frequently asked questions

Is it all one piece of wood?

Yes, each piece is cut freehand from a spinning block of solid wood. See how it's done.

How do you get it all bent and floppy? Do you steam it?

Each piece is carved from unseasoned wood. As the wood dries it shrinks and the form distorts. Because wood always shrinks in a logical manner, it is possible to predict how a particular piece of wood will distort and this consequently affects the decision as to form.

I don't steam the wood or manipulate it in any way other than to cut it in a particular manner. The wood distorts as it wants to, I don't manipulate the outcome in any way. The art is in predicting what the distortion will be and marrying it to a form which will be enhanced by being distorted in that way.

Does the wood ever split?

Not often. Because the forms have a uniform wall thickness throughout, the wood is flexible enough to withstand the stresses created as it dries and, basically, as the wood shrinks it takes less energy to distort than to pull the fibres apart and split. Splitting only occurs when wood wants to shrink or move but is unable to do so for some reason.

Will they move anymore and what about the effects of central heating?

Once finished, the pieces will not move in any meaningful way! The wood is now, in effect, seasoned and will not be adversely affected by central heating. (See question above re. splitting and below re. humidity, etc.).

What will happen if I take a piece to a different climate?

My work has been bought by collectors living in Florida, California, Minnesota, Toronto, British Columbia, Monte Carlo, Majorca and New Zealand as well as, of course the UK and Europe. There has never been any suggestion of the work being adversely affected by these varied climatic conditions.

In very humid conditions the distortion of the form will relax slightly, in very dry conditions the distortion will slightly exaggerate. Once a piece has reached an equilibrium with its surrounding environment, it will be, to all intents and purposes, stable.

Regarding the colour of work, wood is an organic material and like many other organic materials, exposure to strong sunlight will affect the colour.

How many pieces do you break when making them?

My failure rate used to be about 5 to 10% during the carving process, but it has increased in the past couple of years to about 20% as I've been taking more risks by starting with much more fragile blocks of wood. I'm also attempting to create forms which are pushing to the limits the physical capabilities of the traditional tools I choose to use - which can be a little risky!

The reject rate on aesthetic grounds can be as high as 30%, these pieces are never finished and usually end up on the fire.

Aren't they terribly fragile? I wouldn't dare touch them!

The pieces I make are non-functional and are not designed to be anything other than sculptures. Although not as fragile as they might appear, the work should be treated with a certain amount of respect and not dropped onto hard floors, etc! But then, one wouldn't do that with a piece of ceramic either.

A couple of real life examples may help here.

When sanding the work, I have been known to allow a piece to slip from my fingers, whereupon it falls from my knee onto a rough concrete floor. I have never had one break. They tend to bounce and may have acquired few marks, but not one has broken.*

In the previous answer I mentioned a failure on aesthetic grounds of about 30%. This sometimes happens during the actual shaping process. To have worked on a piece even for only 2 or 3 hours and find that, at the end, I was unable to catch just the right form or maybe my turning was off and the wall thickness was too uneven can result in screams of frustration! Without being arrested and carted off to hospital, how do you release that awful tension? I usually hurl the offending piece in question as hard as possible at the stone wall of the workshop. I've lost count of the times when a piece has bounced right back and landed, marked but unbroken, at my feet. I find jumping up and down on it then seems to do the trick!*

*These are not recommended ways of treating the work!

Care of the work

Aftercare is the same as for any piece of fine quality wood - handle often, preferably with dry hands and an occassional polish with a fine wax polish. I use a polish called "Renaissance Polish", but any good polish will do. DO NOT USE SILICONE POLISH.

Surface dull & lifeless?

A wax polish will bring it back to life. DO NOT USE SILICONE POLISH.

I want to get marks off it.

When the work is on show and many people have been drooling over it and handling it, especially with a glass in their hand, the polish often becomes slightly marked.

1. If the polish becomes marked by water or wet hands, just repolish with a good quality wax polish.

2. If the above doesn't remove the marks, then gently rub (almost stroking rather than rubbing) with 0000 grade wire wool (DO NOT USE ANYTHING COARSER THAN 0000!) until the marks have disappeared. When using wire wool, hold the work with a cloth and not bare hands or there can be a reaction between the sweat from your hands and the wire wool which will leave indelible fingerprints on the piece! Once the marks have disappeared polish with a good quality wax polish.