Chapter Anniversary Profiles
Chapter: Chicago Woodturners
Area Served: Arlington Heights, IL
First President: Tom Jesionowski
Current President: Al Miotke
Founded: March 28, 1988
What motivated the founders to start a chapter?
Initially, there was no organization available to give woodturners a chance to talk and discuss concepts. Two avid woodturners from the Chicago area, Tom Jesionowski and Dick Sing, attended the Utah symposium which sparked interest. Subsequently, Dick attended the first AAW symposium in Lexington, Kentucky, which fueled more interest in forming a chapter. Tom then took the lead, contacted the AAW, and requested a list of woodturners in the Chicago area. He then began contacting these individuals by phone to discuss the idea of forming a chapter. A number of people showed interest, so there where two meetings at Tom’s home to formalize the chapters organization. During the second meeting, officers were created and Tom was elected as the first president.
The original name of the chapter was Northern Illinois Woodturners. In 1991 the members decided to change the name to Chicago Woodturners to more accurately reflect the area that the club services.
How many joined the new chapter?
Six individuals met to form the chapter. In addition to Tom Jesionowski, they included Dick Sing, Bill Hochmuth, Jack Turley, John Cascarano, and Lee Rouch but in the first year the group grew to about 13. The club has continued to grow to its current size of approximately 175.
Where did the first group meet?
After the two initial organizational meetings at Tom Jesionowski’s home, the first official meeting was held at Dick Sing’s home. Meetings then rotated to various members homes for a period of time. After more members joined, the meetings were moved to the conference room at the company of one of the members, followed by an area high school, and then to the basement of a local Woodcraft store where the club met for about 15 years.
How much were the dues?
Originally there were no dues, just a group of woodturning enthusiasts getting together to share their passion. A few years later, dues were established at $25 per year, and 29 years later the dues have not changed.
Are there any original members still involved with the chapter?
Three members from the 1980’s are still involved with the organization: Dick Sing, Bill Hochmuth, and Bob Bergstrom.
What are some of the favorite memories of the chapter?
The original meetings were very informal but a lot of fun and very educational. Whoever hosted the month’s meeting held it in their shop. The host for the month was also responsible to put on the demonstration and normally provided a cooler with drinks, deserts, or other snacks. It was a great opportunity to see other turner’s shops, equipment, tools, and projects.
In early years, members had to re-arrange their shop to make room for seating. A positive of hosting a meeting was that you had to clean your shop whereby finding all the tools you thought you had lost.
The members were from all over the Chicagoland area. That meant that some months you had to drive for over an hour through rush-hour traffic to get to a member’s home for a meeting of just a few hours. We were so addicted and hungry for that we didn’t care how long it took.
Over the years, the body of work changed significantly. It started with bowls with small feet and an occasional platter. Pieces with cracks, bark inclusions, wormy wood or mixed media were verboten. After a few years, you began to see natural edge bowls and hollow forms. Coloring and texturing came much later.
In the thirty weeks leading up to AAW's 30th Anniversary Symposium in Atlanta, we will be sharing the stories of members and chapters who joined in 1986 and are still with us today. We hope you enjoy their memories and insights!
- Click here to view profiles online.
What are some of the milestones of the chapter?
- 1987 – Chapter formed
- 1991 - Changed chapter name from Northern Illinois Woodturners to Chicago Woodturners
- 1995 - The chapter began seeking out world-renowned turners to visit and demo in Chicago. Initially it was up to three per year. Today it has increased to four to five per year.
- 2008 - Held its first regional symposium: Turn-On! Chicago
- 2009 - Became a 501(c)3 organization
How has the AAW affiliation affected the chapter?
Initially the AAW simply provided the mechanism for woodturners to get together and share ideas. In later years, it also began providing guidance for best practices on topics such as safety, teaching methods, techniques, and organizational structure.
~ Submitted by Al Miotke