A Heritage of Trees — The Woodworking of Ron Jackson

Handcrafted, hardwood sleigh by Ron Jackson
Handcrafted, hardwood sleigh by Ron Jackson

Thanks to the forethought and enthusiasm of 19th century settlers, the Walla Walla (Washington) Valley abounds with trees, its crown jewel, Pioneer Park, boasting 11 of the biggest examples of their kind in the state. To this day, valley residents take seriously the witty quote, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The  second best time is now.”

Demi Lune handcrafted hardwood table by Ron Jackson
Demi Lune handcrafted hardwood table by Ron Jackson

“For over 150 years the people of Walla Walla have embarked on a vigorous tree planting agenda,” says Ron Jackson, whose ancestors settled in the Starbuck and Tucannon areas before the state was even a state. In the mid- to late 19th century under the Homestead Act, he explains, settlers planted groves of trees as part of the agreement with the government regarding land acquisition.

But the thing about trees, he adds, is that they don’t live forever.

“The walnut tree, for example, has an average life of around 100 years. And then it needs to be taken out.”

Handcrafted, hardwood silver chest by Ron Jackson
Handcrafted, hardwood silver chest by Ron Jackson

“Taken out” generally means chopped down, and Jackson, as the retired owner of Jackson-Sanders Hardwood (which he ran with partner Gayle Sanders during the 1990s) knows all about this: the company bought lumber from homeowners and tree services and sold it nationally to custom furniture manufacturers, woodworkers, and even Microsoft, which at one time boasted a woodworking club.

Handcrafted, hardwood sushi table by Ron Jackson
Handcrafted, hardwood sushi table by Ron Jackson

For Jackson, a tree’s life doesn’t end when it’s cut down, and beautiful trees deserve to be turned into beautiful, functional art — cabinets, chairs, decorative boxes, even a children’s old-fashioned sleigh. In his “retirement,” this is precisely what Jackson does, operating out of a woodshop the size of a two-car garage, filled with hardwoods salvaged from the area.

“I let the wood dictate to me what it will be,” the lifelong woodworker says. “Maple trees are like Christmas presents — you never know what you’ll find inside until you cut them down. Black walnut is a most beautiful wood — it’s pretty, it’s stable.” Bird’s eye, fiddlebacks, burls, shimmers — the terms cascade off Jackson’s tongue as he describes the patterns found in a tree’s grain.

Slide lid box with Marquetry inlay by Ron Jackson
Slide lid box with Marquetry inlay by Ron Jackson

Over the years, and in between owning various businesses and working diversified jobs, Jackson has custom built three houses, complete with hardwood floors, and in his current home, all but two pieces of furniture or cabinetry came to life under his hands. (The only items he didn’t build were his mother’s dining room table and china cabinet.)

Whether the project is big or small, Jackson is ready for the challenge, and his portfolio includes everything from a recently completed commission of dining room table and six matching chairs to a sushi table, from a sliding lidded box with inlaid (Marquetry) imagery to a serving tray — cut from the bias of a bough — which became in high demand among the area’s wineries.

Serving Tray, similar to the one created for the wineries, by Ron Jackson
Serving Tray, similar to the one created for the wineries, by Ron Jackson

“One time, one of the wineries contacted me about making a serving tray, so I did.,” Jackson remembers “They just loved it — called me back and said, we need a couple more. Called me back again, said they wanted to sell them. Pretty soon other wineries were calling and wanting them, but there was a limit to how many I could supply as there was a limited supply of that particular wood.”

Despite having no website, social media presence, or even, up to a year ago, business cards, Jackson fields requests for his work from friends, family, friends of friends, and total strangers who have encountered his art in someone’s home, at the Farmer’s Market (“Depending on the weather — I don’t fight the wind or the rain or go if it’s too hot”), or local shows and craft fairs. On occasion, he takes commissions, but for the most part, he lets the wood speak to him, and the finished products speak to the viewers.

“I’ve been a woodworker all my life,” Jackson says. “The fascinating thing about working with wood is there’s always something else to learn — you’ll never get there. By the time you develop one skill you’re thinking about the next thing.”

