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Critique for turned vessels. Here's what you should look for when buying wood turned art.

Remember that these are guides only and special circumstances are always possible for exceptions.

  1. Shape. The shape must be pleasing to the eye. Shapes based on classic ancient pottery forms are a good bet but are not the final answer. Wood was part of a living organism and takes its form from nature - a turned vessel that uses the natural form of the wood is often the best shape BUT the needs of "making the most" out of an odd shaped chunk of wood can also detract the artist and create lopsided pieces.
  2. Balance. This is partly the shape but if the proportions are off then the shape will be unbalanced.
  3. Turning quality. This is best gauged by the wall thickness of the vessel which should be uniformly thick, though may be a little thicker at the base and the rim. (Potters often make the rim heavier for reinforcement - also good for turners to remember that.) Wood vessels should not be too thick either - 5 to 10 mm for medium size vessels. Wood that is too thick will check if it dries unevenly. See also machine marks below - good turners take the time to eliminate any marks left by the machining process. Rim decorations can add significantly to the overall appearance of a piece
  4. Finish. This is a personal thing but I prefer more natural finishes that allow the wood texture to be felt - though the surface should be smooth as a baby's bottom. Definitely no sanding marks. High gloss may be fun for some items but mostly it looks and feels like plastic (which it is) but it ought to feel like the wood it really is. If the finish is a varnish then it must be absolutely smooth (and preferably matt? my personal preference).
  5. Machine marks. Can you tell how the work was held on the lathe when it was turned? A vessel that shows no signs of it's machine heritage is superior to one that does.
  6. Material. What specie of wood is it? Is it common or rare? Is it a burl? (rare) Are there knots and other inclusions which enhance the appearance? Are there checks (cracks) in the wood? (Checks should be avoided but in some pieces they can add to the appearance, though rarely) Some burls are full of holes and bark inclusions but this is what makes the material interesting. Remember it is slight imperfections that enhance beauty. "The beauty spot" on Marilyn Monroe's face for instance.
  7. Function. What is the function of the vessel? If it is a practical item then it should be suitable for its intended use. How will you use it? It CAN be art.
  8. Uniqueness. Is that a word? No two pieces of wooden ware will ever be exactly alike but some turnings are emphatically unique and as such they are simply beautiful to behold. But the above criteria must be met first.
  9. Name. Is the woodturner well known? If you are investing in his name you may want to buy an item from an unknown (but accomplished) craftsperson/artist because the price is right and you are investing in his future fame. But check out the above criteria to know the artist's potential. An art collector once told me he would rather have some bad art from a famous artist than great art from an unknown artist.

If you check my qualifications I have what it takes to produce work that fulfills the above criteria. I can make you a keepsake that will satisfy your needs.

If you can think of more or disagree with my list email me.

John's wood turning page

What to look for when purchasing turned vessels

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