About   |   Donate   |   Store   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Join AAW
Woodturning News: General News

SPRINGFIELD NEWS-LEADER: Woodturners' love for their craft is contagious (11/28/2016)

Monday, November 28, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share |
SPRINGFIELD NEWS-LEADER: Woodturners' love for their craft is contagious (11/28/2016)

A decade ago when Larry Randolph joined the Woodturners of Southwest Missouri, it consisted of 12 guys who’d meet, swap tools and talk shop.

But a lot has changed, and membership has since exploded.

“When I joined five years ago, I was number 45 or 46,” said Helen Beeman, a member. “Now we have run out of space. We have the large conference room and run all over each other. It’s so much fun. We have people come from Osceola, Willow Springs, Harrison, Arkansas. We have people come from two hours away for a meeting,”

Don Banning lives in West Plains and drives 100 miles to get to a meeting, but it’s well worth it, he says.

Today, the Woodturners of Southwest Missouri has about 135 members, and growth can be attributed to a variety of factors. First, Randolph and a few other members made an effort to attract new talent; they established a full board and officers for the club. They set up a booth at the Ozark Empire Fair and Artsfest each year and demonstrate the craft.

They also started a mentoring program so new members can learn from seasoned woodturners.

When Jim Heck, a stone carver, started attending meetings four years ago, he was impressed. Heck does not consider himself a “joiner,” but he ended up joining this group.

“What I saw was the better woodturners shared with the newer woodturners. There were no secrets. People are eager to share what has helped advance them in their craft. It was an opportunity to have fellowship with people who were elevated in their craft,” Heck said.

Another big change has been a shift in attitudes toward woodturning.

“What our mission is is to educate the public about woodturning in general,” said Randolph, who is vice president of the organization. “To elevate it from hillbilly junction toothpick holders to something that is more artistic. We have people from one spectrum to the other. We have people who want to turn bowls, candlestick holders, hollowed vessels. Some of our members are well-known artists and have work in galleries around the country.”

When it comes to their professions, membership runs the gamut from retired doctors, lawyers, dentists, teachers to retired firemen. More women and younger people have joined the club — also one of Randolph’s missions.

Spencer Paul, 23, is one of the newer members. He teaches middle school in Joplin and started turning wood pens two years ago. Paul attended his first meeting in July and said he’s already learned there are so many possibilities when it comes to woodturning. What started as a hobby has grown into a passion.

One of the reasons he enjoys the meetings is the club brings in a demonstrating woodturner every month. Randolph said they often seek artists from outside the area.

“I started booking demonstrations several years ago and we have pulled in turners from other chapters of American Association of Woodturners like from Kansas City, St. Louis, Rogers, Arkansas. The chapters tend to be their own gene pool. When I started, everyone turned bowls and that was it. That can probably be said about a lot of clubs in the region. It has broadened our horizons to see what others are doing,” Randolph said.

While many members just turn as a hobby, there is a growing market for homemade items for those who want to sell.

Take for example Etsy, the online handmade goods marketplace which continues to see growth. Etsy reported an 11.5 percent year-over-year increase in active sellers in the second quarter of 2016, for a total of 1.7 million worldwide, along with a 20 percent increase in active buyers.

The company reports a 39 percent increase in revenue in that same timeframe, and results were so strong it revised its financial outlook for 2016. Etsy reports it has 26.1 million active buyers.

The “buy local” movement has helped some, too. While some club members prefer to work with exotic woods from Africa and Asia, most of them use repurposed or rescued local wood, which really appeals to some buyers who want local wood, said Randolph.

“It’s not like going to Walmart and buying a mass-produced bowl that came from China. These are all one piece; every one of them is different and it’s unique. That goes back to local wood. If you find a tree that is downed with a story, whether it be Fassnight or from someone’s homestead, there is a story, a connection,” said Randolph.

That connection resonates with buyers.

Missouri has an ample supply of beautiful hardwoods to work with, said Carol Huser, one of the original members who is also an established woodturning artist. His work can be seen at Fresh Gallery in downtown Springfield.

Many of them share a love and respect for the medium, and “it’s contagious,” said Huser.

“I love wood,” echoed Beeman. “I love the grains, the different types of wood. I just like the fact you never know what you are going to get until you are finished. You can pick up a piece of wood that looks horrible and then it can turn into a beautiful bowl. I do it for the joy of it.”

It’s a wonderful creative outlet, said Banning.

When he joined the club, he was just learning to turn and expected it to be a hobby. But then he discovered it was useful: he could create kitchen tools, fix broken handles, make a salad bowl for his wife.

“I rather enjoy it. Of course, the sky is the limit as far as design. I am limited by my own mind,” he said.

Banning said he appreciates the group members for their character and talent. Members are not satisfied with “mediocre work,” which inspires him to strive for better work, too.

The Woodturners of Southwest Missouri are also increasingly involved in the community. At the Ozark Empire Fair, they sell tops and donate the money to the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks in honor of one of their members who lost his wife to breast cancer a few years ago.

The last two years they made bowls for Ozarks Food Harvest’s Empty Bowls soup fundraiser. This year, they turned 114 bowls for the fundraiser, which was “extremely successful” said Christine Temple, communications coordinator for Ozarks Food Harvest.

The group supplied about half the bowls sold at the event, which raised close to $7,500.

“They are such a great group and it’s wonderful what they do collectively for the community and as individual artists,” Temple said.

Many of the artists donate their work to charity auctions in town.

And there’s another reason their membership ranks have swelled: camaraderie and a sense of community.

“It has given me contact with artists that I wasn’t getting any other way,” said Heck.

Many have formed friendships along the way.

“They are like family,” said Beeman. “I have my real family and I have my woodturning family. I love them both.”

View source and photos.

Association Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal