Dennis Curtis Woodturning
I’ve always been a maker. I started when I was very young in my father’s shop, nailing lobster trap scraps together. Over the years, woodworking became and stayed the main outlet for my need to create.
Most of my interest now lies in turning bowls and vessels, though I also enjoy creating other turned items. My creations most often originate from found or salvaged timber, not from trees felled for the purpose. Each blank from the log is oriented and turned to best showcase the natural grain and figure of the wood.
Turning bowls and vessels with fairly straight, predictable grain and color can be pleasurable and yield beautiful results, but I’m more excited by the wood that gives us a glimpse of the tree’s history. Even when I could avoid wood with defects, or simply cut away a troubled area, I often choose to leave the wood to reveal its struggles. As the tree drew its life from the soil and the air and the rain and the snow, it had to do battle against weather and insects and animals and man. It’s left up to us to ponder and decipher the results of these battles that are now just chapters in the tree’s autobiography.
Fortunately for us, these “defects” can become fascinating “features”. While straight-grained wood can be beautiful, burl or crotch figure can be stunning. When bark inclusions become irregular holes through a hollow form, they become interesting and exciting. The insect’s labyrinth of tunnels through the wood looks like lacework, and fungal spalting becomes an abstract pen and ink drawing on wood. Each of these “features” is really another chapter in the tree’s story. It’s truly a joy for me to expose and showcase these chapters in my work. I hope that you ponder and enjoy them as much as I do.
While the wood and its figure are certainly important pieces of the process, the form itself is the signature of the maker. The turned form springs from the life experiences of the turner, influenced by what he’s previously done, seen, thought about and created. Though not formally trained in the arts, I like to think that my sense of form has been shaped by my time spent lobstering on Penobscot Bay, watching the sea and its creatures. No matter the cause for it, I am sometimes profoundly astonished by the beauty of a piece in progress when I stop the lathe.