Wizardry in Wood

Monday 9 July 2018

Natalie Kikken takes in this feast for the eyes

It was a treat for any woodturner and for those who had never come across the craft before. Under the roof of the Carpenters Hall in London, the Worshipful Company of Turners put on a magnificent woodturning exhibition titled Wizardry in Wood. Held from 4-6th June, there were 24 individual stands highlighting the beautiful work of masters in the craft.

On entering, visitors were treated to Katie Abbott working on a tradition pole lathe. Then it was up the stairs to be greeted by astounding pieces of work of turners such as Paul Coker, Stephen Cooper, Binh Pho and Julie Haryet, to name a few.

Impressive exhibits

Margaret Gerrard, who was an exhibitor, was excited to be there.

“I received a bursary which really built my confidence,” she says. “I love the smell and feel of wood and I love learning new turning techniques.” Her love of bringing out different grain patterns was also evident in her displayed work.

Other impressive exhibitors included Ray Key, with his clean shapes, beautiful bowls and large platters, and Carlyn Lindsay, who uses colour veneer and sycamore (Acer) to make a range of distinctive work including earrings, bowls, spinning tops and cutlery.

“I get a defnite buzz from turning,” Carlyn comments. “I have been turning for 24 years and I feel like my work is still evolving. I don't waste any wood and I need to design my work first as it is costly and time consuming. I glue the sycamore and veneer together, but it is when I put the wood on the lathe when my work really comes to life. I get coloured shavings and my work can remind me of sweets. Some really good collectors have bought my work so I am happy,” she enthuses.

But the excellent work on display didn't stop there. Nick Agar's textured and coloured work, which is well received in America, was on show plus Stuart King's earthy pendants and hollow vessels with delicate finials. Gregory Mortimer's lovely natural edge bowls captured the natural beauty of the wood and John Berkeley's screw threaded work (and the tiniest spindle I have ever seen!) also demonstrated the diversity of woodturning.

Dave Reeks organic and fluid work was an eye-catcher. “A crack is a design opportunity,” Dave explains. “I like to work with elm burr and for a large crack on one of my vessels, I used pewter tape.” This technique worked wonderfully and really added character to the piece.


In addition to the work on display, there were also a range of collections such as the Theo and Sarah Faberge St Petersburg Collection, the Daniel Collection and the Smouha Collection. There were also stands of the Guild of Art Scholars, Dealers and Collectors, the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain, the Register of Professional Turners, the Society of Ornamental Turners, and the Turners Company and the Worshipful Company of Musicians.

Competition winners

The competitions were popular with a range of entries. Paul Coker excelled by winning first prize for the Masters Competition for an ornamental ceremonial chalice and plain turning plus the open turning competition for a gavel and block. Maggie Wright received first prize for the Felix Levy Open Competition for Freestyle Turning and the Ornamental Turning competition, in conjunction with the Society of Ornamental Turners, was awarded to John Edwards.

First prize for the Plain Turning Competition, in conjunction with the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain, was awarded to Margaret Gerrard. Richard Bicheno won first prize for the Ray Key Competition, in conjunction with the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain, and the Company turning competitions prize went to Katie Abbott.

Angel's lathe

A special part of the exhibition was the Angel's lathe display, a lathe replicated from a symbolic drawing from 1627.

The lathe was built by three members of the Guild of Flemish Woodturners (Emiel Pelssers, Willy Magel and Hugo Wahlen) in the context of the book 'The Use of Wood in Books, Wooden Books and the Art of Woodturning' edited by Luc Knapen, a librarian from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, who is also an active member of the Guild.

Luc Knapen attended Wizardry in Wood and is very passionate about how lathes have been symbolically and historically represented. He says, “The lathe pictured in the drawing represents the spiritual growth of a Christian by turning away any vanities and purifying the soul.

“We specifically shipped over and rebuilt the Angel's lathe for this exhibition. To make the lathe, we drew a plan, made a model in MDF and then set to work on the real thing using oak and a branch of bamboo.”

A great success

The Wizardry in Wood exhibition was a great success and excelled in showing off the fantastic work being produced by woodturners today.

But the exhibition didn't only demonstrate the variety of turning techniques. As turner John Berkeley stated: “Woodturning is great fun!” And I couldn't agree more. It was a grat day out for professionals, novices and for those simply interested in learning more about the craft.