Turning has become quite a growing art with new and different innovations hitting the market in recent years. It is an art that dates back to around 1300 BC when a two-person lathe was developed by the Egyptians. One person would turn the wood with a rope while the other used a sharp tool to cut shapes in the wood. I guess you could say we’ve come a long way in technology. But with the decline of industrial arts programs in our schools, the education of hands-on woodshop activity has seemingly been left to one organization which has taken on the responsibility of making sure the art of woodturning lives on. That organization is the American Association of Woodtuners (AAW). This organization is an international, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with over 15,000 members in the United States and throughout 33 different countries with 350 AAW Chapters. These chapters are independent organizations of local enthusiasts who come together to learn more about the craft and enjoy fellowship with other turners. Their voluntary mission is to provide education, information, and organization to those interested in the art and craft of woodturning.
Annually, a national symposium is held in a different city each year. Talent abounds in this organization, but do not be intimidated or afraid of the challenge. Remember everyone started at the beginning at some point, it’s all a learning process and we all share our mistakes to become better turners with each and every piece we mount to our lathes. Transform your world, learn new techniques & skills, get inspired, share your skills, keep informed, be part of the remarkable community and join or volunteer with the AAW. You CAN make a difference to one or to many.
“Wood is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get!”…Jody Garrett
One of the best things about turning that I have personally found is what can come out of the wood. Recently our Woodcraft president, Jody Garrett was quoting a variation from the Forrest Gump line saying, “Wood is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get!” And yet it is the truth because the internal beauty of the wood added with the creative ideas and artistic talents within each person, rests with the time and patience taken in achieving the final turning outcome in each project attempted.
During each annual symposium, an auction of tools, wood, and fine woodturnings is held. Funds from the auction fund scholarships for woodturning education. The largest woodturning tradeshow anywhere, including tool and lathe manufacturers, vendors of wood and other materials, and suppliers related to woodturning attend the event. Donations of lathes, lathe tools, accessories and other products are given by Woodcraft, Jet, Easy Wood Tools, and many other companies.
Dale Larson, current President of the AAW stated, “Our organization provides a lot of grants to schools to buy wood turning equipment, lathes, tools, and other equipment. The money we receive from that (AAW) auction will be given out in January/February of next year in grants back to our members and our chapters and to schools for educational purposes. So all of the money we raise in that area goes back to the AAW members. If we don’t pass it on, then it will die out. I mean, we have to pass it on to the younger generation. It’s important for us.”
One of my favorite people and woodturner extraordinaire is Nick Cook who shares his knowledge at many Woodcraft stores and teaches the children at the AAW symposium classes each year said, “Where I live, the county does not have an industrial arts program, and I bring a mini lathe and I show the kids how to turn wood and most of them have never seen a wood lathe. None of them have not seen anything made, so it’s like, “Wow, this is really cool.” Because you saw the honey dipper, I mean it takes about 5 or 6 minutes to make. I make little baseball bats for them, spinning tops, and things like that. I like working with the kids because first of all the kids don’t have any pre-conceived concepts. They listen and they do what their asked to do. Where adults tend to go off on their own tangents, don’t follow direction because they think they no better than you do and that makes it difficult to do. The kids are eager to learn. They’re all here because they want to be here and they get real excited. To see their face when they make something for the first time makes it all worthwhile. A couple years ago, the little girl was only 8 years old, but both of her parents turned. She’s been around the lathe all her life and she wanted to be part of the program. I didn’t mind if they were willing, and Bonnie Kline said it was fine with her. When we got to the symposium the lady came up and thanked me, and she said “You don’t remember me.” I said, “No I’m afraid I don’t.” She said, ”Nine years ago you came to our club and did an all-day demo, and one of the projects I do is a baby rattle. When I finished the baby rattle she was sitting in the front row and she was pregnant with this little girl. So I mean that just sort of brings chills to you and I mean it’s a full circle. If you look around at the symposium the average age is probably 65 to 70. So having the kids come in because there is no industrial arts anymore because of liability and funding and all that. I mean it’s the only opportunity the kids have to do something like this. The woodturning has become a natural thing for me and that’s why I like to do it.”
Some of the AAW 2014 Symposium turnings were caught on video by Jeffrey Schnell.
AAW founding member, David Ellsworth shares his woodworking values stating, “With the general public, we go out on the street and we talk to somebody about wood, they don’t know what we’re talking about. Wood is for holding up buildings you see, and bordering a window and it has to be painted on your house. So part of what we’re doing with the organization, the American Association of Woodturners and my own work and many other woodworkers is we’re helping to educate the general public by exposing our work to them. We present it to people. We try and explain its intrinsic value, which leads to it’s worth…the price. But what I’m most interested in, in other peoples work is the intrinsic value behind it, what is the relationship of the object to the maker through the process.”
AAW board member, Binh Pho explains his work like this, “Most of my work is narrative, telling the story. So I use a lot of motif. Whether Asian or Western motif, I will try to describe the story. When I was young, the communist came to Vietnam, and American withdrew from Vietnam. I tried to escape, to get out of Vietnam, so you can see maybe in my pieces about ocean, water, because I got out of Vietnam by boat. You have a farm to grow trees for harvest for lumber, the tree will grow straight up because there is no competition. I don’t like those kinds of wood. It’s easy to predict. I like the wood that grows in the forest. That way, the trees had to fight because there are so many trees around, which gives the wood a lot more figure (character). Apply that to a human when somebody struggles with all this illness or problems, there is a lot of story to tell, right?
In this “We Turn As Family” video from the 2013 AAW Symposium, the heart and sole of the AAW is shown,
Be sure to become a member of the AAW, and attend the 2015 American Association of Woodturners Symposium which will be held in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
To find out more on the AAW and what they can do to support your education system and make you a better turner, click HERE.
Join in on the AAW Facebook page too!