Feature Mondays – Irish seminar onto a winner

Monday 9 July 2018

With a wide range of turning options, a complicated chapter challenge and a huge amount of fun, the annual Irish Woodturners Guild’s 2015 Seminar proved to be a real success.

Hosted by the same chapter for two consecutive years before moving on to the next town or city, this year’s seminar took place from 25 September at the Radisson Blu, Dublin, conveniently located next to the airport. The national seminar is run over three days. It starts just after Friday lunchtime and finishes on Sunday mid-afternoon. There were six demonstration points – conference rooms fitted out with a lathe, sharpening equipment, safety screen, audiovisual equipment, protective sheeting on the floor and comfortable seating – and a trade area large enough to accommodate five stands. There was also a room for the display of turned work, with contributions from both demonstrators and people attending the seminar. The pieces were later categorised and judged in various competition sections. Away from the work, lunch and dinner were served in a large dining hall, where the main presentations and speeches were also made. I was soon to learn the food was good, the company sound and the work excellent.

Close eye on safety

As a demonstrator at the IWG Seminar, we had an initial meeting where all the relevant safety protocols were listed. It outlined what we could and could not do as demonstrators and covered fire escapes, first aid, rotation times, food and drink breaks and so on. This year, there was a new Health&Safety initiative in the shape of a taped orange line across all the demonstration room floors. It was positioned about two metres in front of the lathes and woe betide any attendees who dared to cross it. This simple device kept everyone clear of potential trips, AV equipment and, of course, sharp tools. The lathes had full protective screens in front of them, too, and demonstrators had to use protective eyewear or full face shields. Any demonstrator found not to be using the minimum of protective eyewear was likely to lose his or her demo fee. A nice idea, I thought. Keeping on the safety theme, some seminars now state that it is obligatory to use a face shield for lathe-based demonstrations. Again something for organisers to think about, but it is a good suggestion. The rotations represented a wide range of turning options so there was plenty of choice for people. This is vital for a good seminar. Diversity is a must. More and more people are tackling, or at least want to attempt, a wider variety of projects and enhancement techniques and it is important that seminars reflect this trend. Some of the attendees I spoke to during and after the event said that while it was fun to catch up with friends, it was also important to have the chance to meet new people and see fresh ways of working. Two people told me it had been worth attending the seminar just to see one particular demonstration as it had solved some problem areas for them. The instant gallery and display were a delight. While there were perhaps fewer items than in previous years, it was still a pleasure to see the diversity on display. Various demonstrators were asked to pair up to judge certain categories. This is always a hard job, but it’s also fun as the judges can get up close to work to see how things were done. It also gives a real insight into what the makers are doing and what they have created.

2015’s IWG demonstrators

Curt Theobald

Alain Mailland

Mark Baker

Steve Heeley

Seamus Cassidy

Tom Dunlop

Donal Ryan

Tony Rea

From the local Chapter:

Kieran Reynolds

Charlie Ryan

IWG Seminar chapter challenge

As with most of the IWG seminars, a special chapter challenge was set. This year’s task was to create a bike. A collaborative challenge, it involved lots of team work and, yes, lots of turning, although plenty of other skills were tested depending on which bike the participating chapters opted to make. Each of the eight finished bikes was stunning in its own way and they were all put on show in the hotel lobby. The display attracted huge amounts of interest from the hotel’s visitors and guests, with many sending pictures to friends and loved ones in far-flung places around the world. It was excellent publicity. As for my part, there isn’t much that causes me to become vexed about things, but when Colwin Way and I were asked to judge the Chapter Challenge Collaborative competition this caused me some, shall we say, trepidation. I am wary of being asked to judge or pick winners. Deciding what wins – and what does not – is always hard. People have put a lot of time and effort into making something and had the guts to submit it for a competition – many do not enter anything in any showing of work, let alone competitions. Then along comes someone who has been asked to make a decision based on various criteria. I was at least glad not to be judging on my own.

Let judging commence

Colwin and I set about doing our duty of trying to select a winner for this chapter challenge. I had never heard of such a challenge for a seminar. I know there have been amazing collaborative comps around the world before, but bikes? Well, to say there was a glorious display is an understatement. They were all stunning in their own way. Anyway, it is fair to say that as Colwin and I pored over all the entries we noted exquisite detail from the laminated wheels, tyres and mudguards to the frame, handlebars and the bike chains and so much more. We were on our hands and knees touching and inspecting and in truth delighted in the detail. Sadly, we also had to find things that weren’t quite right so that we could come to a conclusion as to which entry should win. I must admit to finding it almost disrespectful. There was a huge amount of time, effort and hard work put into the bikes – in designing, planning what goes where, working how to do it – let alone the precision required and to what scale. Simply stunning! Well, after thoroughly checking every entry and much discussion, Colwin and I finally decided on the bike made by the South East Chapter, which meets in County Kilkenny in the province of Leinster. Congratulations to them, but all the teams deserve much credit. Their bikes, displayed in the hotel lobby, were a real talking point. The turning community needs such attention to further people’s knowledge and understanding of our work and this was wonderful publicity.

IWG Chairman Joe Laird says…

Where do you start when someone asks you the question, “Well, was it a good weekend?” I am speaking about IWG National Seminar 2015, held this year in the Radisson Blu, Dublin Airport. “Yes” is the quick answer. There were two years of planning but all too soon, it seemed, the seminar was upon us again. The last few weeks leading up to the seminar are crazy for the host Chapter but we worked on the premise that “hundreds of man hours would ensure that the event would be all right on the night!” Most people who are involved in running such events know that they don’t get to see much of the actual demonstrations themselves. However, other things more than make up for it. The IWG Seminar is probably the happiest seminar in the world – full of Irish humour, Irish welcomes and Irish fun. Eight years ago I brought a new competition idea to the table called the Chapter Challenge. Over the years there have been many exciting ‘challenges’ but this year’s was the highlight of the seminar for me. The bicycle display in the foyer of the hotel was a sight to behold and rapidly became a worldwide phenomenon. Can we beat that next year? We will certainly try! For more images from this year’s IWG Seminar and information about applying to host the 2016 event, go to www.irishwoodturnersguild.com.

The Editor says…

There are various reasons why people attend seminars, but learning, sharing and having fun are certainly the main ones. The fun aspect was certainly evident at the IWG Seminar. The ribbing and banter – craic – from attendees during and after some of the demos was great and kept us demonstrators on our toes. At times, I was laughing so much I had bellyache – and I heard more than one howl of laughter from other demonstration rooms. It’s fair to say that the IWG seminar is one seminar where fun is obligatory, the food is plentiful and it takes a lot of willpower not to partake of the goodies on offer; the learning is a bonus. I jest of course. Learning is important and all the people I spoke to insisted that they had gleaned much from the seminar. There is something wonderfully different about the IWG Seminar. The combination of fun and learning and the closeness of the participants, who extend such a warm welcome to newcomers, gives it the feel of a big extended family. It’s unique. If you ever get the chance to go, please do so. You will be warmly welcomed and I am sure you will have a lot of fun.


Web: www.irishwoodturnersguild.com