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Jean Claudes Bottle


Turning with Temple: Adult Beverage Series

by Temple Blackwood
Castine, ME

Note: click on any picture to see a larger version.

When I first began woodturning in 1969, my first wife, Julie, encouraged me to do three things:

  1. Seek excellence in technical skill.
  2. Achieve a high level of accuracy in creating architectural multiples.
  3. Explore the more artistic dimensions of woodturning.

I worked for many years on the first two and typically neglected the third. Julie, as a one-of-a-kind wearable art fabric artist, had in my opinion more high-level artistic energy than any one family could contain. Amongst her many different layers of artistic themes she developed a playful fabric version of wearable and hang-able pieces based on various kinds of food. These included vegetables, and various types of kitchen tools like playful cups & saucers, and knife-fork-spoon sets. Like me, she was attracted to the vast varieties of fiber art, hers being fabric with her own original colors, shapes, and textures; mine from discovering and revealing the existing colors, shapes, and textures from within the wide array of available wood.

As I developed my skills at the lathe and gained the dimension of both watching other turners (in clubs, demonstrations, publications, and symposium workshops) and teaching woodturners at all levels, I became increasingly interested in testing my ingenuity and skill with new goals. Two of my great woodturning friends from the founding team of the Chesapeake Woodturners, Joe Dickey (MD) and Frank Amigo (CO), regularly demonstrated and critiqued from their approaches to woodturning as sculpture. Both are accomplished technically and creatively in managing turned wood shapes to express their artistic vision - skillfully blending shape, texture, and their own colors (dyes) to produce an artistic expression of their inner visions.

From this new artistic platform in the late 1990's I responded to an invitation to produce a new woodturned art piece for a Chesapeake Woodturners juried gallery show. I produced the first especially "artistic" piece of my bottle collection, 'Walnut Serving Cherry,' that included a full-size hollowed wine bottle in black walnut on an oak tray with two matched cherry wine goblets. We spent considerable time arranging the bottle and goblets on the tray at the photo session, and my friends reinforced my success by including it in the show publicity with several other turner's interesting pieces.

Cherry Serving Walnut

That new direction I took (deciding on an artistic "vision" before choosing the wood for its thematic harmony in color, texture, and connotations) inspired me to develop an entire series of what ultimately became eight pieces, all based around the bottle and goblet theme. Ultimately, I turned seven of the eight, all seven along the special themes of distinctive adult drinks -- wine, martini, brandy, aperitif, whisky, amadiado, and champagne (with 15 different woods matched flutes) -- and interesting names. The eighth piece, a full 8-piece demitasse coffee set made of natural-bark American elm remains in my new shop only partially finished, stopped by Julie's death in 2007 and a year or so of not working in the shop.

Apres Dinner A Deux

Good Christian Brothers-Good Company After a Good Meal

A Martini Kind of Evening

Sake with Friends

What Glass is Right for Amaretto?

Rejoice! Champagne Reception

Of the pieces, four were offered over the course of four years at a charity auction where they attracted several actively bidding buyers and successfully helped reach auction goals. Two were special gifts to family, and the 'Rejoice! Champagne Reception' was deliberately a gathering point for the amazing team of people who sponsored and managed the charity auction -- each received a flute, and the key on-line programmer received the empty bottle. Much later I learned that one of the auction purchasers passed away and her pieces ended up in a high-end consignment store somewhat over-priced if based on her generous dedication to the charity and to her perception of their value.

Since relocating to Maine, remarrying, and building a new shop, I continue to balance my turning between commercial turning; teaching and demonstrating; producing a number of smaller turned items, toys, and games; and spending the delightful time and energy working on more thoughtfully planned hollow and open natural-edge forms, off-center turnings, and pleasing sculptural shapes. The dusty pieces of the unfinished demitasse set watch over me from a shelf high on the shop wall, and I suspect in time I might again light the spark of an idea for a new series of thematically connected pieces that will re-energize me to return to that work.

I believe the unfinished demitasse set will remain of greatest and most lasting value to me just as it is.

You can email Temple at

Take a look at Temple's Website at .

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