Don’t Burn That Wood! Turn It into Art — the Wood Sculpture of Craig Hardin

Spalted Maple Bowl by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin
Spalted Maple Bowl by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin

 

As winter sets in and the days — and nights — get colder, a warm, merry fire in the hearth cheers the hearts of most. But for woodworker Craig Hardin, who turns wood on a lathe to create bowls, platters, lidded boxes, wine stoppers, bottle openers, and Christmas ornaments — fine hardwood has better uses, and a longer life ahead of it, after it has been through his capable hands.

“It is rewarding to turn a piece of hardwood into a bowl that someone will appreciate for years instead of burning it in their stove,” the Vancouver, WA woodworker says.

“There are many different types of hardwood to work with, and they each have unique characteristics.”

Birdseye Maple Wine Stop by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin
Birdseye Maple Wine Stop by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin

Whether a block of wood finds new life holding jewelry or keeping air out of the wine depends upon the wood itself, which in its own way speaks to Hardin — along with friends, family, and a growing list of clients — to determine what the final piece of functional art will be. For now, Hardin’s day job is at an electric utility company, and in his off time, he focuses on wood, with a significant amount of energy being devoted to finding it first, before ever he turns his attention to repurposing it:

“I cut and dry most of the hardwood myself that I turn. Friends and neighbors donate hardwood trees that they are removing from their property, and occasionally we come across a development where they are removing the trees. After asking permission, we are allowed to acquire some very nice hardwood for our use.”

An unusual, but rewarding source of exotic wood from other countries is the humble shipping pallet, and when Hardin finds a hardwood treasure in his forays to the Port of Portland, he jumps on it, not, perhaps, literally, but with decided enthusiasm.

“It’s so rewarding to recycle the hardwood in these pallets into amazing pieces of artwork,” Hardin says.

Small Birdhouse by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin
Small Birdhouse by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Craig Hardin

Black walnut, cherry, locust, maple — these are trees that are familiar to many, and the wood from them possesses a beauty that enhances any art item into which they are turned. Also in Hardin’s arsenal are ebony; madrone, or bearberry, which is native to western coastal North America from British Columbia to California; and camphor, described by the website Eat the Weeds as “cinnamon’s smelly cousin.” Native to Japan, China, and North Vietnam, this “exotic pest plant,” increasingly being planted on this side of the Pacific, is a favorite with woodworkers for its red and yellow striping.

Spalted maple, out of which Hardin has fashioned decorative bowls, features dark contrasting lines and streaks resulting from, of all things, fungus, and the challenge is allowing the wood to decay for as long as possible — to increase the complexity of design — but not so long that the material is weakened.

Zebra wood, which describes its appearance as opposed to its source, features strong dark stripes on a light background. Recently, Hardin donated a zebra wood wine stopper and pewter-headed bottle opener to a private nonprofit fund raiser for a Haitian children’s relief fund.

“Much of my work is shared with family, friends, and nonprofit organizations,” he says.

While at the moment, Hardin considers woodturning a pleasant hobby, in the future, after retirement, he plans to devote more time, and space, to re-creating new items out of the forest’s bounty.

“Currently, my studio is our third car garage bay at our house,” Hardin says, “but down the road we’ll have a dedicated space for a wood shop.”

The whole adventure began three years ago with a used lathe from Craig’s list that Hardin’s wife gave him for Christmas, but, “after the motor failed from my using it so much, we decided to purchase a new lathe.”

The new lathe has been receiving happy and generous use, and the consistent and varied supply of raw material on hand enables Hardin to continue experimenting, creating, and fashioning whatever the wood demands to be.

“Wood turning is unique,” Hardin says. “Each individual piece presents its own challenge, and reward.”

Wenaha GalleryCraig Hardin is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from November 28 through December 27, 2014. He joins College Place, WA, watercolor artist Hiroko Cannon at an artist’s reception Friday, November 28, 2014, at Wenaha Gallery during Dayton’s annual Christmas Kick-off.

Meet Hardin at the evening reception, from 4-7 p.m., and enjoy good company, fine art, and free refreshments at Wenaha Gallery’s historic downtown location, 219 East Main.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

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