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AAW 2017 Honorary Lifetime Member: Clay Foster
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Honorary Lifetime Members

AAW 2017 Honorary Lifetime Member: Clay Foster


Every year, the AAW awards the distinction of Honorary Lifetime Member to someone who has contributed significantly to the field of woodturning. Clay Foster is one of this year’s recipients.

Foster’s career as a woodturner began in the late 80s. Having always been artistically inclined, he was first introduced to the idea of wood becoming a piece of art by the turnings of Dale Nish and Bob Stocksdale. Foster has developed a style that maintains a consistent love for the character of wood in his bowls, vessels, decorative objects, and sculptures. “There is a collaboration between the scars and flaws of a piece of wood and the relaxed execution of a practiced hand,” Foster says of his work. “I believe there is a place for the imperfections that serve as a metaphor for the reality of life, and the greater truth of the flaw.”

The originality of his work is due to many influences, including ancient architecture, utilitarian objects from Africa, and the weathering of surfaces in nature. Today, Foster’s works are often made of various elements that are balanced to create a whole. He spends relatively little time on the lathe, compared to the hours spent texturing, decorating and combining it with other components made of wood, metal, stone, and concrete.

Clay has been involved with AAW from almost its inception, as its 50th member. He served on AAW’s Board of Directors (1997-1999) as well as the Board of Advisors (2000-2001). He has also been an invaluable teacher and mentor. Clay enjoys encouraging students to look for and use outside inspiration such as exploring the use of color, carving, and incorporating alternative materials with woodturned objects. “I don’t teach woodturning, I teach students,” Foster explains. “There are many instructors who are better at teaching the fundamentals of woodturning than me. My strength is in helping people become makers.”

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