Mike Lee – Family Jewels

Monday 9 July 2018

Family Jewels, 90mm high x 180mm long x 150mm wide. Yellowheart, Gabon ebony, cocobolo, rosewood, lignum vitae, tulipwood and milk paint (PHOTOGRAPH BY MIKE LEE)

This piece was my first exploration incorporating milk paint into my work. In 2008 I co-taught a workshop with my friend Stoney Lamar, at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Tennessee. Stoney had been experimenting with milk paint on his beautiful sculptures and I was impressed with the results he was able to achieve. I loved the warmth the milk paint gave the wood and how resilient it was to burnishing and buffing. A very important aspect of my work is the tactile quality and milk paint, by virtue of the earth pigments it's made of, doesn't impart an artificial feel to it.

Since the workshop was two weeks long it gave us time to visit the other studios as well. I met Dan Essig, a very talented artist, who was teaching the book binding class and he introduced me to incorporating handmade paper into my work. Back home I had been working on this piece which had been giving me problems. By combining the two techniques of handmade paper and milk paint on this 'problem' piece I had been working on, I was finally able to resolve it. One of the beauties of Arrowmont is the camaraderie and sharing nature of the other faculty and students, and I'm always leaving there full of ideas for my next project.