ITE 2013 Day 29, July 1. After lunch we drive to Quakertown to visit David and Wendy Ellsworth at their forest estate. It has been a tough visit to schedule, what with David’s teaching and everyone’s travel, so we are eager and excited.
We begin in the curved-sided house they built here in the deep Pennsylvania woods, nestled into Lake Nockamixon State Park. David shows us highlights from their deep collection of craft-art. The Ellsworths have always bought and traded artwork, focusing on early pieces and personally meaningful pieces by artist friends. David says these pieces bring good energy into the house, they are always alive and engaging. Indeed it is a very fine collection.
We walk along the road to Wendy’s bead-art studio, the original turning workshop built in 1981. Wendy has just published an excellent book, Beading — The Creative Spirit, and her studio is full of new work in preparation for the couple’s joint exhibition opening Oct. 20 2013 at the Jenkins Arboretum in Devon, PA.
Then we go next door to David’s 30×30 two-story workshop, where David gives us a master’s demonstration and a lesson in woodturning essentials.
David had just returned home from the American Association of Woodturners symposium, a difficult journey of canceled flights but rescued, hosted and delivered safe home by fellow AAW member David Robinson, who lives in the DC area. And Wendy had just returned from a week away in New England. Though exhausted from travel these two leading craft artists opened their home to us and gave generously of their time and talent. The Ellsworths are always gracious like this, it’s how they live, and we ITE fellows are deeply grateful.
Neil Turner, David Robinson and David Ellsworth have just returned from the AAW symposium in Tampa. Dave Robinson attended Neil’s demonstration there, but did not recognize him without his safety gear.
David shows Ben Carpenter and Malcolm Martin a carved sculpture by David Pye, the British design-craft theorist. It has a remarkable pattern of carved lines that embody Pye’s ideas.
Neil Turner fulfills a dream: he sits in a Sam Maloof rocking chair. Many years ago Sam swapped the chair in exchange for a group of David’s turnings. Good deal!
Band-sawn box by Garry Knox Bennett, the Oakland, CA furniture maker and sculptor. The two artists are good friends and frequently collaborate, and this piece helped lead David toward the new work you’ll glimpse later in this post.
David leads us to the studios. Wendy Ellsworth, left, discovers that she and Ben Carpenter both hail from small Western towns. All us visitors are amazed by the lush green leafiness of the second-growth woods.
Gaynor Dowling is entranced by Wendy’s lovely bead art. Wendy works at the far end of her showroom, a cozy light-filled space.
Bead sculpture by Wendy Ellsworth. She begins with three beads on the needle, then adds three more, building a repeating pattern in the air, knowing what she is doing but not knowing where the piece is going until it gets there.
Ben does air chainsaw with David’s highly evolved bowl-blank buck. David says he can build one of his own with a cell-phone photo and some short ends of wood.
David agrees to give us a master class, turning a rough ash blank into a natural-edge bowl. Shavings and debris fly and everyone must wear a face shield.
David balances the blank between centers and attacks it with his signature swept-back gouge. He works from the flattish face toward the rough chainsawn octagon. This strategy keeps the tool in the wood, enabling a heavy cut.
The demo focuses on stance, the source of success. David positions his feet and his center where he wants the cut to end, then sways a clean arc from its start to the stable end-position.
The pressure is all downward onto the tool rest. The rear hand steers lightly. The headstock of the Robust lathe, which David helped design, slides on the ways while the tailstock pivots out of the way.
Though he is best known as an artist, David teaches 18 weekends a year, five students each time. He gives many excellent, low-tech methods, such as this stick trick for locating the bottom of the bowl.
David enjoys wowing us with a one-handed, leg-powered, bevel-guided finishing cut. We’ve never seen anything like it.
Having turned the bowl without losing a scrap of natural bark, David strips the fragile bark off and hands the finished piece to Good Samaritan Dave Robinson.
Upstairs in David’s showroom/snooker parlor, we gape at the new work. The pieces tower. There’s a colored line or edge on each. They’re band-sawn, not turned. Gasp.
David explains that slick and shiny work sells, while an exquisitely energetic sewn-and-burned pot like this doesn’t, leaving him with an inventory of the work he loves best.