Maker of the Week - Guy Michaels

Monday 5 December 2011

Guy Michaels has spent the last 15 years perfecting a unique art form: turned alabaster vessels inlaid with segments of exotic woods. Each piece is a one-of-a-kind since nature provides an endless supply of colours and patterns in each alabaster stone. Alabaster is becoming a rare stone with fewer quarries available to extract the stone. Guy's hand crafted pieces are beautiful and inspiring and he draws his influences from the Old World, Native America, and natural elements.

Guy starts with slabs of alabaster stone which he roughs into a round shape with an air chisel. He then attaches it onto a chuck that can be mounted on the lathe. "After roughing out the outer shape, I adhere segments of wood to the stone with a special adhesive process. The more layers of segments that a piece has, the longer that process takes, as each layer must dry in the special drying room for 24 hours," he says. After being mounted back on the lathe, the interior of the vessel is turned to 5mm (3/16in) thin. The pieces are sanded smooth and a process of finishes is applied: "It can take several weeks to make a single piece, but I typically work in batches, trying to meet the demands of galleries and individuals that are eager to own one of these unique vessels," he comments.

Growing up in California, Guy enjoyed woodworking when he was younger but only pursued it only as a hobby: "Although I had carved a couple of pieces on the lathe in high school, I didn't take up woodturning again until 1989 when I was 29." Guy comments that it wasn't until this time that he recognised the emergence of a passion within him, and began sharing his pieces at an art festival in 1990. On a whim to weld his talents on a new medium, he placed a piece of stone on the lathe in the latter part of 1991. He discovered that when the dust settled, he was left with a surface so thin that light transcended it, making for an object that was both smooth and colourful. It was at this point that Guy discovered that his passion had taken a new turn, and a part-time hobby was soon to become a full-time preoccupation.

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(Images, from top to bottom:)

1. Orange Utah alabaster with cocobolo rosewood and maple. 405mm (16in) dia. x 150mm (6in) high

2. Salmon Lidded Vase, salmon Utah alabaster with walnut and ebony woods, 180mm (7in) dia. x 230mm (9in) high

3. Salmon Utah alabaster with bubinga and ebony, 460mm (18in) dia. x 305mm (12in) high

4. Sunset Utah alabaster with snakewood and ebony, 150mm (6in) dia. x 100mm (4in) high

5. White Italian alabaster with tulipwood and ebony, 430mm (17in) dia. x 280mm (11in) high (PHOTOGRAPHS BY GEORGE POST)