gun boxes magnet handles ron jackson

Wood Master — Artisan Woodworking by Ron Jackson

wood maple rocking chair furniture ron jackson

On the porch or in the living room, the handcrafted maple wood rocking chair by Ron Jackson invites the visitor to sit a spell.

Here’s your riddle for the day:

What is natural, renewable, sustainable, and recyclable that comes in an array of hues and densities? You can do everything from build a ship out of it to crafting a box. It rhymes with good, hood, should and could. And . . . it begins with w.

“My wife Dianne and I craft furniture and wood accessories that allow wood’s natural beauty to speak for itself,” says Ron Jackson of Walla Walla.

“The diversity of grains, color, figure and light reflectance make appealing visuals. Wood items are tactile. The warmth of wood feels good to the hand.”

small jewel box wood with feet ron jackson

Ron Jackson’s small jewel box with feet incorporates various woods in its tops, sides, feet, and handle.

Jackson, who began working with the answer to the riddle 67 years ago while in junior high school, has been involved with trees, somehow and in some way, all his life. Primarily self-taught, he credits his working at the Walla Walla Whitehouse Crawford sash, door, and cabinet shop in the early 1960s as the foundation for his knowledge of his medium. And while he hasn’t built a schooner (yet), he has designed and constructed three homes — including the couple’s “forever” home that they have lived in for 30 years — as well as filled that home with furniture and cabinetry of his own making.

Learning Woodworking by Salvaging Trees

“My woodworking education took a significant leap when, with a partner, we started a business salvaging hardwood trees,” Jackson explains.

“We milled the trees into lumber and sold the resulting lumber. We shipped the wood to users as far away as New York and Hawaii.

“The learning curve associated with the process of falling, hauling, milling and drying hardwood to successfully obtain an end product that did justice to this region’s beautiful hardwoods was substantial.

“The knowledge obtained from this process has helped me become a better woodworker.”

bloodroot jarra wood tall box jewelry drawers ron jackson

The Tall Box by Ron Jackson is made from Bubinga Wood. Slices from the bloodroot plant rest on top and as a cover to the drawers.

Now theoretically retired, Jackson spends his days in his 450 square foot shop, where he creates commissioned work for clients throughout the country. He also crafts small things — boxes, charcuterie boards, jewelry and hobby boxes — that he sells at gift stores, craft shows, and Wenaha Gallery in Dayton. Working from a stock of hardwoods primarily salvaged from trees in eastern Washington and Oregon, Jackson mixes and matches walnut, mahogany, maple, yew, Bubinga, and even something called Bloodroot and Jarra into his one of a kind, always evolving creations. He incorporates inlay, mortise and tenon, tongue and groove and other methods of blending and design, taking advantage of the different colors and textures of the wood.

Boxes and Boards for Guns and Cheese

Especially popular are his gun boxes, which stay locked until opened with a magnet, decoratively hidden within a separate wooden handle.

“Wives whose husbands own guns and keep them beside their beds especially like these,” he says. “In the middle of the night if you think you hear something, the last thing you want to do is turn on the light and fumble with a combination lock. The magnet is quiet and quick.”

Boxes of any sort fascinate Jackson. They are perfect for experimenting with new techniques and finishes on a small scale before incorporating them into larger pieces.

gun boxes magnet handles ron jackson

An assortment of gun boxes with decorative, magnet handle openers, by Ron Jackson

“I enjoy making boxes for a variety of reasons:

“They have a purpose. They take a reasonable time to make and are a great way to use special pieces of wood. The opportunity they offer to experiment with artistic ideas is great.”

And they make great gifts. Who doesn’t have small treasures that fit perfectly into a decorative box?

A Living Tree, and Then Its Wood

For Jackson, wood is a treasure of the earth that has a long and productive life: first as the tree that draws nourishment from the ground and gives back to its landscape, then, when that life is over, as a raw material transformed into items of beauty, usefulness, and artisan skill. It’s neither joke nor riddle that wood is natural, renewable, sustainable, and recyclable in a way that few materials are, and its versatility in its afterlife is limited only by the imagination and skill of the person working with it.

“In collaboration with my wife, Dianne, our work seeks to express the order and diversity of nature fused with people’s need for functional furniture and accessories,” Jackson says.

“The fascinating thing about working with wood is there’s always something else to learn.”

Wenaha GalleryRon Jackson is the featured Art Event artists from June 15 to July 12.

Contact Wenaha Gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

rainbow trout fish carved wooden sculpture art tom schirm

Fish Tales: Wooden Sculptures by Tom Schirm

When Tom Schirm tells a fish story, it’s not your usual Big One That Got Away tale.

