What other turners aren't telling you, and how that relates to "innovative spirit"!

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by odie, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. Betty Scarpino

    Betty Scarpino

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    Why is there a need to credit a form that's "out there" in the general public? I see no need to do that, ancient Chinese or recent makers. Bob Stocksdale does not "own" any of the bowl designs he made. Rude Osolnik does not "own" the candleholder design he made famous (but his have that special something unique to Rude). David Ellsworth does not "own" hollow vessel concept (potters have made them for years). David simply figured out technically how to make those forms in wood ... we are copying his technique. Nothing wrong with that. Techniques cannot be owned (but its okay to try to keep them secret). But David has revealed his secrets. David's hollow vessels are worth what they are because of his signature on the bottom. (David's pots definitely have a distinctive flare.)

    A bowl is a bowl is a bowl. We woodturners are not making personally created artwork with our bowls and hollow vessels. But, when someone starts to embellish a bowl in a specific way, combining techniques, that bowl starts to become a signature creation.

    Depending on the situation, I acknowledge specific techniques I've learned from other turners--that's a nice thing to do. How I combine and apply those techniques, though, becomes my own style.

    Betty Scarpino, Editor, American Woodturner
     
  2. Mark Mandell

    Mark Mandell

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    There is no such obligation unless, as Kelly posted, you are actually inspired by and seeking to emulate the other artist's work. Kelly stated he was using Stocksdale's forms. The issue is not whether Stocksdale "owned" the form, but whether Kelly attributed what he was doing to Mr. Stocksdale's influence. He could just as easily have said "I got into doing ancient Chinese rice bowl shapes" and have been just fine. He chose to acknowledge his inspiration, not as a matter of obligation, but rather as an example of personal intellectual honesty.

    I applauded him for that. Nothing more.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2014
  3. Edward Weber

    Edward Weber

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    Could you elaborate on this, I sincerely do not understand this point of view.

    If I turn a bowl, by definition it's "personally created artwork" There is no necessity to combine techniques or embellish in any way to achieve the status of "art".
     
  4. hu lowery

    hu lowery

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    simple is harder than elaborate

    Not saying that some gorgeously detailed and intricate work is that way to hide errors, but the embellishments can easily hide imperfections. An old trick of anyone that sells used for very long!

    Simple work is right out there in the open, naked to the world. Any imperfection in form or finish is glaringly highlighted. Over half the people that came into my body shops wanting to change the color of a vehicle wanted to paint it black. Not a problem, three grand plus any body work in the mid-eighties. About eight hundred for any other color including minor body work.

    Nothing less than perfect body and finish was acceptable in black. Beautifully simple and simply beautiful. Anything less than show quality black never left my shop because any imperfection looked horrible. Those extra dollars weren't an excessive profit, there was that much more time involved in detailing to a level that took out factory imperfections and sanding.

    Some potters in the southwest turn or shape beautiful stuff. For the the things they are going to carve and paint they sometimes buy cheap import pottery for blanks to work on.

    I'm struggling to learn simple. It isn't to hard to add modest embellishments once simple has been mastered. I am miles from there, but while I play with some more involved shapes just because I am easily bored, I'll be a very happy camper if and when the day comes I can confidently turn a 12"-15" simple bowl and similar hollow form.

    Hu
     
  5. Brian McInturff

    Brian McInturff

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    I think the point Betty is alluding to is you can take 20 regular bowls and those could have been turned by anyone. But when you add, say, pyrography then you start separating yourself. Take for instance Molly Winton and her "signature" work. Or another one would be Cindy and her elaborate Finials. It's not saying the bowls aren't art , just that some people start combining several things like carving, embellishments, pyrography, etc and develop a "signature".
     
  6. Betty Scarpino

    Betty Scarpino

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    Edward, I guess it boils down to whose definition of "art" we decide on. In the big "A" Art world, for the most part, very few in that world would consider the bowls most woodturners make Art. We may think they are, but they don't.

    That does not negate that we've created something lovely and worthy of our own personal definition of "art," even if it's a bowl similar to many other bowls. I'm not denigrating bowls. What I'm trying to say is that if a person wants to be considered an artist (by people who discuss and categorize and define "Art"), even the most elegant bowl does not measure up to the Art world's standards. Something more must be done. Some say the "more" should be conceptual in nature. Some agree that decorative arts (even including a turned bowl) are Art.

    I personally struggle with definitions because when we label something, we are putting that thing into a box that's probably smaller than it needs to be.

    Edward, I'm wondering ... do you consider your bowls "artwork" or "Art"? I'm not saying you shouldn't, but the context is probably relevant.

