Reflections on Rivers


I've canoed tight little whitewater creeks in North Georgia and East Tennessee, drifted down broad and gentle rivers in the Carolinas, and played in enormously powerful rapids in Colorado and Arizona. On a river, the water moves but the waves stand still. Each drop of water in a wave is here only for an instant, then replaced by another, then another, in a relentless rush to the sea. The water moves on but the energy of the wave remains, standing motionless yet in constant motion.

The surface of the water reveals what is going on underneath when you learn to read it. Downstream V's show where the fastest and deepest water flows, smooth pillows are usually stuffed with rocks and should be avoided, and calm eddies behind rocks have upstream currents that can flip you if you don't lean into them. Once you understand what the river is saying, you will know how to set the angle of your boat to work with the current, when to gently paddle forward, when to back paddle, and when to drive forward with total commitment. When done correctly, the river will take you where you need to go. With enough experience, this process becomes instinctive and you are able to do this without thinking, just feeling what the river is doing and moving in harmony with it.

Woodturning requires you to listen to the wood and work with it, rather than trying to force it to your will. In this way it is like river-running. Every tree has a story to tell, reflecting the seasons it has known and the forces that shaped it. My goal is to bring that story to life as I work with wood, choosing the form that brings out the beauty of the grain and the color of the wood. Imperfections in the wood add to the story the piece has to tell - knots, splits, bark inclusions, wormholes, and areas of incipient rot make each piece unique. The shape I am making changes as I work with the wood, based upon what I find as I turn.

I wo rk with locally grown wood, harvested from the urban forest. Trees are chosen for their potential to tell a story - black cherry for color and machineability, oak for pronounced grain, maple for figure, ash and black locust for contrast. Forks usually have feathered grain at the area where the limbs merge with the trunk, the base of the tree sometimes has rippled grain formed by time and gravity, the underside of heavy branches may have curly figure resulting from stresses imposed by weather and gravity, and partially rotten wood usually has color changes and spalt lines. The logs are sectioned to bring out these features, and the sections are shaped on the lathe to balance the grain and accentuate any special feature I find in the wood. If the wood is subject to tear out, I flood it with thinned lacquer or shellac to stabilize it before I do the final finish cuts. I then sand the surface down to bare wood, finishing with 500 grit sandpaper. Surface treatments are chosen to suit the wood and the intended purpose of the object, but my preference is to simply buff the surface down to 1500 grit and then apply a hard wax. This gives a lustrous surface that is easily maintained, and to me looks better than the plastic-looking, thick, and overly shiny surface that you get with poly or lacquer.

Landscape photography, like river-running, is a fluid medium that requires you to be aware of and adapt to changes in patterns of light and shadow, color hues, and luminosity. On a good day, I am able to capture the essence of the moment in an image, much like a standing wave on a river reflects and captures the energy of the river.

This site present some of my woodworking and photography, and links to my ETSY store. Please feel free to visit, I hope you enjoy what you see.

Regards,

Rick

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