It has been four years since the last Wizardry in Wood contemporary wood-turning selling exhibition, staged by the Worshipful Company of Turners in the City of London, and it’ll be another four before the next one. This is just one of myriad reasons to highlight the stunning creations by 20 of the UK’s most talented designer-makers, shown alongside heritage pieces and presented in the grand setting of Carpenters’ Hall.
The Worshipful Company was founded more than 800 years ago and, as one of the oldest Livery Companies in the City of London, now has something of a cult status among wood aficionados. It works today to promote traditional turning, which uses a lathe to create both practical and decorative objects (the “turning” refers to the material, which moves while a stationary tool cuts and shapes it). Alongside displays of contemporary pieces, The Mary Rose Trust has lent turned items, including bowls, plates, cups, longbows, combs and medical and musical instruments, from the Mary Rose that, despite their 467 years, are in superb condition. Expert Robin Wood (a perfect example of nominative determinism) will be demonstrating how such items were made, as part of the accompanying programme of presentations to illustrate the way the artisan skill has evolved over the years.
Some of Wood’s own splendid design handiwork will also be on show at Wizardry in Wood. He uses traditional techniques, a foot-powered lathe and no sandpaper, relying on sharp tools to produce a smooth finish that shows the hand of the maker in his deceptively simple, Scandinavian-influenced wooden spoons and bowls (including his nest of bowls in sycamore, £395).
Compared with Wood’s work, Joey Richardson’s creations are a world apart – seeing the two together emphasises the breadth and diversity of the craft. A leading wood-turner, Richardson’s gorgeously intricate, lace-like works – including Autumn Fall (first picture, £850), a seven-inch-tall box-elder and sycamore piece; Small Blooms (£495), made of walnut and sycamore; and the extraordinary 5’O Clock Teapot (£800), also of walnut and sycamore – are more obviously ornamental. Incorporating piercing, painting and textural elements, they are often called “wood art”.
Different again are exhibits by Rosemary Wright, which are modern in both form and colour – pieces such as her oak and stained-sycamore Leaf platter (third picture, £300) and the graphic Coastal Blue III (£250) would look chic in any contemporary home. Peter Archer’s one-off pieces (often bowls or bowl-like vessels) are made of temperate hardwoods such as sycamore, and are stained, carved and finished with oil and wax. His Carved Speckled Bowl with a stained red exterior and smooth, natural-wood interior (second picture, £250) is somehow reminiscent of both Japanese lacquerwork and the dot work found in Aboriginal art.
For anyone unfamiliar with the craft, Wizardry in Wood should be a real eye-opener, while those who already appreciate wood-turning will find an array of original and covetable work, plus designers from whom to commission bespoke pieces. We concur with the exhibition title – it’s set to be magical.