Feature Mondays - Dan Tilden - Madrone Walkabout archive

Monday 7 July 2014

Dan Tilden talks us through the process for making one of his madrone 'Walkabout' vessels


As an artist I am always trying to come up with new ways to develop my pieces and take my artwork to the next level. In my latest work, I have been experimenting with adding legs to my vessels. I like to call the pieces 'The Walkabouts'. At first, I thought of incorporating longer feet onto a vessel - feet that are often seen on bowls - but I would be 'turning' the feet into legs. My favourite material to turn is green madrone burl (Arbutus menziesii) and I thought the natural movement that comes with the wood would complement the legs nicely. With the movement that occurs using madrone burl, I like to think the pieces look weathered and aged. Once I had completed a couple of these vessels I stood back to analyse and critique the work and thought the name 'The Walkabouts' was appropriate because they looked like wooden characters that had been on a long journey with nature. The process of incorporating the legs on the vessel all as one piece isn't too complicated.

I turn a vessel at the top of my turning block, leaving a solid wood cylinder at the bottom that is as long as I want the legs to be. After I turn a shape that I am happy with, I also turn a shape for the legs on a solid wood cylinder. You could have legs that spread out in a wide stance or straight legs that stand vertically. It all depends on how you shape your lower 'leg' cylinder. After marking up the outside shape on the bottom of the hollowed vessel, I remount the piece in-between centres using a tenon-friction chuck. The long tenon mounted with a chuck extends to the bottom of the vessel and the tailstock mounts the centre of the 'leg' cylinder on the other side. I then hollow out a bowl at the bottom of the vessel, stopping where I marked the bottom of the vessel so I don't go right through the wood. After the turning is done I mark where I want the legs to be and cut away the excess bowl with a Japanese pullsaw. There is a lot of rough sanding involved to blend the shape of the vessel and down through the legs. This is a lot of extra work and removal of material, but I believe the process of developing a different idea shouldn't be comprised with the thought of wasting time or wood.

Another thing I like about the idea of legs is that you don't have to turn a foot or sand a flat surface for the vessel to sit on. The additional length of the legs provides the viewer with an opportunity to see the full shape all the way through the vessel. The foot on a vessel always seems to be a personal preference in the woodturning field. The addition of the legs provides lots of possibilities.

Various pieces from the 'Madrone Walkabout' series, 380mm tall (PHOTOGRAPH BY DAN TILDEN)

Briony Darnley

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Feature Mondays , Dan Tilden

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Contact Details:

Email: dan_tilden@yahoo.com