Wednesday had Andrew Inspired

As I drove out to Brantford that morning in anticipation of working with a turning master, I reprised the presentation I had seen on Sunday with TWG and was excited to think what we would be practicing. A lucky few of us would be spending some 8 hours with Al Stirt.

I had been struck by Al's amicability and wonderful sense of humour. His presentation had been engaging, well presented and varied. In some 5 continual hours of turning he never had a catch once! Al presented pictures, narrative, discussed holding the tools, demonstrated techniques for centering grain patterns in bowls, and shared sources of inspiration and also proved to have a wonderful affinity for Canada. He's been to more places here than I have!

George's email the week before, informing us that a place had opened up allowing someone to join the Wednesday group to actually work with Al, now became even more exciting. I had lucked out! Al's work is beautiful and provides some excellent challenges - particularly for a spindle turning person! Now I could dive in and try a new mode of artistic expression! I pulled up to George's wonderful house and joined the gathered throng.

When I arrived it suddenly occurred to me that this was the very first time in my turning experience - some 10 years now - that I would be turning simultaneously with other people! I've seen wood shows and turned for other groups and had a great evening at Malcolm Cumming's place - but I was the sole turner (though Malcolm did help me out hands on!)

So here I was, in a classroom really, and Al circulated and helped people out. It wasn't possible to hear his separate comments because there were 6 people turning, but Al helped me tackle a tricky corner detail I decided to try and provided artistic input to the practice pieces I was trying. I felt I had passed some great test! He made no comment about technique per se, and we both gently lamented the tiny lathe's size - but both understood the necessary limitations. I felt good when even Al had to "fight" the cut a little. I felt that I knew something about turning.

In the end Al was even pleased with the little essay I finished while at George's place. I still have a blank to finish - perhaps before the upcoming meeting? Never before had the reality of "riding the bevel" been so manifestly demonstrated. Turning the square bowl required finding the bevel then driving a push cut toward the bowl's centre while cutting a lot of air! The sound can be off-putting but the feeling was amazing! Little tearout, lovely curves, painting with black gesso, carving with my old Dremel, cutting details with the point tool - the experience had it all!

Perhaps the best part of the experience was sitting together at lunch. Joan's wonderful food, excellent and fun conversation, questions asked of and answered by a working professional with gallery experience and an open and generous spirit made for a splendid time.

The drive home found me reflecting on all I had learned that day. The warmth of the group of turners was particularly nice. I had felt welcome and wanted. Al's great smile and openness I'm sure, affected everyone and it felt like a small band who had known each other for a long time.

I'd do this again in a heartbeat. I truly enjoyed everything about the gathering. I feel privileged to have been taught by such a great turner. I hope everyone reading this has the opportunity themselves to try this form of learning.

You will love it!