Some of the tools sounded like Medieval torture devices. Scraper. Parter. Spindle gouge. But Tom Hasting wasn’t trying to get me to give up my co-conspirators or reveal a plot against the king, he was helping me release my inner artist.
We were in the back of Hasting’s gallery and wood shop, Hasting Coastal Woodworks, among the wood blanks, tools and lathes that he uses for wood turning and helping artistically challenged people like me feel, if even for a short time, like they could make something both pretty and functional.
“Perfection isn’t necessary,” he said, winning me over from the start. “The lathe meets you halfway by taking off all the rough edges.”
Hasting will be giving a demonstration of how to create his new favorite item — wood-turned plates and containers that look like woven baskets — at the 28th annual Artistry in Wood Show at Chinook Winds Casino Resort, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 18 and 19.
Admission to the event is free, including workshops and demonstrations, but there are plenty of ways to invest in art and supplies from vendors and participating artists.
“The first time I walked in the show I was staggered by the scope of it,” said Rod Van Loh, president of the group Coastal Carvers, who put on the event. “It’s pretty amazing how many different styles people have, so the workshops are always really interesting and different.”
Workshops this year will include face carving, fire painting and “Carving a Mouse Sitting on a Shelf,” by Gene Tilton. This year’s featured artist, Everett Koontz, will be giving two guided workshops, one for kids and a second for adults.
“When choosing our featured artist, we look for people that can do a variety of projects and he fits that for sure,” Van Loh said. “He’s a very prolific artist and extremely talented.”
Some of Koontz’s favorite subject are ducks, Santa figures and carousel animals — both full size and scale, and he has worked on some of the animals on the carousel at Salem’s riverfront.
The show is the biggest project of the year for Coastal Carvers, who meet once a month in Lincoln City to discuss club business and then work on projects. At each meeting different people teach a technique, so the club enthusiastically welcomes new people, even if they’ve never tortured a defenseless piece of wood in the name of art.
“I think everyone has some artistic talent,” said Van Loh, a freehand carver who has work displayed in 16 US states and five other countries. “They just haven’t been in a situation that has helped them discover their skills yet.”
Van Loh encourages people to try working with wood as a way to discover hidden art talent because of the medium’s natural beauty and how many different ways you can work with it; although some of the tools do create a need for extra safety measures.
“I’ve only cut myself once,” he said. “But I did a really good job of it so I haven’t needed to ever do it again.”
Van Loh works on projects at his work table, tucked into the back of the gallery at Hasting’s shop, so you can watch him do freehand carving every Friday. If you get inspired but don’t feel confident in your abilities to do freehand carving, you can sign up for one of Hasting’s wood-turning classes. He also rents his equipment by the hour.
“I get turners who can’t stand to be away from their equipment so they come in to do some turning,” he said. “It really is that addictive.”
Hasting is even helping to create the turners of tomorrow.
“I’ve been teaching homeschooled kids for about four years,” he said. “My curriculum fulfills a requirement for shop time. I’ve probably had about 18 kids so far.”
After my wood-turning experience I started looking at the world with new eyes. The artfully turned wooden dowel holding the toilet paper roll in a health food store bathroom, the legs on a table I inherited; where once I would have simply appreciated them, now I think:
“I could do that.”
Artistry in Wood will be presented from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday and from 10 am to 4 pm on Sunday at the Chinook Winds Convention Center, 1777 NW 44th Street. For more information about the show or Coastal Carvers, go to sites.google.com/view/coastal-carvers/home.