    Betty Scarpino, Editor, American Woodturner
     
  7. Edward Weber

    Edward Weber

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    Thanks Brian, I understand the point better now, though I still don't agree.
    IMHO I think the pendulum has swung too far in that regard.
    It seems to be that the prevailing theme these days is that pieces need to have some kind of embellishment or "hook" or they just doesn't measure up.

    The ability to turn a beautiful bowl that has the look, the feel, the shape, the finish etc, all the qualities we look for in a piece, without any extra embellishments, is becoming lost. It seems that its becoming less about actually turning wood and more about the additional processes.
     
  8. Betty Scarpino

    Betty Scarpino

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    Not only does decoration sometimes hide imperfections and ungainly forms, a highly decorated bowl or teapot or whatever is not all that big of a deal outside of our somewhat isolated world of woodturning. That does not mean I think these things are not worthy or interesting, though.

    Our woodturning field is in its infancy. We are currently glorifying embellishments that in a number of years will look dated and immature (and that's okay). I prefer a gloriously figured vessel to a highly embellished one that's not well done, BUT I applaud the turners who are exploring. It's through those trials and errors that we learn how to eventually make our work come alive!

    I sing our praises for where we are! We are having such fun, sharing, playing, and making things. Don't think I'm suggesting we should strive for real "Art." That's often a pretty cold world with its conceptual Art that leaves my soul unsatisfied.

    I love the turning field and its youthful exuberance. Every turner who makes a bowl and proudly displays it gets my thumbs up.

    Betty Scarpino, Editor, American Woodturner
     
  9. Edward Weber

    Edward Weber

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    Now you're just trying to hurt my head.
    Is it a distinction without a difference or can you define each one as being different from the other. Is all artwork art or is all art artwork?
    I suppose I use the terms interchangeability, but now you have me thinking.
     
  10. Betty Scarpino

    Betty Scarpino

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    Edward, hang on because that pendulum has only begun to swing "too far." It'll go much farther. Gloriously farther!

    Woodturning is becoming less about turning wood and at the same time, it's also becoming more about turning wood. Multiaxis and therming. Derek Weidman's work. Jerry Bennett's. Art Liestman. All of their work is strongly grounded in woodturning. We are expanding the nature of what it means to use lathes to turn wood.

    But you are feeling a loss for beautiful bowls. Yes, they often take back stage to the new work being done. But at almost every gallery critique I've attended, the people selecting work to discuss intentionally include well-made bowls. Those will never go out of style.

    Betty Scarpino, Editor, American Woodturner
     
  11. Betty Scarpino

    Betty Scarpino

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    That sentence was unintentionally confusing, sorry. I was asking if you considered what you make to be Art/artwork? (Not one or the other.)
     
  12. odie

    odie

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    Ed.....This pretty much is my belief, or was until Betty mentioned the pendulum is swinging. She's right that a simple well done bowl will never really go out of style, and equally true was when she pointed out that the newer things being tried in the realm of embellishment, is what seems to be the focal point of interest these days.

    I guess a simple bowl, well done, and with great form, is a boring subject......even though the finished item is well respected in the woodturning community. It's been discussed until those fine points of execution are burned into our minds.......it's just that making, or the carrying out of all the necessary ingredients to accomplish that end is a very elusive thing to most, or many turners.

    I do have an appreciation for the new and unusual (both embellishment and turning styles), even though my personal main objective is to produce more simple, but well executed turned bowl designs.

    Betty.....question for you: When you mention "technique", does that term describe, or include what a turner can do with traditional, or current tools being used, or in vogue?.......or, does it also include tools of one's own design and the methods of applying those tools to wood that are non-traditional? What does that term, "technique", mean to you in the way you are using it?

    This thread is becoming more interesting, and I thought it was played out a few pages back.......boy, was I wrong!............:cool2:

    ooc
     
  13. Edward Weber

    Edward Weber

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    I make many things and yes I consider some pieces to be art.
    This kind of brings us back to your OP Odie, that "elusive thing" you mentioned, can't really be taught.
    I have nothing against new techniques or the many different styles of embellishments being used today, it simply needs to be kept in proper perspective. A few years from now there will be something else to talk about, maybe the pendulum will start to come back.
     
  14. KellyDunn

    KellyDunn

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    Betty, I have a deep respect for you. You know that. I was going to say we have a deep respect for each other but I cant speak for you. Even though I thought I could. Your points are valid but thats not the point. When I give Betty Scarpino kudos for her influence its out of respect for Betty Scarpino and what her influence on me means to me. Same with any person I care to mention when it comes to how I got to where I am. I may be bold as brass but I respect where I got what I got. Whether its Ellsworth, Stocksdale or you. To acknowledge those that mean a bunch to me is kind in my book. And a form of a toast, Cheers.
     
  15. Betty Scarpino

    Betty Scarpino

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    I think what you meant by "is a boring subject" is that if we only repeatedly looked at even the most awesome bowls, doing so would eventually bore many of us .... (not that splendid bowls are boring).

