Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ray Cole: Etsy Artist from Colorado

Ray Cole is a woodturner from Colorado. Other than his recent membership in Design Style Guide, I didn't know much about him before this interview, but I knew he was living in a singularly beautiful part of the world. My wife has an aunt in Colorado, and my sister lives there. And my best friend lives very near Ray, so the next time I make it to the big, square states I have a few stops to make.

Anyway, Ray turns out some beautiful work, as you will see. And here's his story...

1. What is your shop name and what do you sell?

My shop name is Wonders With Wood. I sell a number of turned wood items. Like:

2. What long series of events led to you doing this?

I was starting to make some wood things like boxes and toys. My brother is a woodturner and he invited me to his house over a Labor Day Weekend. My wife and I thought we would go to see them and probably come back Saturday afternoon. We ended up staying for the full weekend. It was way too much fun. My brother loaned me an old pen lathe and I started to try to make things on my own. My early attempts were ... let's say I needed to practice a little ... maybe a lot.

3. Who taught you the particular skills you use in your work?

In my home town there is a woodturning club that has 5 world class world class woodturners and at least 5 more that nationally known. I joined the club. Since we have such an accomplished community of woodturners, numerous world class turners come through town. I have a rule: Take the course from the guy from out of town. I always learn something. I have taken a lot of classes from some very good woodturners like:

4. How long have you been selling online?

Not long. I set up my Etsy store last December. I was swamped with commitments to craft shows.

5. What is your favorite thing about Etsy?

The vast diversity of things on the site.

6. What is your favorite thing about what you sell?

I sell things so I can turn more things. My favorite thing is just packing the item in a box and dropping it in the mail. So much less work than selling at a craft show.

7. What is your favorite item in your own shop and why?

I think my favorite Item varies according to my current woodturning interest. Currently I am experimenting with a rose engine. I have a few platters and bottle stoppers on the site that are decorated with the rose engine that are my current favorites.

8. Can you explain what you mean by "rose engine"?

Not an easy question.

Woodturning was done for decorating palaces of kings and nobles. The art evolved, and the fanciest form was called ornamental turning. A Rose Engine is a machine that the piece is "rocked" on as it turns, with a cutter cutting the wood as it moves. The rocker is controlled by a rosette that can be just about any shape you want. These machines were used to decorate lots of very ornate pieces of wood and ivory during the 18th century. In the 19th and early 20th century they were used to decorate jewelery and watches. This sort of died out in the 50's. Right now Ornamental turning is reoccurring among wood turners.

So picture a bowl rotating and the piece rocking back and forth. A fly cutter is positioned near the wood and is carving out the decorations. On smaller pieces like the bottle stopper it produces patterns simular to flowers. On larger pieces like the platter you can produce patterns as shown.

There are so many variables that there is lots of room to create new things.

Video of a rose engine in action.

9. How does your work differ from the work of other artists in your field?

How do my things differ? Well right now I am the only source of rose engine decorated items on the Etsy site. Trent Bosh was my original teacher [and] his comment is that I have a good eye for curves. I do think my bowls have better form than most of the bowls on the site. During the creation of a bowl I always see how I can apply design factors of phi and other natural phenomena that catch your eye. These things make my work stand out among other wood turners.

10. What is the most fun thing you do to promote your shop?

I have started promoting my shop through Facebook. That is pretty fun. I will be attending a couple of shows later in the fall. Even though craftshows are a lot of work, I do like to do a few. This year I will be promoting my Etsy shop at these shows.

11. What are some of your favorite finds by other sellers on Etsy?

I did find a cool pair of salad tongs on Etsy. Often I find really nice pottery. I have also found jewelry that would make a great gift for my wife.

12. What do you do in your spare time?

Sleep. Honestly, I don't have much spare time. I work full time. When I come home there are chores and time spent with my family, then I turn wood. So there is really not much extra time.

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