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.
- 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.
- Balance. This is partly the shape but if the proportions are off
then the shape will be unbalanced.
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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