Tuesday 12 April 2011
Joey Richardson is a full-time turner as well as housewife and mother, Tegan Foley finds out more about her textured and pierced forms
I have been eager to profile Joey for some time, and I've been a fan of her wonderful pieces since I first started working on the magazine.
Her work invokes a magical element and I especially love the piercing detail that she uses to make her pieces stand out from the crowd. Her work is incredibly majestic, and I was looking forward to finding out more about this supreme talent.
It is clear from the way in which Joey incorporates the concept of nature in her work that this is a strong influence for her, and she confirms that she indeed grew up surrounded by trees on a small farm within the heart of Twigmoor Woods in Lincolnshire, England: "It was from here that my love for wood, nature, fauna and flora developed," she tells me.
Joey explains that she has always loved making things, and finds this act very therapeutic: "On the farm we had plenty of wood; I used to make wooden jumps for my pony. I went to a girls' high school where there was no opportunity to do woodwork. I had always wanted to learn how to make things properly, and then I had a particularly bad car accident. Whilst laid in hospital, I made the decision to join an adult education general woodworking class. I just fell in love with it," she remembers.
Joey felt a particular affinity with turning and loved watching the shapes and forms appear so quickly: "The results with turning are fairly rapid and the only limitation is your imagination, but unfortunately this class closed due to funding."
Some years later, Joey joined a turning and carving class, run by Chris Stott. She rediscovered her love of turning and made a functional bowl in the first lesson: "I felt so proud and I
loved exploring the different woods, their grain and texture," she says.
The turning scene
Chris introduced Joey to the turning scene and she started to attend shows and various demonstrations: "When I met Stuart Mortimer, I spent hours and hours just watching him; he was the only turner who always had something new. Every time I saw him, he had always developed a new idea or technique," she explains.
Unfortunately Joey had another accident in 1997: she cut off her finger whilst using a bandsaw. Luckily the surgeon was able to save her finger, much to Joey's relief: "This was a turning point in my career as a lot of people thought I didn't know what I was doing, and I needed to prove it to them and myself. I entered the turning competition at the International Show at Wembley and won a runner up prize. Then I entered more competitions so I could build up my workshop with the prize money." When she started entering competitions, Stuart was a judge and gave her advice. During a particularly low point in her life, when all her confidence was sapped, Stuart and Linda invited Joey to attend a day's tuition with them, which gave her a much-needed boost.
Over nine tumultuous years, Joey has been able to evolve her passion into a full-time career and she was recently accepted by the Register of Professional Turners (RPT), which is a huge achievement for her.
Whilst reading various international woodturning magazines, Joey discovered the work of Binh Pho.
She was inspired by his amazing life story and fell in love with the colours and shapes depicted in his work, which reflect his background, and how he does his piercing. Joey never expected that she would get the chance to meet or work with him,
but her luck was about to change.
Joey was awarded a bursary from the Worshipful Company of Turners in 2005, which allowed her to study in the USA, and this consequently changed her life. She attended the AAW Symposium and as a result, subsequently went on to undergo private tuition with Trent Bosch and David Nittmann, learning new turning, carving and texturing techniques: "The highlight of my trip was three days with Binh Pho. The days with him were some of the most inspirational of my life. I learnt new skills including piercing, texturing, colouring, design and airbrushing. He is one of the world's experts on decorating wood yet he is such a modest man."
Finding her identity
Binh also helped Joey to find her identity: "He opened my eyes to new horizons; he showed me how to focus all my ideas, feelings and enthusiasm into creating what I now feel are art forms which reflect my inner self. Inspiration grew as I spent time with Binh Pho; I learned to refine my traditional methods and to add new, innovative techniques: piercing, colour, carving and texture." Thus Joey's feelings, emotions, dreams and inspiration are now reproduced in her work. In her opinion, it was her destiny that she would end up working with wood.
When asked to describe her turning style, Joey says that her work is artistic and geared towards exhibitions and collections:
"My current work is my floral form series with organic shapes and flowing curves inspired by nature." For Joey, the most important thing is that each of her pieces contains a story, an experience, feelings, emotions, dreams and inspirations, which allows
the viewer to see into the life of the specific piece.
