October 28, 2006

Catching Up, Exciting Projects and more

It is hard to believe I have not posted to this blog since March. It is probably a good indicator of how busy I have been; it seems like I have been going non-stop since then and taking time to compose a blog entry just hasn't risen to the forefront of my priorities. But I know that about 25 people visit this blog every week, so I should keep on top of it better. Anyway, here are some things that have been happening...

The NE Woodturning Symposium in May was a huge success, with lots of demonstrators, a huge trade show and perhaps 400+ woodturners on site during that day. And the event was a big fundraiser for worthy causes, with about $10,000 in profits funneled to Pinkerton Academy's woodworking program, the Guild of NH Woodworker's scholarship program, and the Guild's regular operating budget.

Once I was done with being the overall coordinator of that event, I was fully back in to my own woodturning activities, and business has been good. The League of NH Craftsmen's 9 day fair at Mount Sunapee was a wonderful success, and lots of work has come my way thru other leads and venues.

One particular project was a great challenge and had great artistic rewards. I designed a piece for a home near Philadelphia that involved three large shades hung from an black steel spiral created by David Little. The piece hangs in a very tall and narrow entry way to their home, and in terms of size and drama, it is a giant step ahead in my career. I feel sure that this type of work will lead to other creative projects. There is a picture of this piece at the top of this blog posting. The diameter of the spiral is 4 feet, and the total height is about 9 feet!

I also made a variation on the Apple Blossom lamp that is described in an earlier blog posting from January. The new version has four lobes, and I called it the Four Leaf Clover. It was displayed at the Living With Crafts exhibition at Sunapee in August and now hangs in my showroom in New London. You can see a photo of that ceiling light sculpture, as well as lots of other lamps, by going to www.woodshades.com/ExamplesLampPictsv3.html

Since the summer, I have been catching up and making as many shades as possible, to be ready for my upcoming November events. First I have the Open Studio Weekend. This is an state-wide event organized by the League of NH Craftsmen, and takes place Veterans Day weekend, November 10-12, 10am - 5pm. In addition to my regular showroom at our house, we will be converting the rest of the downstairs of our home into show space, with every lamp I have on display and lit. It will be an unusual opportunity to see lamps in real home settings. Additionally, I will have my workshop open, and will be having brief demos at 11, 1, and 3 o'clock each day, so you can see me working on lampshades at various stages. Snacks and cider will be offered, and there are other open craft studios in the area so you can make a day-long adventure and see lots of fine crafts and studios. To learn more about the state-wide event, go to www.nhcrafts.org/OpenStudio.htm

Then one week later is the Paradise in Marlborough Craft Show in Massachussets, 45 minutes west of Boston near the intersection of the Mass Pike and I-495. This is a very prestigious event with fine arts and crafts from all around the country. It runs from November 17-19, and you can get more info from www.paradisecityarts.com/

So that is a long blog entry, since I had so much to relate. I didn't even get to non-woodturning things in my life, such as my son's great soccer season as captain and goalkeeper for a terrific high school team. Perhaps another time.... Til then, hope to see you in November or elsewhere, Thanks for your interest, Peter

March 21, 2006

If You Are a Turner, Read This

If you are a woodturner, or have an interest in the field, there is an upcoming event that should not be missed: the Fifth New England Woodturning Symposium. The date is May 13, and the location is Derry, NH (just south of Manchester) at Pinkerton Academy. This is an event that I have a very personal involvement in, since I founded this series of Symposia in 1997, and have been the Overall Coordinator each time around.

On the big day, we will be putting on 28 demonstrations covering almost every aspect of turning. The presenter come from as far away as Minnesota, Quebec, and Pennsylvania. There is also a terrific Trade Show, and something called the "Instant Gallery"... every turner who comes to the event is invited to bring one or two items for the Gallery, so it becomes an incredible display of turned objects that inspires and dazzles. I am guessing that there will be over 500 objects in the Instant Gallery this year.

Registration for the event is only $50, and that even includes lunch! But you need to sign up soon. We limit registration to the first 300 who send in their form, and we always sell out. With two months to go, we are just about 2/3 towards being fully subscribed, so clearly time is of the essence. You can find out more info, and download a registration form from this site: www.gnhw.org/turning2006.

There are also several aspects of the event that are open to the public without the need to register. The Trade Show, the Instant Gallery, and four of the demonstrations (particularly oriented towards beginners) will be available to everyone. To gain access to the areas where the other demonstrations occur, you will need a badge.

As an aside, one of the things I am most proud is that the NE Turning Symposia are a huge fundraiser for worthy causes related to woodworking. All of the participants in the event (demonstrators and organizers alike) volunteer their time, the facility at Pinkerton is provide gratis by the school, and the other expenses are very minimal. Over the years, we have generated a profit of about $35,000! One specific project that has benefited from this is the extensive scholarhip and grants program that is offered by the Guild of NH Woodworkers. This program was started with seed money from the Symposium, and one third of our profit still goes to this fund.

