Sometimes, people aren’t who you think. All unassuming and quiet about their hobbies and their passions and what they do in their spare time, and then they surprise you immeasurably by gifting you something radical and handmade for your wedding. Case in point, our friend Sam is a wood turner. We didn’t know this until he surprised us with a custom black walnut bowl for our wedding. Cue the excitement!
Sam’s really invested in this passion too, his business is called Urban Turning, and he has some serious toolage including but not limited to his own lathe, a radical band saw, spindle gouges, and custom-built workbenches and shelves, all in a real-life studio in which he can turn all the live long day. It’s the kind of stuff that makes tool geeks like us start scouring craigslist for free wood and Amazon for Prime shipping deals, because we could fit a 500 pound lathe in our basement, right? I think so. Totally. (P.S. Nice lathes ain’t cheap.)
As we’ve been known to do with many friends/artisans who can make pretty things at the drop of a hat, we were quick to invite ourselves up to his shop on the 4th floor of The Hungerford Building during their First Friday event last month. And for anyone keeping track, February’s First Friday event is this week, Friday 2/1, where many of the artists on all floors of the building open their studios to the public so all of us art-loving and curious minds can see and purchase products for our own collections. If you’re looking for something to do in the Rochester, NY area on Friday night (starting at 6PM) stop on by (maybe we’ll see you there too).
Side note: I love his resourcefulness in creating custom shelves for his products using old doors and shutters.
If you show up at his studio, check out the selection of bowls, platters, spinning tops (!), and goblets; each so fantastically unique that you’ll want to touch and appreciate every one. That’s a warning, they’re all perfectly sanded and beautiful to look at, and some are so paper thin that you can see light through them. Dude’s got strong technique, and every time that we’ve been to Sam’s studio since our first visit, we find more and more pieces that really draw us in.
Sometimes it’s in the details, the distinctive grains of specific types of wood, the color, the design:
Other pieces amaze me because of how he has integrated the raw edges of the original logs. He could tell you more about where his lumber comes from, many pieces are sourced locally from fallen limbs in his neighborhood–many even from the debris caused locally by Hurricane Sandy last fall–some pieces were turned while the wood was still green and morph a bit in the most perfectly imperfect form as they dry (becoming more oval, in many cases) and other pieces of wood are turned after many years of sitting and drying to the core.
His approach is solid, no pun intended. One of his big objectives is to keep each piece food-safe with non-toxic, natural finishes like walnut oil (our bowl is safe to hold food, and many others that you would see in person are as well). It’s just nice to know that almost any piece sold could find a home in your own practical dining collection.
Earlier this week, we even tested out this still-in-progress (i.e. not detached from the original log base) wooden goblet; it holds water like any cup would. How amazing would it be to have a matching set of wooden wine glasses?
Similarly, how great would it be to turn your own wooden table legs, candlesticks, and baseball bats? (Step 1, buy a house with a bigger basement. Step 2, buy a lathe.)
It’s like he knew that we’d be clammoring to get into the studio with him on a day that he was a-turnin’ (he wasn’t making anything during First Friday), so he was quick to invite us by for a little tutorial in the daytime to see how his place really worked.
The piece in the above picture that he’s sanding is actually a heart-shaped bowl for Valentine’s Day. Would you believe me if I told you that the heart still attached to the lathe came from a piece of wood like the one in this photo?
Someday, we’ll get our hands dirty. During this visit, we just got to watch him make a mess and observe his techniques while operating the lathe at 1,100RPM. How a bowl is actually shaped is very interesting (and not done how I would have expected), but I can’t even begin to explain it logically in a way you’d follow. What I’m getting at is, if you have a chance to watch someone woodturning, do it (hell, the odds are probably slim so just youtube it).
If you’re free on Friday, come by Sam’s studio on the 4th floor of The Hungerford Building. And if not this Friday, future First Friday’s (the first Friday in every month).
For more information on how to purchase products, or even order a custom piece, please contact Sam Tischler at firstname.lastname@example.org or via facebook.