Turning then burning miniature wooden vessels — not to mention turning over lots of ideas — made for a great week of study at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.
My workshop was Woodturning and Pyrography, and my classmates and I spent the week turning miniature hollow wood vessels.
First, we made our own small turning tools from hex keys for the tiny vessels.
The mini tools were used to turn small wooden vessels that were in some cases smaller than a Robin’s egg, so a regular-sized turning tool would be too large.
Then we made ergonomic branding tools. We shaped and turned a wooden handle that would suit our own grip and then adapted it to our own burning units.
We loved learning — well, I sure did — how to make different branding shapes. Several of us spent an afternoon experimenting and playing with different patterns after we had first learned to make a basket weave branding iron.
Molly Winton, our instructor, reminded us that with tiny vessels, every detail must be precise. She inspired us with an egg carton filled with her own creations, decorated with her trademark running horses and basket weaving brands.
Finally, we learned a myriad of coloring and texturing techniques to add to finish the small vessels. This was an amazing time to experiment and try different
patterns, textures and techniques with dyes, paints, and all manner of goodies that Molly brought with her.
Step by step, we worked through the process. Molly encouraged each of us to figure out an icon or image that could become our own branding image.
Ravens became my primary image, in part because I enjoy their antics in the air and also because I had just been photographing the ravens soaring through canyons a week earlier.
Now I’ve developed a tiny version of the raven soaring across many of my little wooden vessels. Of course, I used photos of ravens that I had taken at the Grand Canyon as the reference point for my pyrography.
As we worked on the different techniques, Molly would work with each of us individually, offering strategies for equipment use and design.
Another great aspect of the class was the class members. We asked each other questions and shared ideas. We admired each other’s finished work and helped look at something with fresh eyes when the creator didn’t think it evolved the way she or he had thought it might.
We all typically arrived at our respective lathes or the common table for burning and texturing before the official start of class and stayed working long after class was over. We were motivated to practice new techniques and complete our projects.
I’m excited about the techniques I learned. I not only created some attractive small hollow vessels but have learned several techniques of branding and coloring that I will use with the finishing of my Native American style flutes and other musical instruments I make.
Spending a week at Arrowmont — a community of 80 people all studying various craft and art mediums — was energizing.
We had meals together and discussed what different projects people at the dinner table were working on.
A meal discussion could range from preparing glass for the kiln to creating metal engravings for ink printing. We talked about projects and the influence of medium, color, function, and artistic philosophy.
A fun activity was a Studio Walk Around, which was held one of the last nights. We were able to share and explain our own work and see the work that we’d heard about at those meal conversations.
The Arrowmont School is located on a beautiful campus in Gatlinburg, so we were able to enjoy mountain views. I appreciate the American Association of Woodturners awarding me a scholarship to attend Arrowmont. I was interested to learn that AAW’s origin was at Arrowmont in 1985, starting with a woodturners’ symposium.