Submitted by: Maia Stark, SCC Gallery Assistant
Rodney Peterson, a professional craftsperson with the Saskatchewan Craft Council, was born in Duncan, B.C, in 1943. Having been raised and spent most of his life is Saskatchewan, his work is mostly inspired by the Boreal forest around his Nipawin home (NAC). Peterson has had a variety of careers throughout his life: construction workers, physics teacher (for 29 years!), rail line worker, taxi driver, and professional artisan, just to name a few! (NAC) Peterson is a self-taught woodturner, developing his skill and technique over the years by attending workshops with master woodturners.
Many may be familiar with the concept of woodturning, but here’s a quick rundown for those who are new to the term!
Woodturning is a process which uses a “Lathe”: a machine that rotates the piece of wood you are working with on its axis (Wiki). While the piece is turning (at high speeds!), the craftsperson uses various tools to carve the wood, essentially slicing it down into the shape they want. The appeal of using a lathe is that by nature of the process the finished piece will have a (horizontally) symmetrical design. The origin of woodturning traces back to approximately 1300 BC in Egypt, where a two-person lathe was developed: one person would turn the wood with the help of a rope, while the other used a sharp tool to carve (Wiki). During the industrial revolution, the lathe was motorized in order to speed up production, focusing on mass production of wooden products.
Despite the “quick-production” origins of contemporary woodturning, many woodworkers incorporate a high standard of aestheticism, making unique pieces enhanced by further carving, coloring, piercing gilding, or by applying pyrography. Rodney Peterson’s work employs many of these techniques, notably coloring and piercing. Woodturning has its various hiccups and problems to overcome, just as many techniques do. One thing to consider is the direction of the grain and the direction one carves. Cutting in the wrong direction can cause the fibres to separate and “tear out,” creating a rough and damaged looking surface (Wiki). As well, there is a patience, foresight and understanding of woodturning required to be able to anticipate the shape and look of what’s being created. Carving too much or too little could lead to a piece of which the form could be disproportionate or seem awkwardly shaped.
Peterson’s works often take celebration in the small “faults” found in the wood he uses, often sourcing wood from the boreal area around his own home. Some turned pieces focus on a particular knot, enhancing the natural shape of the tree’s original growth pattern.
To see some of Rodney’s works in person, come by the Affinity Boutique! The SCC gallery and boutique is located in the Saskatchewan Craft Council’s Affinity Gallery at 813 Broadway Avenue, Saskatoon, SK.