20 Minutes with Earl Powell archive
Monday 15 April 2013
Earl Powell enjoys making turned pieces with a whimsical flavour and derives great pleasure from making functional work. Tegan Foley finds out more about him in this interview
Can you briefly explain the type of work you carry out at present?
I enjoy making work that has an implied story with a whimsical flavour, that brings a smile to the viewer. Usually there are references or visual cues that play together to suggest a context and a concept or story.
What is your favourite timber to turn?
Maple (Acer campestre) and there are many varieties in New England from Norway maple, clear and white, to birdseed or curly maple with lots of figure.
What are your current likes and dislikes within the sphere of turning?
I find the interplay of surfaces and form fascinating. How some surfaces enhance form and others change the expressive character of the form. I don't have much interest in clumsy form, surfaces, or wood dust!
What direction do you see your work taking in the future?
My work is moving more towards non-functional pieces or art in wood, as it is often called. However, I derive great satisfaction from making functional work and how it serves to improve my turning skills.
If you could only offer one bit of advice to someone starting out turning, what would it be and why?
Depend on form and surface to give your work its core quality and don't just rely on the wood species. Keep a lot of pine (Pinus spa.) and poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), less expensive wood, around the workshop to practise on. Always expect to make several pieces so you can choose the best one to represent your work. I also think it is always best to work mindfully.
What music and which book are you currently into?
I usually listen to jazz in my studio and when I take a break, enjoy looking at picture books on nature and various other artists.
Tell us about the piece you are currently working on.
I'm working on a teapot that will be titled, 'Tea for Two'; it will have two spouts and two handles. Something to smile about.
Which are your favourite items to turn?
While I enjoy all aspects of turning, making a classic bowl gives me a lot of satisfaction.
Which turners do you most admire and why?
Michael Hosaluk for his continuous creativity and generous spirit; Binh Pho and Joey Richardson for their craft, narrative and art.
What do you think the best single development in turning has been?
The scroll chuck and a broad range of surface treatments.
What do you see as the biggest thing that has hindered the development of woodturning in general?
Judging work on its technical virtuosity rather than its artistic merit. For example, too often a bowl is thought to be successful because it has been turned thin rather than having its form, grain figure, and other visual characteristics carefully considered.
What is your biggest regret?
Not spending more time turning.
What are your other interests besides turning?
Colour and form in nature.
What three things in your workshop could you not do without?
Sharp tools, safe practices and my dust collection system.