“For me, turning a vessel can be compared to reading a good novel with a surprise ending.”
Wood artist Shirlen Heath took up wood-turning after semi-retiring in Mancos, Colorado. He first turned a few small objects on a factory-built lathe, but when he wanted to do larger pieces he built his own lathe that would accommodate the bigger wood. He found that he also had to make his own tools for turning the larger pieces.
Most of Heath’s shapes are based on southwestern Indian designs, inspired by the New Mexico and Colorado Anasazi Country near his home in Mancos. The wood he uses comes from dead and downed trees and burls gathered at family outings during the summer. Heath enjoys making turned objects from various woods such as aspen, mesquite, pine, walnut, redwood, buckeye, maple and oak.
The time spent on each piece varies depending on the size and type of wood. After each piece is turned, it is sanded and finished by hand-rubbing it with several coats of tung oil. The turned wood has natural imperfections and unique characteristics of color and grain, making each piece truly one-of-a-kind.