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Spalted Maple Bowl by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin

Don’t Burn That Wood! Turn It into Art — the Wood Sculpture of Craig Hardin

Spalted Maple Bowl by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin

Spalted Maple Bowl by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin

 

As winter sets in and the days — and nights — get colder, a warm, merry fire in the hearth cheers the hearts of most. But for woodworker Craig Hardin, who turns wood on a lathe to create bowls, platters, lidded boxes, wine stoppers, bottle openers, and Christmas ornaments — fine hardwood has better uses, and a longer life ahead of it, after it has been through his capable hands.

“It is rewarding to turn a piece of hardwood into a bowl that someone will appreciate for years instead of burning it in their stove,” the Vancouver, WA woodworker says.

“There are many different types of hardwood to work with, and they each have unique characteristics.”

Birdseye Maple Wine Stop by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin

Birdseye Maple Wine Stop by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin

Whether a block of wood finds new life holding jewelry or keeping air out of the wine depends upon the wood itself, which in its own way speaks to Hardin — along with friends, family, and a growing list of clients — to determine what the final piece of functional art will be. For now, Hardin’s day job is at an electric utility company, and in his off time, he focuses on wood, with a significant amount of energy being devoted to finding it first, before ever he turns his attention to repurposing it:

“I cut and dry most of the hardwood myself that I turn. Friends and neighbors donate hardwood trees that they are removing from their property, and occasionally we come across a development where they are removing the trees. After asking permission, we are allowed to acquire some very nice hardwood for our use.”

An unusual, but rewarding source of exotic wood from other countries is the humble shipping pallet, and when Hardin finds a hardwood treasure in his forays to the Port of Portland, he jumps on it, not, perhaps, literally, but with decided enthusiasm.

“It’s so rewarding to recycle the hardwood in these pallets into amazing pieces of artwork,” Hardin says.

Small Birdhouse by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin

Small Birdhouse by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin

Black walnut, cherry, locust, maple — these are trees that are familiar to many, and the wood from them possesses a beauty that enhances any art item into which they are turned. Also in Hardin’s arsenal are ebony; madrone, or bearberry, which is native to western coastal North America from British Columbia to California; and camphor, described by the website Eat the Weeds as “cinnamon’s smelly cousin.” Native to Japan, China, and North Vietnam, this “exotic pest plant,” increasingly being planted on this side of the Pacific, is a favorite with woodworkers for its red and yellow striping.

Spalted maple, out of which Hardin has fashioned decorative bowls, features dark contrasting lines and streaks resulting from, of all things, fungus, and the challenge is allowing the wood to decay for as long as possible — to increase the complexity of design — but not so long that the material is weakened.

Zebra wood, which describes its appearance as opposed to its source, features strong dark stripes on a light background. Recently, Hardin donated a zebra wood wine stopper and pewter-headed bottle opener to a private nonprofit fund raiser for a Haitian children’s relief fund.

“Much of my work is shared with family, friends, and nonprofit organizations,” he says.

While at the moment, Hardin considers woodturning a pleasant hobby, in the future, after retirement, he plans to devote more time, and space, to re-creating new items out of the forest’s bounty.

“Currently, my studio is our third car garage bay at our house,” Hardin says, “but down the road we’ll have a dedicated space for a wood shop.”

The whole adventure began three years ago with a used lathe from Craig’s list that Hardin’s wife gave him for Christmas, but, “after the motor failed from my using it so much, we decided to purchase a new lathe.”

The new lathe has been receiving happy and generous use, and the consistent and varied supply of raw material on hand enables Hardin to continue experimenting, creating, and fashioning whatever the wood demands to be.

“Wood turning is unique,” Hardin says. “Each individual piece presents its own challenge, and reward.”

Wenaha GalleryCraig Hardin is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from November 28 through December 27, 2014. He joins College Place, WA, watercolor artist Hiroko Cannon at an artist’s reception Friday, November 28, 2014, at Wenaha Gallery during Dayton’s annual Christmas Kick-off.

