    "As the AAW board member that oversaw the IG, I suppose I could have rejected the piece in question, but quite frankly, it never occurred to me to be that close-minded or intolerant. I looked at the piece, I read a few lines, I said to myself, “Well, this is differentâ€, and then I moved on. I didn’t bother to read the whole document or even more than a few of the statements that were printed on the bowl (perhaps I should have). I have my views on our country’s current situation and I didn’t need anyone else trying to change those views (at least not right then). I never saw any kind of crowd around the piece; quite honestly, I don’t think very many people took the time to study the piece. I didn’t see mothers covering their children’s eyes and again, quite frankly, I was not offended (more amused perhaps at a weak attempt to make a statement). To censor an entry in the AAW Instant Gallery, I think the piece would have to be much more offensive that what I witnessed."

    He was amused by it because he also has posted the same polictcal views with a turning.

    Men
    in the
    Shadows
    I hope the emotional turmoil over Gerrit's "Rack 'em Up" piece has settled down and folks can consider another "political" offering. This was inspired by the Jackson Browne song, "Lives in the Balance". This anti-war song was written in 1986, but the lyrics ring as true today as 10 years ago. The song lines that got my juices flowing are...

    "I want to know who the men in the shadows are
    I want to hear somebody asking them why"

    To read all of the song lyrics, here is a link:

    "Lives in the Balance" lyrics

    Or better yet, to hear the song along with an editorial video, you can visit this site. Warning: this is a very disturbing video, which will (should) upset you. For some reason, you have to click "play" twice.

    Anti-war Video
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info:80/article11924.htm

    While this piece is a woodturning, it is also an "anti-war" statement. It's not an "anti-military" statement. It's not an "anti-Bush" statement. It's not meant to disrespect anyone other than those people, on all sides, who stay in the shadows and pull the strings that result in death and destruction. I'm not trying to say who is right or wrong, just that war is wrong. I'm not interested in identifying the individual "men"; I think they exist in most societies. I just want people to spend a little more time asking them "why".

    Specs: Curly maple, gabon ebony, Texas ebony, holly, white-dyed maple veneer, 14" tall, finished with General Finishes Seal-a-Cell and Top Coat.


    His only regret of his own turning :

    Quote" instead of broken bricks at the lower portion of the vessel, perhaps I should have displayed body parts. I actually considered using some bloodwood in the “chaos†section. Maybe if I had used a darker wood for the eyes it would have projected a different feeling. The ultimate challenge in a piece like this is not the accuracy of the joinery; it's the successful portrayal of a message - not easy, but worth trying."

    His personal views are shaping the direction the AAW is going. If you don't like this change, remove this board member.

    Charles Sheffy
    Ret Col USMC
     
  16. Frank Kobilsek

    Frank Kobilsek

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    Too Much

    Boys

    We got too many topics tangled up here and its seems like everybody wants somebody else to do something.

    Politics and the ofensive write up. First of I like politics, speak it often but it just doesn't work here for me so I tyr to stay out of it. Those of you that were in Richmond and offended by the political write-up accompanying the piece could have easily descreetly pick up the oh so offensive piece of paper and slipped it under the table or stuck in your pocket and made sure it got recycled. Grow some cahonays

    BOD - they are volunteers, they hire management, guide management and set policy. (and alot of other duties when it comes to the symposium) They hired Larry to manage not give turning demos. Larry's skills with a skew are irrelevant.

    Dues - If as has been predicted all the old guys die and quit paying dues our dues are going to increase or services cut. If every chapter member enjoyed the benefits of full membership maybe our dues could be less. Going to club meeting but not joining AAW is kind of like going to church and not throwing your two cents in the basket. (please don't start another thread about religion on the forum)

    What's woodturning? I am working on a concept where I will turn items that contain very little wood. If it works as I invision it maybe the 'art' look that will give me opportunites to demo, exhibit in more prestious places or maybe it will just be something different to give friends and family. Whatever I am enjoying the investigation and experimentation. If it works and I post a picture here or submit it to an IG next year will I have to sacrifice my membership card because it is not all wood that I turned?

    I was looking forward to reading about all the great things at the Symposium that I missed. Being no one is willing to share that I think I'll take a break from this forum for awhile.

    Frank
     
  17. Awoodturner2

    Awoodturner2

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    Art

    Charles,
    It is strictly about woodturning. This is the piece being discussed.
    If you consider this turned art, so be it. I consider it making a
    political statement period.
     

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  18. Steve Worcester

    Steve Worcester Admin Emeritus

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    All this hooplah over that? Did you also find it offensive that the piece was named after a Dixie Chicks song? (Not ready to make nice).

    Did you read the whole piece? There are many statements on there and I think you are missing a point about art should at times incite action and emotions. (Perhaps not as you are "incited").If you look at the whole piece it is far more about political issues and not just about war, or Bush, or any singular subject.

    (I will say this again - I am not an AAW board member or employee) I found nothing offensive about it at all and if you looked carefully, this is not the first piece in an instant gallery that could have been deemed offensive to some, but this one didn't require you to thing, just read.

    There is no place for censorship in art. And like it or not, if you don't promote woodturning as an art form, it cannot survive into the future.
     
  19. John Van Domelen

    John Van Domelen Retired Forum Admin

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    Steve - this speaks directly to that point.

    This comment was posted on another forum in a topic discussing the original post yesterday.

    "I liked the piece in question. I went back to it several times to try to gain a full understanding of the message. The color, the design, the "rough" execution all worked together to reveal a work that obviously was produced with a great deal of emotion. I am against censorship in any form at AAW. This is a test for our professional organization. We can put on exhibitions that offend no one or we can have the foresight to understand that, if we are ever to move forward into the serious art world, we need to use our vast membership as a pool for new ideas. If we become vapid and politically correct we will be cjhoosing a different future where it will likely take a lot longer for woodturning to become accepted by the larger art world as a legitimate art movement. I think a lot is at stake here. I hope we do not accept censorship."

    -- Jim Christiansen - Jun 30, 2008
     
  20. Ed_McDonnell

    Ed_McDonnell

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    Steve - People can speak for themselves, but from what I've read on this (and other threads) it's not the actual piece that people are objecting to, rather it's the written statement that was displayed along with it.

    As far as censorship and art is concerned, art galleries / musuems make decisions all the time about what will and won't be sold / displayed. Why shouldn't the AAW have just as much discretion (assuming a willingness to exercise such discretion (which seem to missing at the moment)).

    All that aside, the real issue for me in what you wrote is your summation.



    Woodturning has been around for centuries. Woodturning will continue to exist whether the AAW expands it's charter to include a broader definition of wood art or not. What may be at risk are the AAW grand plans for continued expansion and growth of the organization into the future.

    I think a reasonable person could ask whether non-stop growth of the AAW at any expense is really in the best interests of woodturners. I have my doubts.

    Ed
     

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