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Exhibition features up-and-coming artists

"Regeneration: Fine Woodworkers Under 30” opens Sept. 6 at the Messler Gallery of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. A co-production by the school and Fine Woodworking magazine, the juried exhibition’s theme is to encourage the growth of the next generation of creative woodworkers and advance the careers of those with exceptional promise.

"Screen" by Virginia Blanchard of Pelham, N.Y., made with mahogany, masur birch burl and various veneers.

The exhibition will run through Nov. 22 and can be previewed at

A call for entries produced 277 pieces from 150 woodworkers in the categories of studio and reproduction furniture, turning, and boxes and containers. The jury — comprised of John Dunnigan, professor of furniture design at the Rhode Island School of Design; Vermont furniture maker and author Garrett Hack; California studio wood artist Bill Hunter; and Anissa Kapsales, associate editor of Fine Woodworking — selected 22 pieces for the exhibition.

“The work we selected demonstrates the extent to which skill is alive and well and relevant in our culture,” says Dunnigan.

"Cabinet" by Nate Blaisdell of Somerville, Maine, from quartered white oak.

Selected woodworkers include Christopher Atwood of Clifton, Va.; Nate Blaisdell of Somerville, Maine; Virginia Blanchard of Pelham, N.Y.; Cale Caboth of Mount Pleasant, Iowa; George Dubinsky of Yardley, Pa., Domenic Fiorello of Rochester, N.Y.; Russell Gale of Asheville, N.C.; Jordan Goodman of Chicago; Dan Jessel of Burlington, Ontario; Bryan Klotz of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Brandon Kowalski of Atascadero, Calif.; Michael Kowalski of Marlborough, Mass.; Phil Leonard of La Grange, Ill.; Brett MacLearnsberry of Poulsbo, Wash.; Mickey McCann of Morristown, N.J.; Michelle Myers of Boalsburg, Pa.; Eric Oransky of Freeport, Maine; Kent Perdue of Gladys, Va.; Nick Preneta of Northport, Mich.; Jason Shirey of Sewickley, Pa.; Colin Tury of Sterling Heights, Mich.; and Steven Vowles of Stirling, Ontario.

A vote on Facebook determined the exhibition’s People’s Choice award, won by Leonard for his upholstered walnut dining chair. Six other awards will be presented at the exhibition opening.

Ornamental turnings

The Wood Turning Center in Philadelphia is currently hosting “Exotic Woods, Metal Cutters and Dale Chase: Ornamental Turnings from the Walter Balliet Collection” through July 23.

“In the 17th and 18th century, ornamental turning was a popular pastime in the homes of European royalty,” writes Tina LeCoff in an essay about the exhibit. “European kings did it, including Tsar Peter the Great of Russia; the Prussian Kings Frederick III and IV; Louis XV and XVI of France; and the kings of Denmark. Both men and women practiced the art. European museums are full of gorgeous, delicate works made on ornamental lathes from ivory, wood and other precious materials. These treasures were shaped on simple lathes, then attached to ornamental lathes where metal cutters slowly etched and pierced elaborate designs on the interiors and exteriors.

“Ornamental turning is a historic and complex art form wherein artists must configure and master their precise machines, their elaborate cutters and rosettes, and the materials which they select for ornamentation.”

"E Pluribus Unum" by Christopher Atwood of Clinton, Va., from reconstituted zebrawood.

The objects in the exhibition, recently donated to the center by retired tool and die maker and ornamental turner Walter Balliet of New Jersey, reflect decades of meticulous experimentation and collaboration by Balliet and friends. They include more than 80 hand-sized boxes by the late Dale Chase and Frank Knox, complemented by contemporary ornamental turnings by Fred Armbruster, Paul Cler and Gorst duPlessis.


Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, 25 Mill St., Rockport, Maine 04856. Tel: 207-594-5611.

Wood Turning Center, 501 Vine St., Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 215-923-8000.

This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue.

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