Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Turning Design: Bob Hawks

Author: Victoria Saccomagno (OVAC Intern)
Bob Hawks, Where there is smoke, Cherry Wood, 25x 5x 5"

Woodturning artist Bob Hawks draws weightlessness from his medium. His Concept/OK: Art in Oklahoma piece Where There’s Smoke, demonstrates not only an unspeakable level of craftsmanship, but also an observance and translation of outdoor space and movement. Supplementing that observance, his preference for wood salvaged from damaged construction or storms breathes life back into the abandoned pieces he finds. I was able to ask the Tulsa artist a few questions about his history with art, technical process with woodturning, and inspiration behind designing ‘dead’ wood back to life.  

Q: I understand that you switched to woodturning after 35 years of photography. Are there any fundamentals of photography that translated over to woodturning, or was there a distinct disciplinary jump?
BH: From a mechanical standpoint, it was a big jump. When it came to designing pieces in woodturning, many of the same ideas and good design apply to both good photography and woodturning.
Bob Hawks, Where there is smoke [detail], Cherry Wood, 25x 5x 5"
Q: Your pieces look virtually seamless; does this happen with careful planning, or does the wood take on a life of its own to a certain degree before you decide what it will look like?
BH: Segmented pieces start with dry dimensional limber and precise drawing. This pretty much dictates what the piece will look like. In the case of vessels turned from green logs, many times the wood grain, color, and texture of the log dictates what will happen as you turn. Usually I start with a design in mind, but often that will change as the turning progresses.

Q: How has technology transformed your studio? I know that you’ve been working as a wood turner since 1985, is there any process that you would refuse to update, or is there machinery that, when updated, assisted better with your work?
BH: The basic concept of woodturning is a handheld tool addressed to a piece of wood spinning on a lathe. That is still the same after hundreds of years. Of course, there have been refinements in the making of tools and lathes, and I take advantage of them when they aid in the process. As far as I’m concerned, the design of the piece is the most important element, not how it was mechanically achieved.

Q: What would you say inspires you and your work?
BH: Mostly things from nature and the outdoors. Trees themselves, flowers, smoke from a chimney, wind, rain, birds flying, etc. 

The Concept/OK: Art in Oklahoma exhibition opens December 16, 1-5 pm at the new Tulsa Arts and Humanities Council’s Hardesty Arts Center. See for more information. 

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