We meet Sussex-based woodturner John Plater and find out more about his varied work
Various cored forms made from a grass tree root
Natural-edge platter in elm with small burrs
John with a large platter in London plane
Natural-edge bowl in black poplar
Distorted form in London plane (PHOTOGRAPHS BY GMC/ANTHONY BAILEY)
How, why and when did you start turning?
The first turning I did was in woodwork lessons at school. I then did teacher training and taught Design and Technology for over 30 years. I have always enjoyed working with wood, but found that the time needed for cabinetmaking was difficult to find. Woodturning was much easier to run alongside my commitments to teaching. About seven years ago I decided to take early retirement in order to find more time for turning. I would say that is when I really started to learn.
What and who have been the greatest influences in your work?
I like to think that the wood is the greatest single influence on the pieces I produce. I strive to show off natural colours and figures to best advantage. I enjoy watching others work so there is probably something of everyone I have seen or read about rooted in my mind. I am self-taught, drawing on many experiences, so there is no person in particular whom I would call a 'greatest influence'.
If you were to offer one sage piece of advice to someone what would it be?
Have a go and make plenty of shavings. Join a woodturning club and/or a craft society to get out and meet like-minded people. Do not scrimp on PPE.
What music and which book are you currently into?
I enjoy a wide range of music from concert brass through to rock and jazz, especially when seen and heard live. The latest book is Defender, A Celebration of the Best 4x4xFar
What is your silliest mistake?
Dropping a lathe on my thumb.
What has been your greatest challenge?
The greatest technical challenge was working on the 'Seven Axes' piece designed for Wizardry in Wood, 2012, featured in issue 248. Developing forms which please me and looking for inspiration is an ongoing challenge.
Name one thing on your turning 'to do' list.
I hope to continue finding interesting pieces of wood that fire the imagination. In 2013 I was invited to demonstrate in the woodwork tent at Art in Action. I hope to return and meet lots more interesting people.
Tell us about the piece you are currently working on.
At the time of writing it is early in the year when I like to do lots of turning of green timber. Pieces can then be sanded and finished for craft shows later on in the year after they have dried out. In the background are some experimental pieces of split turning and more multi-axis work.
What is the one piece of equipment or tool you would not be without and why?
A heavy-duty lathe which allows me to turn awkward pieces of wood efficiently and in relative safety.
If you could change one thing what would it be and why?
I am very happy with my lot and have changed many things along the way. I probably ought to get out and see more. In the wider sense, it would be lovely for fine woodturning to reach a wider audience and to achieve the recognition it deserves.