But quite fortunately for Jackson, wood — unlike money — decidedly grows on trees.

Wenaha GalleryRon Jackson is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, November 30 through Saturday, December 26, 2015.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 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 is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized 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, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

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Art That Is Meant to Be Used — the Woodturning of Rick Woodard

Handcrafted rolling pins by Wenaha Gallery  artist Rick Woodard.
Handcrafted rolling pins by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard.

A work of art.

Generally, when we use this phrase, one of the last images that comes to mind is a French rolling pin, but woodturner Rick Woodard blends and integrates four hardwoods — Walnut, Maple, Osage, and the exotic, richly purple-brown African Padauk — into a smoothly sensuous kitchen utensil that is as beautiful as it is pragmatic.

“My work is to be used,” the Burbank, WA woodturner says. “I haven’t gotten into the real artsy stuff, but focus on bowls and platters and rolling pins with the idea that people will use them.

American Elm Bowl by Wenaha Gallery  artist Rick Woodard
American Elm Bowl by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard

“I have my own rolling pin that I pull out for making pie crusts, and bowls that I use for different things.”

Woodard, who has been creating wood-turned, functional art since 1995, learned under noted Alaskan wood artist Buz Blum, who taught Woodard, over a period of time, how to turn natural edge birch bowls using freshly harvested, green birchwood. Sometimes called “bark edge” or “live edge” bowls, the bowls are created with a base originating in the center of the log, and the edges incorporating the bark from the outer edge of the tree, according to fruitofthelathe.com.

“I wanted to make bowls, for some odd reason,”Woodard remembers.

“I had been in construction all my life, and because of this, I found myself around different kinds of machinery, including lathes, and one day, I just bought one. I started messing around with it for awhile and decided I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I looked around for someone to help me advance.”

Maple Bowl by Wenaha Gallery  artist Rick Woodard
Maple Bowl by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard

Because when he decides to do something, he figures that there’s no reason to wait around to get started, Woodard saw Buz’s work in an Anchorage shop, liked it, and contacted him directly after running into Buz’s name, again, in a woodturning magazine. Quite fortunately, they both lived in the same state at the time, and 50-some miles was a manageable distance to travel for lessons from a master.

In a short time, the student was creating bowls and platters worthy of being sold, collected, and used, and Woodard offered his woodturned art through All Alaska and Gifts, an artists’ co-op located in downtown Anchorage.

“Tourists from around the world would come into the store, and there are people from Japan, England, Australia, Germany, and all over the lower 48 states who have my turnings,” Woodard says.

Lidded Flower Bowl by Wenaha Gallery  artist Rick Woodard.
Lidded Flower Bowl by Wenaha Gallery artist Rick Woodard.

When he headed south and wound up in Burbank, Woodard transitioned from using greenwood birch to experimenting with the many hardwoods, seasoned and cured, that he found in his new Washington home.

“There’s a lot of maple around here, oak, walnut, black locust, honey locust; there’s a lot of variety around here,” Woodard says. “But it’s not like you can just go out there and cut it down.

“The trees are pretty big, and it involves a lot of wood. I generally find someone who is cutting down a tree — for firewood — and arrange to purchase some large pieces from them.”

Like many serious woodturners, Woodard has a stash of wood — most definitely not intended to be burned — which he stores in a shop behind his house. When it has dried to less than 10 percent moisture, the wood is ready to be worked, with no worries that the final piece will crack or misshape as it dries.

Woodard finishes his woodturnings with a blend of beeswax and carnauba wax, both food grade, and he encourages purchasers to not be afraid to use his art for its intended purpose.

“Just don’t wash it in soapy water,” he says. “Clean it with a damp cloth and wipe it with walnut oil or olive oil — not cooking oil — because those two don’t turn rancid.

“Like I said, it’s made to be used.”

Wenaha GalleryRick Woodard is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from January 26, 2015 through February 21, 2015 at Wenaha Gallery’s historic Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.

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 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, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

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.