Joey explains how she loves to turn fresh, green sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) very thin, and then leaves it in a paper bag for a few days to dry out before she starts to cut it up to form her organic floral forms with flowing curves and colour: "I use a high-speed air drill to pierce and texture, an airbrush to apply colour, and I frequently use pyrography and carve with a rotary carver," she says.
Sycamore is Joey's preferred choice of wood; due to its whiteness it colours well and pierces nicely due to its close grain.
Joey says that she is inspired by everything around her, from her children, family, friends, nature, places she has been and special moments etc. "Mainly I draw inspiration from nature and my children, their passions and dreams and places we have visited. All my pieces contain a story, most capturing the happiness in my life."
I was interested to learn how long, typically, one of Joey's pieces takes to create, but she tells me that she doesn't really count the hours: "Last year, I worked every possible day and evening, often until 2 or 3am. I gave up all my hobbies, watching television, and I only produced 22 pieces. Each of my floral forms is like three pieces rolled into one; they are very time-consuming but also very rewarding."
When asked to name her greatest influence, unsurprisingly Joey mentions Binh Pho: "Binh not only taught me the airbrushing and piercing techniques but he taught me the most important thing in the world: that my work has to contain my heart and my story. He is always there at the end of an email to give advice and support. He shares his knowledge and skills freely and he is very proud of and encouraging towards all his students. He is always pushing the boundaries and is a great advocate for the field of woodturning."
Joey has been inspired by his pioneering work for many years, and is particularly influenced by his use of colour and negative space.
She also mentions Jan Peters and Ray Leier from the del Mano Gallery: “I aspired to be in their gallery and to exhibit my work at the SOFA (Sculpture Objects & Functional Art) expo. They have been a great help with critiquing my work over the last few years and I am grateful for the opportunity they gave me.
Lastly, she mentions Penrose Halson, the first ever Lady Master of the Worshipful Company of Turners, who travelled to Lincolnshire to open Joey's first ever exhibition in 2007: "She works tirelessly to promote woodturning and wood art. She is an inspiration to all us females," she finishes.
I asked Joey about her workshop and the creative space in which she carries out the texturing, piercing and colouring of her work. Joey has an area of her home which is dedicated to her turning and contains two lathes and all necessary turning equipment. The other part of the workshop houses wood and her compressor, but she explains that most of her work is carried out in her studio.
So what tools could Joey not live without? She states that her high-speed air drill is probably the most important, as she uses this to do all of her piercing and texturing, but her airbrush is also a key item, and lastly, chocolate, which is definitely a girl's best friend!
In terms of work ethos, Joey explains that as her children are now older, she gets more time to spend in the studio working on her turnings, although family life plays a big part and is definitely central to her life.
Highs & lows
Joey explains that she has had many highs, starting with winning various woodturning competitions, as well as being accepted to become a Registered Professional Turner. Also, being awarded the Worshipful Company of Turners bursary award enabled her to train with Binh Pho. "My biggest high was getting my work into the del Mano gallery and the highlight of my career was when del Mano took my work and when it sold in the SOFA expo in New York and Chicago."
Joey is not one to concentrate on the lows but she reiterates that cutting her finger on the bandsaw was a major setback, but she accepts that perhaps this was a good thing, as this made her enter various competitions.
When I asked Joey what she likes about turning the most, she tells me that it is difficult to pick one aspect:
"I love the escapism, locking myself in my studio or workshop in the evening instead of watching the TV and feeling fulfilled as I produce the pieces. Watching the shapes appear on the lathe, incorporating my story into the piece using piercing, texturing and colour, then seeing the piece in an exhibition or in a collection. All these things give me great pleasure."
So what does the future hold for Joey? She is already a highly successful female turner who has her work displayed in some of the most prestigious galleries in the world; where does a turner go from here? Joey states that, regardless of her success, she still has a long list of aims and aspirations that she wants to fulfil. "My main aim is to see all my children happily settled. I also hope to have more time to travel with my work and demonstrate in different countries. Lastly, I would like to experiment with adding different mediums to my woodturning. I have so many ideas, I just need