Thursday, July 14, 2011

Back from Utah

Oh, what a time I had! There is something very special about the Utah Woodturning Symposium; there's a sort of magic in the air, a wild anticipation that comes straight from the snow-capped mountains, a sparkle, and glitter in the wind. Every time I've come back home, I feel immeasurably inspired, that my life has made a hard right turn into a positive future destination.

The Utah Woodturning Symposium, (known simply as "Provo" to the old guard), is one of the largest and most prestigious symposiums in the world, and also the longest running -- 32 years as of 2011.

In case you're interested in making the trip, I'll tell you what you can expect... the first day begins with Super Wednesday at Craft Supplies. The staff there go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome. The big draw is the sale -- I picked up lots of DVDs, books, wood, and tools for seriously inexpensive prices!

Gorgeous books! (I even bought a few extra as gifts for friends!)

Some beautiful figured cottonwood.

Pen blanks, including Trustone and several acrylic varieties.

While their warehouse clearance sale is going on, there are 6 demonstration rooms, (including another at Treeline), to view presentations by top turners all day long! It's like getting an extra day at the symposium for free!

I'd like to thank Dale Nish and Darrel Nish (and the rest of the staff!) for organizing this wonderful event -- I had a fantastic time!

The Symposium lasts for three intense days, and I was very honored to be invited to demonstrate this year. The first day I had one rotation, a popular presentation in which I make my Color Rim Bowl. (To my great surprise, many asked me if the coloring is done freehand -- nope, it's all wood! The designs are produced by cutting into dyed plywood, no painting skills required!)

The second day I presented "Grinding, Sharpening, and Chips," in which I talked about the relationship of the tool grind (the shape of the tool) to the cut it's capable of making in wood. I also did my demonstration on Goblet with a Twist, which combines end-grain hollowing with thin-stem turning with a hand-cut twist.

As with the Goblet demonstration, the last day I had a full house, demonstrating Platters: cutting techniques, and decorative embellishments. I'd like to thank everyone who came to my presentations -- I enjoyed meeting everyone!

In between demonstrating, I caught as many of the other presentations as I could, seeing Bob Rosand, Bonnie Klein, Hans Weissflog, Jacob Weissflog, Kip Christensen, Dale Nish, Jason Breach, Rudy Lopez, Dick Sing, and so many others!

I also took time to browse the Instant Gallery, which was full of incredible work! (I took two treasures home this trip: I bought one of Bonnie Klein's top boxes, and a set of three spinning tops from Kip Christensen!)

The Swap Meet is on Thursday evening -- a parking lot full of wood vendors and others selling tools, finished work, even lathes! I brought home a large box elder burl, some Mormon Poplar, a block of Willow, and some little Japanese Yew logs. To top off the evening, three special presentations were scheduled.

From left, clockwise: Maple Burl, figured cottonwood, and a big boxelder burl cap! (The maple square is about 8" across)

Friday is the night of the legendary banquet! After chatting with friends and eating a sumptuous meal, the auction starts. Both world-famous and local artists donate their works to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. I'm delighted that my platter "Sway with Me" was won by a friend!

By now, nearly everyone is exhausted, but three more rotations ensue, followed by a "good-bye" ceremony filled with door prizes! Then, everyone goes off, driving, flying, walking... back to their own shops, their thoughts filled with inspiration!

People ask me what makes Utah different... I guess I would have to say "the community." Every year we return again, greeted by the same friendly faces. They are there year after year, working tirelessly to create a fantastic event. I've come to treasure these dear people just as I would my closest friends.

I wanted to make special mention of some things that were really great this year. First -- videography -- the camera operators were either videography students from the college or woodturners with video experience -- they gave huge value to the demonstrations by following the demonstrator's every move, capturing closeups of the techniques.

The Volunteers: they were always there with a smile, happy to answer questions, or find a forgotten tool, or whatever-you-needed. THANK YOU for your dedication!

And who can forget the organizers: Mike Mahoney, Kip Christensen, and Dale Nish -- THANK YOU!

My own conclusion is that I will never miss the Utah Woodturning Symposium -- it's like a family get-together with the added benefit of learning new techniques, making new friends, and having a three-day party all at once! See you there next year!


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