20 Minutes with Alan Trout
Friday 08 June 2012
Alan Trout creates distinctive pieces which are cast in colourful resins. Here Tegan Foley spends 20 minutes finding out all about the man and his wonderful work
1. Tell us about your background
My father always encouraged me to work with my hands. He led by example and is probably the most mechanically talented man I've ever met. He taught me woodworking, welding, machining, and construction. When I was 19, I started an automotive machine shop that I eventually sold. For the last 15 years, I have been a self-employed residential home inspector.
2. How did you get into woodturning?
I was given a book called 500 Wood Bowls, written by Ray Leier, Jan Peters, and Kevin Wallace. I was impressed by so many beautiful objects, and thought turning would be a great creative outlet. I acquired a lathe, and the rest is history.
3. Describe the types of work you produce
Most of my work involves pigmented resin casting, combined with burls, distressed wood, and other organic materials. I like using simple forms that showcase the visual textures created by combining natural and synthetic materials.
4. What inspires you?
Having the ability to make something unique and beautiful is always inspiring. I always look forward to seeing how each piece turns out. The enjoyment of making, and others appreciating the pieces that I make are really what inspires me.
5. How has your work changed since you first started turning?
At first I mimicked the pieces that I saw in magazines, clubs, and online. My greatest change is that I have developed a distinct enough style that when someone sees my work, they know exactly who did it.
6. How would you describe your turning style?
I think most of my pieces are modern or contemporary in style. The colours and textures in the pieces add to this feel.
7. Who or what has been your greatest influence?
My daily enviroment probably has the most influence on my work. I am an observant person and notice shapes, textures, and patterns in nature. I also love forms of antique pottery, glassware, and crystal. Their classic shapes influence my pieces.
8. Tell us about your workshop
It is a 25 x 30ft building behind my house, I share it with my wife who is a silversmith. I have two full-size lathes, one Woodfast short bed, and one Nova DVR XP on a heavy custom-fabricated stand. I have two bandsaws, a combination woodworking machine, a compressor, air filtration, and tool grinders. I use portable AC units to keep the space cool in summer, as South Texas tends to get pretty warm!
9. What is your work ethos?
Balance. I work every day at turning whether designing or in the workshop, but I also have a business to run and a family. I set goals and schedules for pieces that I am making and pretty much stick to them. I rarely have unfinished pieces laying around. Once I start making a piece, I generally complete it before starting another.
10. Where do you see yourself heading?
I have fresh ideas every day, and enough projects on my to do list that will keep me occupied for a long time. I plan to incorporate carving as well as metals into future pieces. I just need a little more time to perfect the techniques to execute these designs.
11. What have been the highs and lows of your career
My low was when I first started and didn't have the skills to make the pieces I envisioned. It was frustrating, but motivating. At my first national symposium, I got a call from a prominent collector who wanted to purchase a piece, and while I was selling it, another big collector called and bought another! That was a real high. Of course, being chosen for a profile in Woodturning magazine is a great source of pride as well.
12. What is the best thing about turning?
I like the quick visible progression. For me it is easy to envision the final product while turning. You can see the shape and know right away if it's good or not. I also like the limitless possibilities that so many different techniques and available materials offers.
13. What methods of promotion do you use?
I like to enter juried art competitions and exhibitions. I have got many good sales and commissions this way. Displaying work at symposiums is another way to get attention. I have sold to other turners through websites that I frequent, and have a website with methods to contact me. Of course, being represented by good galleries helps because they promote their artists.
14. What are your aims and aspirations for the future?
I would eventually like to make turning my full-time vocation. Continue to make art, produce some tools, teach, and give demonstrations. I get a lot of satisfaction from teaching and demos. I also have a 7-year-old boy who wants to learn what Daddy does and I would love to teach him.