Schirm, a habitat biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Columbia, Garfield, and Asotin counties, has spent 35 years of his professional career protecting fish and wildlife. For this reason, many of his fish stories have to do with poachers. Lately, however, an increasing number of his tales have to do with the more pleasant topic of woodcarving. Schirm uses his knowledge of fish, their habitat, and their unique markings, and turns this into sculpture.

golden trout fish wooden sculpture tom schirm

Golden Trout, wooden fish sculpture by Walla Walla artist Tom Schirm.

It all started in the mid-1990s when Schirm was working as a game warden in Wyoming.

Fishing for a Hobby

“A girlfriend asked if there was anything I would like to do as a hobby besides hunt and fish. Since I chased poachers, and dealt with hunting and fishing in my job all the time, she thought some other hobby might be good.”

So . . . Schirm decided to carve fish. He started with a book, bought by the girlfriend, by Bob Berry, considered the father of the fish carving art form.

“I played around with it for many years, but started to get serious about improving and carving more compositions in 2008,” the Dayton artist says.

Using both hand and power tools, Schirm works with exotic sounding woods like tupelo, jelutong, or basswood. Prized for their softness for carving, they are also prone to splintering. This adds to the challenge and beauty of the final work, Schirm says.

Scraps Schirm converts into rocks and other habitat components. The finished markings – a detail to which Schirm pays assiduous attention – he hand paints and airbrushes in acrylic paint.

Depending upon the sculpture size, each lifesize fish takes anywhere from 60 to 200 intense, careful, concentrated hours. Working primarily on commission, Schirm has sold works to collectors throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as Wyoming and Iowa.

Rescuing a Prized Catch

“I remember one buyer who came to me with a damaged taxidermy mount of a big Smallmouth Bass his father had caught many years before,” Schirm says.

“Most of the fins were broken or missing, and his father had thrown it away.

“He took it from the garbage and asked if I could replicate it in wood, and do a composition including the lure his father had caught it with.

“It was about a 7-pound Smallmouth Bass. I broke two saw blades and nearly burned up my band saw cutting such a thick fish shape out of the block of wood.

“However, it turned out well, and his father was surprised and happy.”

white sturgeon fish wooden sculpture tom schirm

White Sturgeon, wooden fish sculpture by Walla Walla artist Tom Schirm

Five years ago, Schirm tested the waters, so to speak, of woodcarving competitions, and the result has been one to please both fisherman and artist. At his very first competition, the Artistry in Wood Show in Kennewick, Schirm walked away with First Place in Class, Best of Division, and the People’s Choice Award.

Shortly thereafter he entered national shows. In 2017 at the World Fish Carving Championships, sponsored by the leading taxidermy journal, Breakthrough Magazine, he garnered first, second, and third place prizes. This spring at the same competition, Schirm’s Westslope Cutthroat Trout took the Open (Top Level) Decorative Lifesize, Third in the World Award.

Westslope cutthroat trout sculpture tom schirm

The Westslope Cutthroat Trout wooden fish sculpture, winner of multiple national awards, by Tom Schirm

“One Special Fish”

The prizes for the Westslope Cutthroat Trout are especially meaningful because of another fish story in Schirm’s repertoire. Created for a colleague, the sculpture was meant for the colleague’s wife who had always wanted such an artwork, but unexpectedly passed away before it could be completed. Schirm borrowed the piece back for the 2018 and 2019 competitions.

“That’s one special fish,” the sculpture’s owner says.

Over the years, Schirm has carved 103 fish, and he is nowhere near being done – neither with the carving nor the entering of competitions. His next major goal is to win Judge’s Choice and Best of Show at a future World Fish Carving Championship.

But his constant goal, with each and every composition, is to re-create a snapshot in time of the fish within its natural environment.

“I want to show the beauty of nature and the complexity of creation,” Schirm says.

“My goal is to create the finest examples of fish sculptures I can.

“I enjoy it when someone thinks a composition is a real fish, or when a customer smiles with happiness when they receive their fish sculpture.”

Those are fish stories well worth telling.

Wenaha GalleryTom Schirm is the Featured Art Event from Monday, June 17, through Saturday, July 13 at Wenaha Gallery.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.

 

Dave Ulmen

Art by

Dave Ulmen

More About Dave Ulmen

Spokane woodworker Dave Ulmen focuses upon, crafting cheese, sushi, and cutting boards, as well as coasters, Lazy Susans, and wine waves from laminated hardwood in his Spokane shop. Working with his wife Liz, Ulmen has built a thriving business from what started out as the extension of a lifelong interest.

“I’ve been a tool guy since I was a little kid hanging out in my grandpa’s shop,” Ulmen explains. “After both my parents passed, I had a small estate fund remaining. Since tools had always been important in my family, it seemed a fitting investment.

“When I saw what I could accomplish with a few good tools, I was hooked. My adult kids kept encouraging me to offer some work for sale, which got the ball rolling.”