A Boy’s Insistent Dream Becomes Reality — The Welded Metal Sculpture of Carlos Acevedo

Welded horse sculpture by wenaha gallery artist Carlos Acevedo
Untitled welded sculpture by Wenaha Gallery artist Carlos Acevedo

From the time Carlos Acevedo was a little boy, he wanted to be an artist. He knew that he was an artist.

But like many determined people with a strong dream and an equally strong personality to make it happen, he didn’t always have the support of the people around him.

“I can remember, in grade school, when the art teacher came into my fourth grade classroom to pick out the students who were ‘privileged,'” Acevedo says. He was never chosen.

Circumstances notwithstanding, Acevedo never gave up, and the way he let his wishes be known is one that generations of artistic students have used, and generations of teachers have scolded about:

Touchet welded metal horse sculpture by wenaha artist Carlos Acevedo
Touchet by Wenaha Gallery sculpture artist Carlos Acevedo

“I doodled on all of my homework and class worksheets, and was always trying to demonstrate to my teachers that I, too, had artistic abilities.”

It was not until three years later, however — upon entering junior high school — that Carlos achieved his goal of art study when he was now required to take the class as an elective, and all those years of persistent tenacity finally accomplished their purpose:

“That is when I was introduced to clay, block prints, drawing and painting,” Acevedo remembers.  “More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson back then — to never give up on what you dream.”

Acevedo’s dreams achieve reality these days in sculpture: his signature creations, many of which are horses, start out as eclectic fabrications of wood, metal, wire, and paper which he intertwines into the finished form, then casts into bronze. The resultant work of art is fluid with movement, spirited, conveying a sensation of action skillfully woven with a singular sense of tranquility.

Acevedo credits seven years of working at Walla Walla and Trevor Hunter Foundries with expanding his skill, his understanding of the different ways that metals interact, and his confidence as an artist:

“During my time working at these foundries, I had invaluable access to the contemporary art world,” Acevedo says. “It was there that I helped fabricate large and small-scale bronze sculptures for national and international artists.” Now, as a student at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, working on his AAS Welding Degree, Acevedo continues to learn, and when he isn’t studying, Acevedo creates in his art studio, an old army bunker at the Walla Walla Airport which he shares with photographer Amahra Leaman and two studio cats, Noche-No-Tail and Professor Tubby.

“The cats earn their keep,” he observes.

Welded metal horse sculpture by wenaha gallery artist Carlos Acevedo
Untitled 3 by Wenaha Gallery sculpture artist Carlos Acevedo.

So . . . why welded art?

“The welding process has always fascinated me,” Acevedo explains. “When I was a young boy, I watched my brothers fix broken bikes and other metal objects. It was truly remarkable that they could take something that was broken and make it function again.”

And the horses?

It’s back to those brothers again: “I remember my oldest brother, Jose, being placed on a beautiful black and white ‘Paint Horse’ to have his picture taken with his cowboy boots, caballero suit, and sombrero. I looked at that photo of Jose on that horse, wishing I too could only be placed on that same beautiful black and white paint horse to have my picture taken.”

Like the grade school art lessons, it never happened, but the love for horses, and the desire to sculpt, draw, and paint them, was born in that moment.

In many ways, the young boy in Acevedo — the one who watched other children attend classes he longed to be in, and an older sibling sit proudly astride the horse he would only admire in a photograph — has never grown up, but he’s done something better:

Welded metal horse sculpture by Wenaha Gallery artist Carlos Acevedo
Untitled IV metal sculpture by Wenaha Gallery artist, Carlos Acevedo.

He has taken the setbacks of youth and its frustrated dreams and translated them into a reality of adulthood. Like many artists, he juggles school and work and family to achieve that precious, never-enough-time in the studio, and the finished pieces reflect all of the time and process it takes to create them:

“Emotion for each piece is born simply by using my hands and physically feeling the materials,” Acevedo says. “It is this emotion, the tactile act of creating, and allowing my heart a chance to speak, that drives me to continue to create.”

Carlos Acevedo is the featured Art Event Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery, August 11 through September 6, 2014. Come see the exhibit at the gallery’s downtown Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.  Wenaha Gallery

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.

