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About the AAW
The American Association of Woodturners (AAW) is a Minnesota nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, headquartered in Saint Paul, Minnesota, dedicated to advancing the art and craft of woodturning worldwide by providing opportunities for education, information, and organization to those interested in turning wood. Established in 1986, AAW currently has more than 16,000 members and a network of over 365 local chapters globally representing professionals, amateurs, gallery owners, collectors, and wood/tool suppliers. AAW’s award-winning journal, American Woodturner is the foremost publication on the art and craft of woodturning in the world.
The mission of the American Association of Woodturners is to provide education, information, and organization to those interested in turning wood.
Woodturning is a unique form of woodworking that dates back to ancient Egypt. Woodturning is done on a lathe, a machine that holds and spins wood securely while it is shaped with sharp carving tools. Historically, woodturning has been used to create functional objects like chair legs, candlesticks, and bowls. Today, lathe-turned work is also understood as an art form and vehicle for individual enrichment, creativity, and self-expression. It can be found in galleries and museums around the world. Pieces may be functional, ornamental, or even sculptural. With a modest learning curve, woodturning engages people from age 8 to 108, and the skills acquired last a lifetime.
Woodturning’s growth as a popular hobby and professional art form began quietly in the years following World War II. By the early 1980s, woodturning had begun to appear in galleries and craft shows, and woodworking magazines covered the techniques and exciting new work of this old craft, now recharged with a sense of innovation. Woodturning was taking a uniquely contemporary shape, but there was yet no national coherence to the widespread activity.
In 1985, the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (Gatlinburg TN) was one of the few places in the United States where it was possible to teach or study woodturning. Director Sandra Blain and woodturner David Ellsworth, a regular instructor at Arrowmont, recognized the need to highlight the state of current work in a national show. They engaged turner/sculptor Mark Lindquist and Renwick Gallery Director Michael Monroe to help jury what became the 1985 exhibition, "Woodturning: Vision and Concept." The show’s opening coincided with a 3-day symposium, drawing more than 200 woodturners, at which the concept of a national organization of woodturners was put forth. By April 1986, the American Association of Woodturners was formally named and incorporated as a nonprofit organization. The AAW’s journal was launched later that year, along with the first local chapters. The AAW’s first official symposium was held in October 1987.
Today, the AAW has more than 16,000 members worldwide with 365+ local chapters, publishes the American Woodturner journal, organizes an annual International Symposium, sponsors woodturning outreach and education activities, and operates a gallery space in St. Paul MN's Landmark Center.