The Turning Symposium is the largest woodworking event in New England, and it ONLY HAPPENS ONCE EVERY THREE YEARS! So sign up right away!!!

March 20, 2006

Another Creative Interest: Video

I am always busy with my regular wood lampshade business, so it seems a bit odd to me that I felt the need to find another creative outlet. Nevertheless, that is just what I have done.

This past Autumn and Winter, I created artistic and unusual DVD that is a collaboration with my wife (Kathy Lowe), who recently released a new CD "Above Water." The music on this recording represents a sound adventure unlike anything you have every heard before: soothing, mysterious, ethereal, and spiritual. Kathy recorded the main vocal tracks into the side of a million gallon water tank, taking advantage of the incredible natural reverb generated by the airspace in the tank. The songs are elegant in their chant-like simplicity, while layered with nuance and unexpected pleasures that give a depth and haunting beauty that will stick with you forever.

I recorded the video for this on a short section of a brook that is near the water tank where Kathy sang for the CD. Some of the footage was shot during foliage season, the rest while ice was forming on the edges of the brook. Much of what I shot is very closeup scenes, often unrecognizable for what it captures. When I edited the footage into the final movie, I chose to use quite long shots, averaging around 30 seconds. The combination of the subject matter and the the editing, accompanied by Kathy's music, makes for a mulitmedia meditative experience that is beautiful, relaxing and hypnotic. The quality of the production is professional and crisp, and the response from the many people who have seen this this project is uniformly ethusiastic.

If you go to http://www.woodshades.com/AboveWater.html, you can see a short segment of the video, compressed to work as a download. The entire DVD includes 6 of Kathy's new songs and is 28 minutes long. We sell the DVD for $15. The CD is also $15, or you can buy both for $25. Kathy's music can also be heard at CDBaby.com.

I am totally unclear about where this project will lead me. Certainly I have no intention of cutting back on my production of the lampshades. I have a long term interest in video, mainly thru my volunteer activities with the Guild of NH Woodworkers. Thru that organization, I have helped create a huge library of over 100 demonstration videos, and last winter when I was injured, I transfered all those tapes to DVD format. So I have had the equipment and the technical skills, and now I am inspired to uses those to work on creative projects.

There is one strong connection between my lampshades and this new video projecct: they both provide an experience that emphasizes relaxation, calmness, intimacy and an appreciation for the gifts of nature. So in the end, perhaps these two disparate creative endeavors are really just branches of the same tree.

January 27, 2006

The Apple Blossom Lamp

It has been a while since I have posted to this blog. First I was so busy with fall work.... and more recently I have been quite involved with a complicated commission. That is what I want to talk about today. This new piece is quiet remarkable in several ways. First of all, it started way back last spring, when some clients came by my studio to buy a lamp. While here, they began to discuss a potential new project, and by the time they left, we had some initial drawings. But the concepts involved in this piece as so different from anything I have done before that I aked if they could be patient until business slowed down after Christmas. That was a lot to ask of them, but their patience paid off, I think. The resulting creation need that extra time to develop in my mind.

Here is an attempt to describe the piece verbally, in case the picture in this blog entry is unclear. If you think of my wall sconces, and then assemble five of them together, so that the small ends are all bunched together and the five shades radiate out from a central hub. The whole construction is mounted to a circular disk and that in turn is designed to mount to the ceiling. Each shade holds a 60 watt bulb, giving a total of 300 watts. At the open end of each shade I have installed a semicircular cutout from a shade, so that there is a translucent end cap which is spaced away from the shade so that there is some light spilling out. That in turn creates an interesting pattern of light and shadow on the ceiliing as the light from each shade intersects with it's neighboring shade. The central hub is turned and hollowed out so that there is a place to join all the wires, and that is covered with turned lid, much like one of my lidded bowls.

An amazing coincidence occured with this design. Once I had drawn the initial sketches, my clients pointed out that the piece bore a striking resemblance to an apple blossom, and that they had a very special connection and appreciation for apples. Since my crab apple tree was in flower, I was able to go pick a blossom and see how similar my drawing was to this natural form.

Building this lamp has been a bit of a trial. There were so many aspects to figure out. for example, the geometry of the junction between the narrow end of the shade and the curved side of the turned central hub was something I could only devise by carefully imagining the 3D aspects of the parts and then some trial and error. And the system for mounting all the parts to each other and to the circular plaque was confusing to me until I figured it out. Of course like so many things, now that the piece is done, it all seems obvious. But along the way I had many choices to make.

I am thrilled with the results. In the next week or two, the clients will pick up the piece and once it is installed, I will get a photo of the room with the Apple Blossom filling the space with bright and warm light. There is a good chance that you will get to see some variation on the Apple Blossom at the Sunapee show in August (see my web site for details), since I have submitted this concept for the Living With Crafts exhibition.