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The art of making art: Chuck Larson – Evanston RoundTable

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Ornamental walnut bowl (submitted photo)

As a tree grows, its trunk gets wider and longer. Chuck Larson’s interest and energy in wood craft has grown over time as well but is now narrower and more focused. Now that he is retired, he is spending time spinning his wood lathe making beautiful bowls, vases, and candleholders day and night.

While growing up, Chuck worked with his father using woodworking tools to make a wide variety of functional items, large and small. Over the past 15 years through YouTube videos and other media, along with his own experimentation, he has focused on the challenging craft of creating wood products using a lathe. He notes, “It is fun to be creative. It’s why I do this, and I take pride in what I do.”

Chuck’s wood passion took over his garage. He bolted his lathe—a motorized piece of heavy mechanical equipment for turning wood—to the floor and now heads to the garage to work on his creations whenever he feels like it throughout any given day. He can start and stop at will, leave the work as is, and pick up exactly where he left off without a lot of extra putting away and cleaning up.

What is woodturning? It is the process where raw, dried wood is placed and secured on a lathe. Then the lathe spins the wood at high speed, and an operator presses the edge of a metal gouge—a chisel with a shaped cutting edge— into the spinning wood which carves out portions of the wood to create symmetrical shapes. A common example of an item created on a lathe is a decorative table leg. But turning the wood is just one of the middle stages in Chuck’s overall process to complete a new wood craft.

His first step is to procure wood. He might find a fallen log near his home. He paints a waxy substance on the ends of the log to protect the open surface and sets them in his yard to dry for a few years. Chuck buys other wood pieces from a lumber company that specializes in global hardwoods. His favorite wood to use is walnut, but he has developed “a real fondness” for cherry. Oak is another wood he often uses, prized for its rough and sturdy nature.

Platter (Submitted photo)

When he chooses a fallen log for a project, it is usually in “terrible shape.” He typically must round it off a bit with a saw before it is put on the lathe. The danger of splintering wood is ever present when shaping wood, so a face shield is a must. Once on the lathe, it will stay there until the entire lathe operation is complete. As a result, Chuck only completes one piece at a time.

Segmented bowl (Submitted photo)

If he starts with purchased wood, he will cut flat layers and shapes of different woods and glue them together into patterns, like checkerboard, before he puts it on the lathe.

Whether a single, dried piece or a piece made up of glued layers, once it is on the lathe, Chuck turns the piece to make it smooth. His pieces are up to 12 inches wide which is the size limit of his lathe. It is only at this point, after smoothing the item down, that he decides what he will make based on the unique features of the wood that are revealed. If the wood is long, it may be a vase. If squat, a bowl. Using a variety of gouges, he shapes the wood inside and out as it turns on the lathe.

The next stage is to sand the item with an increasingly fine grit sandpaper while still on the lathe. Then, it is polished with a paste that has grit in it to make it ready for a finish. Chuck does not stain the wood so the natural colors will glow through the finished piece. He creates a hard finish with two to three coats of a wax emulsion with drying time between each coat. Finally, Chuck removes the piece from the lathe. It is complete and ready to add a little beauty and utility to someone’s home.

When you purchase any of Chuck’s wood craft products, you know it has received his undivided attention as he makes just one at a time with each unique in style and wood features.

If one were to look around his studio right now, you would see items in several different stages of the process. He has some new wood that he is prepping for vases and bowls for upcoming art fairs and Etsy. While some items take longer to create, he can usually complete one item a day in a good week. And if one were to look in Chuck’s kitchen, you would see his wood bowls being using functionally, not simply sitting on a shelf.

Bowl with checkered inlays (Submitted photo)

If you are interested in wood craft by Chuck Larson, look for him at woodcraftbychuck.com.

This article first appeared on the Evanston Made website.

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Moose Jaw Art Guild meets to discuss its upcoming MJMAG exhibition – moosejawtoday.com

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The Moose Jaw Art Guild is excited for their 54th Christmas exhibition at the Museum & Art Gallery

Led by President Karen Walpole, ten members of Moose Jaw’s Art Guild gathered for only the second time in 18 months to discuss their upcoming exhibition. The forms necessary for submission were distributed, and everyone chatted about how their works were progressing.

The theme for this year is “Looking Out My Window,” to be interpreted by the artist. A variety of mediums are encouraged, including drawings, pastels, watercolours, and sculptures.

Many of the works displayed in MJMAG’s lobby will be for sale. The exhibition will open on Nov. 12th, and continue until Jan. 9th of next year. 

Karen Walpole noted that she is “always excited” to share some of the Art Guild’s venerable history, particularly in regards to its role in the founding of MJMAG. She says that, “Back in 1963, the City of Moose Jaw asked what was then the Moose Jaw Fine Arts Guild to comment on their plan to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday.” 

The Guild took that chance to strongly endorse and lobby for a “Cultural Centre” in Crescent Park near the Public Library. The Moose Jaw Art Museum opened in 1967, and the Art Guild has had an annual exhibition there ever since. 

Jennifer McRorie, MJMAG’s current curator and director, confirms that the Art Guild was “instrumental in getting the art museum established.” She adds that, “In 2017 we celebrated our 50th anniversary, and so we actually presented an exhibition from our permanent collection that was the result of 50 years of collecting the work of Moose Jaw artists.”

The Guild itself was established on a cold February night in 1929, after a presentation by influential Saskatchewan artists Vaughan Grayson and Barbara Barber. That night, the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan was voted into existence. In 1957 it became the Moose Jaw Fine Art Guild, and in 1984 it achieved its current form as the Moose Jaw Art Guild. 

