Our PBAA featured artist for January is Brian Childers, a wood turner who was born and raised in Woodland, California.
Commenting on his early life, Brian says, “I briefly escaped for various attempts at higher education and a few years of seasoning on the road. Fully seasoned and slightly educated, I returned to my hometown to work at and eventually run a family agricultural manufacturing business for some 45 years.”
In 2014, Brian sold that business and moved to Brookings with wife Gwendolynn, leaving two sons, a daughter, and four grandchildren back in California.
Today, reports Brian, “Turning exotic hardwoods is my passion. The act of manipulating a block of wood with saw and drill and lathe to find the possibilities within is both a maddening series of questions and a satisfying set of answers.”
In order to get a palette of colors and textures that he finds “rewarding to the eye and the hand,” Brian focuses on woods that will expose tantalizing features of grain and surface when finished: padauk, wenge, satine, purpleheart, cocobolo, African blackwood, and other rare hardwoods.
According to Brian, he seldom begins a project with a firm vision of where it is going, but rather, as he cuts and turns the wood, he tries to pay attention to what shape the wood is pushing him towards. Brian quotes Jasper Johns who said, “Take an object / Do something to it / Do something else to it. [Repeat.]”
Brian also says that his designs are influenced by the earthy shapes and fine finishes of the Arts and Crafts movement, which in turn are taken from the subtle elegance and the approach ability of the shapes found in the arts of Japan. Brian adds, “I try to keep my bowls and containers simple, unfussy — take the focus away from the maker and put the focus on the piece itself.”
His mentor, M. Dale Chase, who Brian says took the art of wood turning to new levels, passed on advice received from an elderly craftsman in Japan: “In whatever artistic endeavor you attempt, approach it always with these three words in your mind and in your heart: Brevity….Simplicity…Restraint.”
It’s obvious that Brian has listened, learned, and practiced this advice well.