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Woodturning News: General News

HARRISBURG MAGAZINE: Woodturning Symposium to Feature Nationally Acclaimed Craftsmen (09/13/2016)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016   (0 Comments)
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HARRISBURG MAGAZINE: Woodturning Symposium to Feature Nationally Acclaimed Craftsmen (09/13/2016)

The inaugural Mid Atlantic Woodturners Symposium will be held at the Lancaster Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, September 24 and 25.  Any frequent patron of crafts shows has likely seen examples of the woodworking process that is the rationale for this event. What is not widely known is the considerable number of practitioners, which serves to explain this month’s confab in the Red Rose City.

“The American Association of Woodturners may be the largest crafts organization in the nation,” says Larry Sherman, president of the Mid Atlantic Woodturners Association (MAWA). “There are more than 15,000 members in more than 350 chapters.”

“Regional meetings, like the one we’re hosting, take place throughout each year,” continues Sherman. “But, we’ve never had one in this part of the country, even though it boasts the greatest concentration of woodturners. It was a gap that needed to be filled. And, regional symposiums like this one draw many people because they can drive to attend.”

“We proffered the idea to our regional chapters to gauge interest in sponsoring such an event,” says MAWA vice-president Ron Sheehan. “We thought that if we had five that were interested, we’d go forward. We ended up with ten from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware.”

“Then we looked for an appropriate venue, considering Hershey, the Camp Hill Radisson and Lancaster’s Eden Resort,” says Sherman. “We selected the Lancaster Marriott, whose meeting rooms and accommodations were best suited to our plans.”

The symposium will feature eight of some of the most creative, talented and lauded woodturners in the United States. They will demonstrate their skills and share aesthetic and process insights.

“With eight, four concurrent sessions scheduled over eight time periods throughout the weekend,” says Sherman, “those in attendance will be able to choose from a total of 32 sessions that they wish to see.”

In addition to the woodturning demonstrations, 15 tool and equipment vendors will be on hand to represent the trade show side. An instant gallery of two or three turned items by attendees will be set up in a display room. The general public is welcomed to the instant gallery or the trade show portion of the symposium. But only paid registrants will be admitted to the demonstrations and the Saturday night banquet and silent auction.

Woodturning is a craft that draws individuals from a variety of previous experiences. Sherman, 65, continues his career as a financial advisor. The Manheim Township resident is a partner in Sherman Werst Wealth Advisors. Sheehan, also of Manheim Township and age 77, spent his working days at New Holland Machine.

“Some people come into this process with a background in carpentry, cabinetmaking or some other kind of woodworking vocation,” says Sheehan. “Others simply find it appealing and take the necessary steps to get started.”

The evolution in woodturning has been dramatic in the last 10 to 15 years, far exceeding the traditional bowl and vase forms fashioned on a lathe from a single block of wood.

“The 1960s and 1970s saw the craft take on a more artistic character,” says Sherman. “And it really exploded in the 1980s.”

The eight demonstrators at the symposium reflect that growth. Herewith are a few to consider.

Vietnam native Binh Pho is known for his unique exploration of positive and negative space. The pieces feature a highly personal iconography, with imagery that relates to Asian culture and the natural world. His work is exhibited internationally and in the permanent collections of numerous museums.

A professional woodturner since 1992, Mike Mahoney specializes in utilitarian items that are wholesaled to American Craft galleries across the United States. He acquires all of his material from local urban sources, like tree trimmers and city landfills, and has taught at woodturning symposiums in seven countries.

Al Stirt has been in the profession for more than 40 years. His work is included in numerous public and private collections, including the Smithsonian, the White House, the Museum of Art and Design and the Victoria and Albert Museum. In addition to his functional bowls and platters, for the last 25 years, Stirt has been fabricating ceremonial objects to try to address emotional and spiritual needs.

“There is a great deal of camaraderie among woodturners,” says Sheehan. “They like to help each other by sharing production techniques. There are no secrets. At the same time, they don’t expect others to copy them but, rather, apply those techniques in a way that enhances each individual turner’s personal style.”


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