I’ve been so looking forward to sharing this blog with you all. I was so excited when Jennie sent me some pictures of her work – I’d honestly never seen anything like it, and at the end of the day, that’s what crafting is about. Being creative and experimental with your ideas, and coming up with something fabulous. And like so many other crafters that we speak to here, Jennie isn’t a registered business looking to take on the world and make millions. Jennie has public liability insurance for woodturning, because she is passionate about her craft, and wants to share it with others, and help her local community, which we think is amazing. Take a quick peak below, and read Jennie’s story.
I am a wood turner. I used to be a teacher but took early retirement. Wood turning had been a hobby before retirement – now it allows me to carry on teaching without all the hassles of the National Curriculum and Ofsted, and I can make whatever takes my fancy, when I want to – because I am in the lucky position of not needing it to be an income source. In fact, I use my woodturning to raise money for charities and currently sell most of my work to support the Sam Beare Hospice in Weybridge, where I live.
I started wood turning over 20 years ago. It happened, quite by chance. We had bought a new 3 piece suite which was ‘country style’ and had lots of exposed turned oak. At the time the kids were costing us an arm and a leg and we didn’t buy the matching footstool and side table. Later I wished we had and we went to get them, only to find that, out of the sale, the 2 pieces cost more than the whole suite and would have to wait at least 3 months! I remember pressing my nose against the shop window and being sad, when a little voice beside me said “I could make one of those”. As Chris, my husband, now says – he didn’t know he couldn’t – so with a thick plank of oak, a book from the library, some cheap tools and a lathe attachment for his electric drill he proceeded to make the required objects – which we still have and which have lasted longer than the suite! While he was doing it he offered me the chance to try turning and I quite enjoyed it. He wanted to go on a course and suggested I go with him… and it grew from there. Now, I do all of the wood turning and he tends to turn metal (on a different lathe). It is very much still a hobby – albeit one that has taken over my life. I make things as the mood takes me but I also demonstrate at a lot of shows and exhibitions around the country, demonstrate for wood turning clubs and pass on my skills with some teaching and mentoring.
As I have arthritis I cannot manage whole days on my feet. I probably spend an average of 10 hours a week turning and decorating objects – more when I am doing demonstrations – and I take time off when we go on holiday – although I have occasionally done demonstrations for clubs way out of my usual area (100 mile circumference or so) when on holiday.
I am known for my thin and delicate pierced pieces. They are definitely not functional items! I also incorporate a number of less usual crafting techniques on my work that are often of interest to other woodturners and help them see other ways to decorate their own work. I believe in giving help and advice freely to anyone who asks for it and have a range of hand-outs I will send to anyone wanting information. So one of my main ‘products’ is ‘ideas’.
Woodturning fits around normal life (it takes over sometimes but I enjoy it so much it doesn’t seem to matter). It is a jolly good job I’m not house-proud as my hobbies have taken over the house (as have my husband’s hobbies). The dining room is my craft store (paints etc), one bedroom is my jewellery/ sewing room where I have an enamelling kiln and an embroidery machine and lots of books! Another bedroom is an office, electronics bench and houses my laser cutter! We have a huge workshop/studio and a separate large storage shed in the garden as well.
I think I am most proud about the materials I have developed and which I pass on freely to anyone interested in wood turning and decorating. There are also lots of ‘How to’ notes for people to read and follow up on my website. http://www.artycraftywoodturning.com/Pages/hints7.php
I am all about spreading the art of wood turning as much as I can. I am also proud to have one of my pieces in the only private collection of wood turning in the country (the Daniel Collection).
I have my own website www.artycraftywoodturning.com and respond to anyone contacting me via the link on it. Although I am on Facebook I rarely use it, preferring to communicate 1:1 with people.
Unfortunately, trying to make a living as a jobbing wood turner is a precarious life-style choice. There are some turners who manage to get enough work to make a decent living but they are few and far between. Very few break into the ‘art’ market here in Great Britain. I try to break even and cover the cost of materials then donate the rest to charity – I could not do what I do if I had to live from the income. The constraints of taking on repetitive work – like making 50 matching stair spindles and not having time to be creative would not suit me. However, there are signs that Great Britain is ready for new young artists to start making a name for themselves for turned and embellished wooden art pieces. I am too old now to try that – so am content with passing on skills to anyone who will listen!
Please do take a look at Jennie’s website – we’ve shown a couple of examples of what she can make, but it really is a very small selection of the amazing work she can produce!!!
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We would love to hear about all of your crafting projects and ideas. Please leave us a comment, and tell us all about what you do.