One Good Turn Deserves Another

By: Andrew McGivern, curator of exhibitions

I have fond memories of turning my first wooden bowl during shop class at John Muir Middle School. The bowl became a Christmas present for my parents, who used it for serving holiday treats.

Ed Sandle, Bowl with Bark Rim, 2014, cherry

Years later, I was surprised to learn there was a woodturning club in the area. In recent years, I’ve enjoyed working with members of the Wisconsin Valley Woodturners who demonstrated at the Woodson Art Museum and always were eager to share their knowledge with visitors and staff.



Roger Zimmerman, Nested Bowls, 2008, white ash

Before our current exhibition, Explorations in Wood: Selections From The Center for Art in Wood, I contacted Roger Zimmermann, president of the Wisconsin Valley Woodturners, and asked if I could attend a meeting to pitch an idea for an exhibition of artwork by local woodturners to coincide with Explorations in Wood, a national touring exhibition.


Pat Peckham, Rack ’em Up, 2011-2017, Spanish cedar, rosewood, supele, maple, and ziricote

The Wisconsin Valley Woodturners meet the first Wednesday of every month at DC Everest Junior High School. When I arrived at the October meeting, I was surprised to see 40 members and found it interesting to learn that some traveled as far as 70 miles to attend the meeting. In addition to discussing club business, time is spent demonstrating new tool use or a difficult turning process. Occasionally, guests are brought in to share their knowledge, as well.


Mary Bowden and friends, Pitch Perfect, 2017, Cocobolo, birch, and walnut

When I addressed the members, I asked them to share their best work for consideration for my planned exhibition. At the November meeting, I was surprised and pleased by the number and variety of submitted artworks.


Behind the Lathe: Selections from the Wisconsin Valley Woodturners includes forty-seven works by twenty-two artists ranging in skill level from intermediate to experienced woodturners. I was impressed by the range of work submitted, from plates, bowls and vessels, to pens, a complex soccer ball, and a football helmet.


Dick Rowe, I Dream of Genie, 2016, Maple, bloodwood, and wenge

My hat is off to the Wisconsin Valley Woodturners for providing an impressive exhibition and demonstrating the vitality of woodturning in central Wisconsin. If you are in the area, be sure to see Behind the Lathe and Explorations in Wood, both on view through February 25.


You also can see Wisconsin Valley Woodturners in action as they demonstrate woodturning techniques, answer questions, and invite participants to try their hand at the lathe during Art 101/Hands-on Art: Lathe Demonstration, Thursday, January 4, 5:30-7 pm, and during Art Park Open Studio, Saturday, January 6, 1-3 pm.


Although it would be years later when I used another lathe, I found the process of shaping wood and completing a piece both challenging and enjoyable. My goal is to acquire a lathe of my own some day. In the meantime, I have access to exceptional wood-turned artworks to keep my interest strong.

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