Twisted Affair: This Craftsman From Massachusetts Creates Distinctive Wooden Things
The Timberturner/Bowlwood shop is owned by Ray Asselin and located in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, a Connecticut River Valley area of New England that’s richly endowed with history and hardwood forests. It’s right at the transition line between the Southern Oak/Hickory forest and the Northern Hardwood forest.
“Most days of my youth were spent in the woods near home, but it wouldn’t be until my early twenties that I really started learning to identify the trees I had grown up with. Learning about them and working their wood with my hands have led to a deep reverence for the grandest members of the plant world we often take for granted,” said Ray.
“A one-day woodturning class at Hancock Shaker Village in the 80’s ignited my interest in turning wood on a lathe (although I’ve forsaken the Shaker foot-treadle-powered lathe for something a wee more modern). Several years ago I built a post-and-beam timber framed woodshop heated by a small potbelly stove. Finally, I could move the lathe out of the dreary basement into a bright new world. Every wall has windows- the daylight flooding in makes a huge difference in my motivation. The days zip by when I’m turning wood, particularly those gray winter days when snow is silently burying the world in white fluff, and the potbelly stove is so inviting.”
“While I don’t consider myself an artist as much as an artisan, I do try to produce turned pieces with smooth, graceful curves that are proportionally pleasing. There are a lot of “clunky” looking turnings out there, with unattractive shapes and thicknesses that impart a sense of heaviness. Learning to fair those shapes and trim the fat off the piece is a lesson that can be difficult to master for many of us, but is well worth the effort.”