    To me, (and this is loosely defined, it's late and I probably should just go to bed before I start blubbering) a technique is the particular way a person uses a process to manipulate material, by hand or with any tool (store bought or personally designed), as well as the way in which embellishments are combined and/or applied. For instance, I would say that woodburning is a process and the way it is applied to wood is the technique. Some turners make their own tips for woodburning to create a particular look and that's a technique. I might be able to duplicate that technique by using a commercial tip, though.


    Betty Scarpino, Editor, American Woodturner
     
  16. Betty Scarpino

    Betty Scarpino

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    Mutual admiration and respect, Kelly! (Now you can speak for me.:))

    Yes, it is kind to acknowledge those who have influenced us and it is also informative. No one got to where they are in a vacuum.

    Betty Scarpino, Editor, American Woodturner
     
  17. hu lowery

    hu lowery

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    "art"


    Betty,

    I occasionally drift into the edges of the art world having a few friends and some family who are artists, also knowing some photographers whose work easily reaches the level of art, but defining art is ever elusive. I saw a picture of a painting that was expected to bring a couple million a few months ago. Cut a piece of flat wood sixteen by sixteen, then take a four inch brush and paint it top to bottom. Let dry and go over the board with the same brush side to side not getting a full coat. I could create a very similar piece, twenty per hour. People would laugh till they hurt themselves if I tried to sell those for two dollars much less two million.

    I'm a better than average technician, a decent designer able to step out the box when I need to, and a lousy artist! Fortunately for me 99% of people today don't know the difference between artistry and technical ability, probably because we all define these things for ourselves and perhaps I define it differently than 99% of people! :D

    All I can say about art and the work of master crafts people is that I know it when I see it. Some of the things mistaken for art only require technical ability, almost all art requires some technical ability.

    Hu
     
  18. odie

    odie

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    The only thing that is necessary for anything to be art, is for one solitary person to believe that it is. How successful that thing is in being art, is how many people agree that it is.

    The old saying about art being in the eye of the beholder, is true. Anyone can define art any way they wish to define it. Personally, I don't think it's possible to define "art" in any terms that would be agreeable to everyone.

    To my thinking, many things made on a wood lathe cross the threshold of what is art. I suspect there would be disagreement on my idea of what lathe turned things are art, but if I believe it is......well, then it is!

    Many here will remember the Norman Rockwell painting of the old sophisticated well dressed man standing in front of the abstract painting. It's obvious that Rockwell intended this to be a statement about art......and, he very obviously understood that art did not, nor could not have a universal definition.

    ooc
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2014
  19. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    The Search for the dividing line between art and craft continues to be an elusive quest.

    I was taught in anthropology that art began when our hunter/gather ancestors became able to feed and cloth themselves working 10 hour days.
    This left them leisure time to scratch patterns on spear handles, paint patterns on their pots, mark the walls of their caves.
    Then they invented farming and one person working 10 hour days could feed 5 people allowing the other 4 to become builders, potters, weavers, artists

    Just walked around the house and counted 14 bowls. (4 turned by us)

    A small square Al Stirt bowl painted black with a faux basket weave texture - IMHO definitely Art!!!!
    A translucent Gebhardt Schwenke (sp.) Norfolk Island pine? It will hold soup.
    They are all pleasing to the eye and hand.

    Al
     
  20. Mark Mandell

    Mark Mandell

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    I've been waiting to see how long it took to get into the old "Art vs. Craft" discussion.

    So just for laughs, consider:

    I hold advanced degrees in Art. I make sculpture and operated a professional studio for three years. I make furniture. I make jewelry. I make woodturnings.

    Do I make Art? Beats me, and, what's more I don't care!

    Why? Because worrying about whether what I do meets some other person's definition of "Art" tends to surrender an important amount of control over what and how I do what I do to somebody else's taste and/or prejudice, let alone to some kind of institutionalized set of criteria with which I may disagree.

    If you call my "stuff" Art, do I get to disconnect the exhaust fan in the bathroom? How's about a special reserved parking space like those handicapped folks? 20% off at the "art supply" store? Rose petals spread on the floor when I arrive at a Symposium?

    No? None of that?

    Sheesh . . .

    Well, so what's this big deal about being regarded as an "Artist" (or Arteeest, if you like) rather than simply as a maker?

    Now, I grant you, nothing I make will eventually sell at Christie's for $100,000,000.00 (at least not while I or my known heirs are alive to care about it). If, however, you put a monetary value on your self esteem, what does that make you?

    Thus, I suggest we concentrate on doing what we do to the best of our ability, strive to do better with each piece based upon our own internal criteria and goals, and leave the *&$#$$* labels to those who deal in them.
     

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