This year’s exhibition comes on the heels, obviously, of the enormous disruption of the global pandemic. Nevertheless, the Guild endures, and is always open to new members. Walpole sincerely emphasizes that one purpose of their showings is to, “provide encouragement and an introduction to many of us that want to try our artistic hands, but don’t know where to start.”

Art is about expression, moving beyond the limitations of language to convey emotion in a subjective, yet direct way. Although it is not possible to control exactly how one’s art is perceived, this should not be a barrier. The main thing, Walpole says, is “to have the confidence to at least attempt an art form of some kind.”

More information about the Art Guild, its meetings, and how to join can be found on their Facebook page.

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Knitting for Guelph's Art Not Shame: 3 things to know about the organization and fundraiser – GuelphMercury.com

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Knitting for Guelph’s Art Not Shame: 3 things to know about the organization and fundraiser  GuelphMercury.com



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So you want my arts job: Art Installer – ArtsHub

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A rare opportunity saw Andrew Hawley join the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) as a casual art handler after graduating from his BFA in Drawing at RMIT in 2003.

Eighteen years later, he is now the Collection and Exhibition Preparator at Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), known for their eccentric and challenging exhibitions, and undoubtedly, one of the most exciting environments in which to work in art installations, storage, and exhibition preparations.

He also holds a Masters in Cultural Materials Conservation from the University of Melbourne, and has worked across ACMI, the Victorian Arts Centre, ExhibitOne, POD Museum and Art services, and the Melbourne Immigration Museum.

From Ron Meuck’s 10 metre infant sculpture to Ai Weiwei’s White House (2015) in Mona’s Siloam, Hawley and his colleagues are the answer to your question: ‘But how did they manage to get it there?’

Here, Hawley shares the excitement of working on high-profile exhibitions and discusses the skills you would need to pursue this challenging but rewarding profession.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO?

In a nutshell; I prepare artwork and other culturally significant material for storage, exhibition and loan, and assist with exhibition/display installation. My role is quite varied but I spend most of my time at our off-site collection store where I design, construct and fit out custom packing units for artworks. These vary from timber crates and travel frames to archival board boxes, archival tubes for rolled works and the occasional solander box. I also ensure artwork is clean and display ready. 

I organise and maintain the off-site collection storage area which involves a lot of 3D Tetris. I work closely with colleagues including registrars, a conservator, a mount maker and several other very highly skilled art handler/technicians as well as a wider team of kinetic artwork and time based media technicians.

I assist with exhibition installation/deinstallation and collection changeover at the museum and some external locations during festivals.

I’m also a qualified paper conservator so I undertake some conservation assessments and treatments when required.

Read: So you want my arts job: Museum Program Producer

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN YOUR CAREER?

I finished a fine art degree in 2003 and was looking for something outside the hospitality industry and inside the museum/gallery industry. Luckily, a regular customer at one of the venues I worked in (as a chef/cook), let word slip that the National Gallery of Victoria were hiring casual art handlers to prepare to move into the refurbished premises at St Kilda Road. I got the boss’ details, wrote an application letter, attended a job interview and somehow was successful, despite no prior experience.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THE MOST IN YOUR JOB?

Unique challenges and a reliance on lateral thinking for solutions – something I experience almost every day. I also have great colleagues with whom I liaise about all aspects of the job. We learn from each others’ creative perspectives.

I love the excitement of a large or high profile exhibition, including engagement with external or international artists and curators, trying to help realise a vision that may or may not be clear in everybody’s mind. I equally love the calm and solitude of a collection store and the fact that I work so closely with museum objects on a daily basis. If I have a bad day, looking at an ancient Egyptian mummified cat or some 2,000 year old bronze knife coins is very soothing. 

IN AN INTERVIEW FOR YOUR JOB, WHAT SKILLS AND QUALITIES WOULD YOU LOOK FOR?

Similar institutional experience in a similar capacity (eg. art handling, art packing) would be a must. It takes many years to attune yourself to the level of care required around culturally significant objects and irreplaceable artworks.

Other qualifiers would include:

  • A strong work ethic
  • An ability to handle multiple projects with strict deadlines
  • The ability to delegate fun jobs
  • The ability to undertake monotonous or tedious jobs
  • Strong, clear communication
  • Patience
  • Physically fit and able

The ability to look outside oneself and one’s own experience for solutions. It’s a bit of a ‘jack of all trades’ kind of position and a good Jack should know when they need to call on a master of something.

Someone who prefers order and neatness in their professional life. I’m in no way the neatest person in my private life but organising a storage area that keeps artwork safe and secure requires a high degree of attention to detail.

WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE INSTALLATION EXPERIENCES/PROJECTS THAT YOU’VE WORKED ON?

There’s been a lot over the years – I’ve done everything from helping carry and install a 10 metre silicon sculpture of an infant (Ron Mueck) to hanging iconic works from Picasso, Munch or Tom Roberts. From installing 100 tiny neolithic arrow/spear heads in one showcase to helping build a large, imperial Chinese house framework on glass balls (Ai Weiwei), and from installing famous AFL players’ jerseys in a sports museum (MCG/Australian Sports Museum) to hanging stills from Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey (ACMI).

It’s hard to pick one moment from one project. In recent times, it’s probably been the preparatory work and final install of big MONA shows like On the Origins of Art, The Museum of Everything and our recent Monanisms 2021 collection based exhibition.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING HAPPENING IN YOUR SECTOR AT THE MOMENT?

We’re still operating and I still enjoy my job.

Read: So you want my arts job: Theatre Technician

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