20 Minutes with Roman Stankus

Monday 9 July 2018

When I was young, I liked making things and working on creative projects. I loved building wooden models in particular – both ships and planes. I loved spending time outdoors, exploring the local creeks, fossil hunting, fishing, and gardening under the eye of my mother. I was first introduced to woodturning in junior high school where I turned a small stack laminated walnut (Juglans regia) bowl with thick walls and a green felt bottom! I did some woodwork in architecture school – small things like speaker cabinets and architectural models. When I got out of college and needed some bookcases, I built them myself. I am a self-taught woodworker and a registered architect by profession.

How did you get into woodturning?

In 2000 I bought my first lathe – a retired high school Delta VS 1236 – as a means to produce woodworking tools and parts. Two years ago when I decided to focus on woodturning in a more intense and creative way, my very good friend and accomplished turner, Mark Sillay helped me acquire many important technical skills of the craft. That platform of support and knowledge made it possible for me to pursue new directions in my work.

Describe the type of work you produce at present.

My work at this point is experimental and exploratory. I am currently producing non-functional pieces that investigate sculptural form, colour, texture and artistic composition. The basic forms of my pieces are created on the lathe and completed using a variety of methods including, routing, carving, burning, texturing and colouring. I am also using eccentric/multi-axis turning methods and have developed and adapted a number of tools and techniques to achieve specific forms/geometries. I also produce some traditionally turned pieces.

What inspires you?

My education and training as an architect has influenced my work a great deal. Basic design skills are applicable to any creative effort. I love to work with geometry, textures, skin treatments, colour and sculptural concepts. I believe the most important part of what we do as creators of physical artefacts is in the design process.

How has your work changed since you started turning?

The first year I turned, I focused on the fundamentals of traditional turning while trying to absorb and learn as much as I could about the many directions that turning has gone. Within a year, I began to explore ways to produce some of the concepts that I had considered but didn't know how to execute. As I researched others' work and became more familiar with the tools and processes to create them, I gained insights into methods that I am currently exploring. I still consider myself to be in a learning/exploring mode more than a production mode. My current work is contemporary and artistic in style.

Who or what has been your greatest influence?

When I saw a demonstration by Cliff Lounsbury using the router on a lathe, I realised that some of his methods would be invaluable to the kinds of pieces I was interested in producing. Stylistically, I draw from many sources both manmade and natural and I enjoy studying artefacts from other cultures and time periods.

Tell us about your workshop.

My workshop is a stand-alone building I constructed in my back yard on the foundation of an old garage – approximately 5.4 x 9.7m with a storage loft. I have a power tool room with a complete set of compact power tools for doing traditional 'flat' woodwork along with a Powermatic and a Conover lathe. I also have a separate smaller room with a workbench and many hand tools where I do 'off the lathe' processes.

What is your work ethos?

I don't make a living turning/woodworking at this time – I turn whenever I can – but architecture comes first. Recently I've also been designing and building a small boutique chocolate shop my wife Amy recently opened.

Where do you see yourself heading?

I'd like to continue working on my sculptural pieces and hope that I can gain recognition in the woodturning/wood art community. Ultimately I'd like to make pieces that are larger in scale – pieces that might be appropriate as public art in larger settings.

What have been your highs and lows of your career so far?

My main regret is that I have had limited time to turn over the past six months. The high so far has been having one of my pieces selected for the Instant Gallery at the 2012 AAW Symposium.

What is the best thing about turning?

Everything except sanding! In particular, great people who share, extraordinary creative freedom and variety of expression, making big curls with a sharp tool, making beautiful shapes… where do you stop? I love the ability to interact with and design the piece in real time as much as the ability to design certain aspects of the piece prior to beginning turning.