Meet Hardin at the evening reception, from 4-7 p.m., and enjoy good company, fine art, and free refreshments at Wenaha Gallery’s historic downtown location, 219 East Main.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 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.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  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; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

The Best Thing to Do with Wood in Alaska — the Sculpture of Pat and Peggy Bookey

a selection of woodturning and wood piercing art by Pat and Peggy Bookey

A selection of woodturning and wood piercing art by Pat and Peggy Bookey.

When you live in Alaska, what do you do with wood?

For wood artists Pat and Peggy Bookey of North Pole, AK, you don’t necessarily burn it, even though, according to Pat, “The lows here can be between -50 and -60 F!”

When you are the Bookeys, both retired teachers, you fuse your separate skills together to create ethereal, airy sculpture out of native Alaskan birch (Betula neoalaskana) or Koa (from Hawaii). Pat turns the wood into thin-walled bowls, vases, bottle stoppers, and pet urns while Peggy, often using a dentist’s drill, pierces the creations with intricate, lacelike designs incorporating flowers, birds, Pacific Northwest animals such as wildcats or wolves, and, oddly for people who live in a place called North Pole, Hawaiian flora, birds, turtles, and whales. There’s a reason for that, which we’ll get to later.

Birch Butterfly Bowl by Pat and Peggy Bookey

Birch Butterfly Bowl by Pat and Peggy Bookey

“This all started because I needed something to do during the long Alaskan winters,” Pat says of their joint effort at producing fine, yet functional, three-dimensional art. In the initial years, Pat worked alone on his woodturning creations, while Peggy focused on hand carving,  delicately etching scenes on eggs from chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, and eventually, the exotic emu and ostrich. Despite working side by side, in a small garage workshop,  for several years, the couple never thought of coalescing their skills until one day, Pat happened to ask Peggy to carve a scene on one of his turnings.

They never looked back. The ensuing collaboration has taken them out of the workshop into various geographical areas as they distribute their work to galleries and gift shops, and one of those areas has been Hawaii.

“We love to visit that state every year to defrost, so it made sense to seek out opportunities there,” Peggy explains. Their big break came when a sales associate at Martin and MacArthur, an island-based dealer in fine gifts, home accessories, and furniture, insisted that they show their work to the CEO, Michael Tam, who fell instantly in love:

“He couldn’t stop turning the bowl over and over, commenting on the intricate pierced holes and scenes on the wood,” Peggy says. With a strong presence and interest in Hawaii, the couple  added Acacia Koa, a native Hawaiian wood, to their materials, and began incorporating native designs and elements.

In the earlier years of their working together, it was difficult finding the enough time, because even though Pat and Peggy were retired, “We had a significant role in raising our two grandchildren,” Peggy says. When the children were younger,  “we developed a system where Pat would turn a vessel while I looked after the kids, then we would switch and I’d work as fast as possible on the piecing . . . it was one heck of a feat working at that speed. I really pushed that drill!”

Dragonfly Lidded Koa by Pat and Peggy Bookey

Dragonfly Lidded Koa by Pat and Peggy Bookey

As the grandchildren grew older, Pat and Peggy were able to slow down from high speed, but so much practice resulted in pretty near perfect: PJ Percy of TreelineUSA, a woodcarving supply establishment, says of Peggy:

“She is one of the fastest piercers I’ve ever seen.”

The Bookeys, and their work, have been featured in Woodturning, the largest international woodturning magazine, as well as Woodturning Design. One of their favorite sales stories involves the King of Morocco, who visited one of the Martin and MacArthur stores and purchased several pierced Koa bowls to be shipped home.

“The employees couldn’t wait to tell us this good news!” Peggy remembers. Another favorite sale happened at the museum gift store at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, involving a large pierced vase, entwined with dragons, that the new owner hand carried back to China.

Pat and Peggy work together, and work together well, constantly encouraging, pushing, nudging each other to new heights of skill and art:

“Peggy’s relentless suggestions give me the confidence to continue to improve,” Pat says while Peggy notes,

“I was going to stop piercing about six years ago, but Pat pushed me on and supported me along the way. If it wasn’t  for him, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Pat and Peggy Bookey are the featured Art Event artists at Wenaha Gallery June 9  through June 28, and you can  enjoy a selection of both their Alaska birch and Hawaiian Koa creations at the downtown Dayton, WA gallery, 219 East Main Street.  Wenaha Gallery

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 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.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  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; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.