Maker of the Week - Dennis Elliott

Monday 14 November 2011

Born in London, Dennis became a professional musician by the age of 16. He moved to the USA with his wife in 1975 and discovered woodturning soon after. Dennis comments how he was stunned by the imagination and artistry of the woodturners in the United States. He began making large burlwood vessels and wall sculptures, for which he is best known.

These large one-of-a-kind vessels, wall sculptures and abstract sculptures are turned on the lathe, which have been accented with carving by use of various tools, giving these pieces a tactile feel. Dennis says that he sometimes incorporates the addition of pewter, exotic woods, avonite, semi-precious stones, bleaching or burning of the wood to add drama and interest: "I love the freedom that working in wood affords me and feel that in this way I can truly communicate my feelings through these works of wood. While doing so, I continue to enjoy the excitement of each exploration," he comments.

Wall sculptures

Dennis started making simple platters which were turned and carved into centrepieces. He started to receive ample burrs from his supplier which were too large for platters so he decided to eliminate any preference of them being functional, and started making the pieces solely for wall hangings. Over the years he has explored this series using materials such as metal, alabaster, semi precious stones and avonite to add contrasting texture and movement to the piece as well as carving and burning.

Sculpted vessels

Dennis says that this field gives him a great deal of freedom and much poetic licence. Some pieces in this series have abstract markings and appear to be of some ancient or Indian inspiration despite the fact that this is perhaps not intentional. He uses carving techniques and sometimes burns or scorches the markings using an open flame.

Gemini orbital axis & crescent pieces

This series evolved out of his more simple 'Gemini' pieces, the term referring to the piece having two distinctly different faces and the piece consisting of a stainless steel rod, a base and the actual Gemini. Orbital 'Axis' goes one step further in that a second ring is added, allowing even more freedom of choice as to how the piece is viewed: "The whole concept of this series is to be able to rotate the piece on its base whenever one wishes, so as to give it a different look, but with the introduction of 'Orbital,' the piece truly becomes an object of interactive art," says Dennis.

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1. A piece from the 'Gemini Orbital Series,' lathe turned and carved, bigleaf maple burr and stainless steel, 710mm (28in) high x 430mm (17in) wide x 430mm (17in) deep

2. Tall open vessel with natural edge, bigleaf maple burl, turned, carved and burned, 485mm (19in) high x 380mm (15 1/2in) dia.

3. Wall sculpture, bigleaf maple burr, turned, bleached, carved, 915mm (36in) high x 915mm (36in) wide x 50mm (2in) deep

4. Wall sculpture, bigleaf maple burl, turned, carved and burned, 785mm (31in) high, 1015mm (40in) wide x 75mm (3in) deep. This piece is currently in an exhibition entitled 'The Fine Art of Wood: An International Exhibition of Woodturning'

5. 'Gemini Orbital Crescent,' turned, carved and burned, bigleaf maple burr and stainless steel, 610mm (24in) high x 430mm (17in) wide x 175mm (6in) deep. This piece is one of Dennis' interactive art pieces. Both the other ring and the inner disc can be rotated (PHOTOGRAPHS BY IONA S ELLIOTT)