A Connoisseur of Trees and Wood — the Hand-Carved Sculpture of Jordan Henderson

Carved goat in cherry wood by Wenaha Gallery artist Jordan Henderson
Goat in Cherry Wood by Wenaha Artist Jordan Henderson.

Sustainability: it’s contemporary, fashionable, sensible, and beautiful, and for woodcarver Jordan Henderson of JDC Woodcarving, there is an art to doing it right.

“I source all of my wood locally,” the Dayton, WA artist explains, “People contact me regularly to let me know that a tree has blown down, and am I interested in the wood? Sometimes they drive up — in the night — and leave the wood by the studio. It’s an unusual, but pleasant, surprise in the morning, and most of the mystery is figuring out who brought the wood.

Carved wood sculpture portrait in cottonwood by wenaha gallery artist Jordan Henderson
Portrait in Cottonwood, by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jordan Henderson.

“I have acquired some really unusual pieces for sculpture this way — my favorite is locust, but I’ve worked with lilac, cherry, walnut, oak, white pine. We are fortunate to live in an area with a lot of trees.”

From a block of wood, Jordan uses hand and power tools to tease out the animal, or the plant, or Viking warrior, that is hidden there, waiting for him to create it into existence. The son of Dayton painter Steve Henderson, Jordan learned to draw as a child, and he uses this skill extensively in making preliminary sketches for each piece.

“I study the subject from all sides and perspectives before actually starting to carve,” Henderson explains. “This allows me to make bold, clear shapes and cuts, which I believe are absolutely essential, because hesitant shapes and cuts in carving look terrible.

“Wood is a very unforgiving medium,” he continues. “If you make a serious mistake your carving is ruined. The time spent on preliminaries is well worth it if it means that you don’t have to  throw out a carving that is three-quarters done.”

That time spent on preliminaries shows: Henderson’s carvings are free flowing yet accurate in detail, occasionally whimsical yet respectful of their subject: the trees curve as if dancing,  the chicken exudes nobility somehow, the bust of an Arikira Indian — based on a photo by Edward Curtis — stares forward with dignity and pride. Each piece expresses the individuality of the subject.

Carved wood sculpture rockfish by wenaha gallery artist Jordan Henderson
Rockfish, by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jordan Henderson.

Because of the dust inherent to carving from wood, Henderson prefers to work outside, which is pleasant in the summer months, he observes. However, due to his seasonal day job — growing and marketing organic produce for his business, Deer Pond Gardens — Henderson spends the warmer months with a shovel in his hand, as opposed to a chisel. Quite fortunately, since he is a man who wears shorts in January, he has no problem working outside when the temperature is more . . . brisk, shall we say.

carved wooden sculpture the gardener by wenaha gallery artist Jordan Henderson
The Gardener, by Wenaha Gallery Artist Jordan Henderson.

“It’s still pleasant,” Henderson comments in his direct, yet soft spoken way. “And though in the summer — when it would be even more pleasant to be carving outside — I’m not able to devote as much time to it, I get many ideas for the winter.

“And in the winter, it’s very enjoyable, sitting by a woodstove, to do the preliminary sketches for sculptures by the fire. Or poring through seed catalogs. The two facets — gardening and carving — work well together.”

It’s back to that sustainability again — using wood that many people  would burn, to celebrate the world of wildlife, domestic animals, trees, fish, and — quite appropriately —  a gardener, leaning on a shovel.

“My goal is to create a clear and aesthetically pleasing rendition of the subject, with the aim to cause viewers to also see the beauty of these subjects,” Henderson says.

“The real benefit of wood is its inherent beauty: a woodcarving is not just a way of creating a form, it is also a way to show off the beauty of the wood it is carved from. That’s why it’s so important to have many different types of wood from which to choose, and thanks to the people who keep me in mind when they’re cutting wood, I’ve got that.”

Jordan Henderson  is the featured Art Event Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery, July 3 through July 26, 2014. Come see the exhibit at the gallery’s downtown Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.  Wenaha Gallery

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.