20 Minutes with Barbara Dill

Monday 9 July 2018

Can you explain briefly the type of work you carry out at present?

I have been exploring the variables and outcomes of multi-axis spindle turning. Ever since I started turning, in 1990, I was intrigued with the multi-axis work that I saw. When I started turning on more than one axis,

I seemed to get stuck with just a few ideas and could not figure out something different to try. I got serious about figuring this out in 2006. I have enjoyed teaching these ideas as well as writing for the AAW Journal.

What is your favourite timber to turn?

I love working with black cherry (Prunus serotina). It smells wonderful, has tight grain with lots of character and has a beautiful colour.

What are your current likes and dislikes within the sphere of turning?

I love the many directions that people have gone in, from functional pieces to adding carving and texture and colour and piercing, and the many people who are exploring using many axes. The struggle that I have had is to not be competitive but to find my own passion and enjoy playing in my shop every day.

What direction do you see your work taking in the future?

I will continue to work with many axes and find ways to turn wood between centres without using jigs. I have recently acquired a few new tools and new strategies that make turning larger bowls and vessels easier as I age, so I look forward to continuing this as well.

If you could only offer one bit of advice to someone starting out turning, what would it be, and why?

Only one?! My advice is to take classes to learn how to use the tools and the wood efficiently. And to then go home and turn and find your own voice.

What music and which book are you currently into?

I just finished Cutting for Stone, a book by Abraham Verghese. I had lived in Ethiopia in the early ‘70s and a friend had suggested this book, as it is set in Addis Ababa. I love all types of music and listen to classical on PBS or my favourite play list on iTunes.

Tell us about the piece you are currently working on.

I just put a blank of cherry on the lathe today to turn an urn for a friend whose dog died suddenly. I have been wanting to turn a bowl or vessel using five or six twisted axes. I see now why I put off this idea, because balance becomes a bigger issue with a bigger piece of wood. So far, though, it is working. I think this will make a nice urn.

Which are your favourite items to turn?

I love turning goblets and cups and other functional objects and then using them every day. I also enjoy making candleholders and bottle stoppers.

Which turners do you most admire, and why?

Michael Hosaluk was my first teacher at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in 1990. He is a great teacher, a fun loving guy, and his creativity knows no boundaries.

David Ellsworth was my teacher at Arrowmont in 1992. He has given the woodturning world not only great turnings but an understanding of the mechanics of turning.

What do you think the best single development in turning has been?

The AAW has helped give turning a voice in many ways. The journal, the symposiums and the turning clubs that have developed in the past 20 years have added a depth to the art form and have provided a social and learning structure for the people who turn.

What do you see yourself doing in five years’ time?

I expect to be turning and teaching.

What do you see as the biggest thing that has hindered the development of woodturning in general?

The issue of copying or plagiarism was a big topic in the ‘90s. I think this had a detrimental effect on many of us. I believe that this constraint has loosened now and that people feel free to turn and carve and make things their own.

What is your biggest regret?

Having arthritis.

What are your other interests besides turning?

My friends and family and pets, playing and listening to music, and enjoying the outdoors.

What three things in your workshop could you not do without?

My lathe, bandsaw and my chainsaw.