Dave Ulmen
cheese sushi cutting boards hardwood coasters dave ulmen spokane woodworking

The Cutting Edge of Woodworking Art by Dave Ulmen

cheese sushi cutting boards hardwood coasters dave ulmen spokane woodworking

Sushi, cheese, and cutting boards, as well as hardwood coasters by woodworking artist Dave Ulmen of Spokane, WA

Wood is amazing stuff.

It comes in a variety of neutrals, tans, browns, and even purples. With common sense and lack of greed, it is sustainably harvestable. And in the hands of a skilled woodworking artist, wood is an elegant medium for creating sculpture as well as artisan items we use every day, from wine stoppers to treasure boxes, from bowls to cutting boards.

woodworking hardwood coasters home decor dave ulmen spokane

A collection of hardwood, handcrafted coasters by woodworking artisan Dave Ulmen of Spokane, WA

It is these latter — cutting boards — that Spokane woodworker Dave Ulmen focuses upon, crafting cheese, sushi, and cutting boards, as well as coasters, Lazy Susans, and wine waves from laminated hardwood in his Spokane shop. Working with his wife Liz, Ulmen has built a thriving business from what started out as the extension of a lifelong interest.

“I’ve been a tool guy since I was a little kid hanging out in my grandpa’s shop,” Ulmen explains. “After both my parents passed, I had a small estate fund remaining. Since tools had always been important in my family, it seemed a fitting investment.

“When I saw what I could accomplish with a few good tools, I was hooked. My adult kids kept encouraging me to offer some work for sale, which got the ball rolling.”

The Woodworking Studio

His dad and grandpa, Ulmen says, would be delighted with his woodworking studio — which started out in a garage and grew into custom built shop — and tools. And while his tools are newer, shinier, and dependent upon electricity, what they represent remains the same:

“There is the satisfaction of creating an interesting and useful object that is pleasing to the eye and gentle to the hand,” Ulmen says.

wine waves hardwood woodworking coasters decor dave ulmen spokane

Wine Waves, with their signature curvature, and hardwood coasters by woodworking artist Dave Ulmen of Spokane, WA

This is what Ulmen has been doing since 2005, when he launched Dave Ulmen Woods while both he and Liz were still working full time as teachers – he in 7th grade language arts, she in elementary gifted ed. (He describes their teaching careers, from which they fully retired in 2015, as a combined 71 years in crafting skills and critical thinking, “even more rewarding than our woodworking — and that’s saying a great deal.”)

Purchasing hardwood from local distributors a hefty pickup load at a time, Ulmen designs boards with the grain and unique coloration of individual hardwoods in mind. He and Liz saw, joint, glue, sand, finish and oil the completed boards, with each woodworking product passing through their hands multiple times. The wine waves, which incorporate bits and pieces (“post production materials”) into a signature curve, vie with the cutting boards for popularity.

Handcrafted Woodworking Art Sold throughout the Northwest

Ulmen sells his work throughout the Pacific Northwest in numerous gift shops and galleries, including Made in Washington stores; The Highlight Gallery in Mendocino, CA; The Real Mother Goose at the Portland, OR, International Airport; Northwest Handmade Gallery in Sandpoint, ID; and Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, WA. He has shipped to customers in more than 20 states, throughout Europe, and in Canada. In 2007, Made in Washington stores named him Artist of the Year.

“I took great pride in that because it was an acknowledgement of the quality of work, in combination with excellent service provided.”

As a testament to that commitment to quality, Ulmen and Liz still own, and use, the first cutting board they made.

sushi cheese cutting boards hardwood woodworking dave ulmen gifts

Sushi, cheese and cutting boards by woodworking artisan, Dave Ulmen of Spokane, WA

“We just rinse it, wipe it to damp/dry, and stand it on edge to finish drying. We recommend a beeswax/oil emulsion be applied from time to time which we also make and can supply.

“Never soak a wood cutting board!”

Woodworking and Life

In some ways, the properties of wood — its sustainability, its variety, and its connection to the earth and to the past — mirror Ullmen’s own experience in woodworking. He always knew that somehow, he would follow his grandpa’s and father’s interest in and skill with a material that has been part of humankind’s experience ever since there were trees.

“I knew I had the right background to become a woodworker when the time was right,” Ulmen says.

“After raising a few sons of my own, raising a home of our own, and raising a few grey hairs as a middle school teacher, I have been blessed with the opportunity to do my own woodworking.”

It took time to fulfill the dream, but then again, everything about wood, from the growing of trees to the crafting of functional items of beauty, takes time as well.

But it was well worth the wait, Ulmen says, to fulfill a dream he has had “since I ran my fingers through that soft and silky sawdust in Grandpa’s shop when I wasn’t tall enough to reach much else.”

Wenaha GalleryDave Ulmen is the Pacific Northwest Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, December 31 through Saturday, January 26, 2019.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.