Art That Is Meant to Be Used — the Woodturning of Rick Woodard

Handcrafted rolling pins by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard.

Handcrafted rolling pins by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard.

A work of art.

Generally, when we use this phrase, one of the last images that comes to mind is a French rolling pin, but woodturner Rick Woodard blends and integrates four hardwoods — Walnut, Maple, Osage, and the exotic, richly purple-brown African Padauk — into a smoothly sensuous kitchen utensil that is as beautiful as it is pragmatic.

“My work is to be used,” the Burbank, WA woodturner says. “I haven’t gotten into the real artsy stuff, but focus on bowls and platters and rolling pins with the idea that people will use them.

American Elm Bowl by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard

American Elm Bowl by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard

“I have my own rolling pin that I pull out for making pie crusts, and bowls that I use for different things.”

Woodard, who has been creating wood-turned, functional art since 1995, learned under noted Alaskan wood artist Buz Blum, who taught Woodard, over a period of time, how to turn natural edge birch bowls using freshly harvested, green birchwood. Sometimes called “bark edge” or “live edge” bowls, the bowls are created with a base originating in the center of the log, and the edges incorporating the bark from the outer edge of the tree, according to

“I wanted to make bowls, for some odd reason,”Woodard remembers.

“I had been in construction all my life, and because of this, I found myself around different kinds of machinery, including lathes, and one day, I just bought one. I started messing around with it for awhile and decided I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I looked around for someone to help me advance.”

Maple Bowl by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard

Maple Bowl by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard

Because when he decides to do something, he figures that there’s no reason to wait around to get started, Woodard saw Buz’s work in an Anchorage shop, liked it, and contacted him directly after running into Buz’s name, again, in a woodturning magazine. Quite fortunately, they both lived in the same state at the time, and 50-some miles was a manageable distance to travel for lessons from a master.

In a short time, the student was creating bowls and platters worthy of being sold, collected, and used, and Woodard offered his woodturned art through All Alaska and Gifts, an artists’ co-op located in downtown Anchorage.

“Tourists from around the world would come into the store, and there are people from Japan, England, Australia, Germany, and all over the lower 48 states who have my turnings,” Woodard says.

Lidded Flower Bowl by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard.

Lidded Flower Bowl by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard.

When he headed south and wound up in Burbank, Woodard transitioned from using greenwood birch to experimenting with the many hardwoods, seasoned and cured, that he found in his new Washington home.

“There’s a lot of maple around here, oak, walnut, black locust, honey locust; there’s a lot of variety around here,” Woodard says. “But it’s not like you can just go out there and cut it down.

“The trees are pretty big, and it involves a lot of wood. I generally find someone who is cutting down a tree — for firewood — and arrange to purchase some large pieces from them.”

Like many serious woodturners, Woodard has a stash of wood — most definitely not intended to be burned — which he stores in a shop behind his house. When it has dried to less than 10 percent moisture, the wood is ready to be worked, with no worries that the final piece will crack or misshape as it dries.

Woodard finishes his woodturnings with a blend of beeswax and carnauba wax, both food grade, and he encourages purchasers to not be afraid to use his art for its intended purpose.

“Just don’t wash it in soapy water,” he says. “Clean it with a damp cloth and wipe it with walnut oil or olive oil — not cooking oil — because those two don’t turn rancid.

“Like I said, it’s made to be used.”

Wenaha GalleryRick Woodard is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from January 26, 2015 through February 21, 2015 at Wenaha Gallery’s historic Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.