February 2016

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Woodturning, Art or Craft?


Is woodturning an art or craft? In the true sense woodturning is a craft. The woodturner spins wood on a lathe to make vessels such as bowls and pots or other practical objects such as chair legs.

Years ago a woodturner would produce pots that would hold an exact amount of fluid and would mark on the vessel the amount it would hold.

But it’s what we do nowadays with our woodturning that defines if we fall into the category of woodturning or artist and to my mind if you have a workshop with a lathe and other woodworking equipment and turn vessels and spindles then you are a woodturner. But if there is an area in your workshop for painting and finishing your work other equipment like dental drills or sand blasters, then that workshop becomes a studio.

If instead of just making practical items you take things further and create work with holes in or you paint your work then this becomes art.

So perhaps a woodturner who embellishes their work is also an artist. That’s not to say this type of woodturner does not at times turn practical items.

For these reasons I consider myself and describe myself as a woodturning artist. I work from a studio that is filled with other equipment alongside my woodturning lathes. I don’t just turn round and brown as so many woodturners put it, I’ll add something else to my work to enhance it, if I see something within the wood. I look for wood to turn that has it’s own features which can be incorporated into the finished piece.

As a woodturning artist I will find myself spending far more time finishing the work than actually turning the piece of wood at times. The piece might take a few hours to turn but the finishing could take twice as long or more depending upon the vision of the finished product.

I hope that you enjoy any of my work that you see.

Ed Oliver
Woodturning Artist