In America, as well as in other
countries, opportunities for youth to experience or follow a career in
woodturning are being addressed. In
fostering growth amongst the next generation of woodturners the AAW in
conjunction with the FEWS (Far Eastern Woodturners Society) introduced an
exchange for youth. Spanning across
two countries the Japanese/American Exchange Program traveled far beyond the
Naoto Suzuki (a Japanese member
and president of the chapter most distant from the AAW office) proposed an idea
to address the need to inspire and broaden the experiences of young turners.
Naoto’s idea was to send a young Japanese student to the United States
and have a young American travel to Japan.
The goal was for each to be exposed to the turning of another culture for
inspiration and to broaden one’s perspective.
The AAW EOG (Educational
Opportunity Grants) Committee is pleased to report on the success of the initial
youth exchange program. The project
took months of planning with much support from the woodturning community that
spanned two countries, so diverse yet equally rich in tradition and cultural
After careful consideration, by
an EOG appointed committee who interviewed a pool of qualified youth applicants,
Lucas Hundley was chosen to represent the United States.
Lucas, a young turner from Newland, North Carolina, became interested in
woodturning at a very young age. His
father Doug, along with area woodturners Roger Jacobs and Alan Hollar,
encouraged Lucas to pursue his interest. Gaining
experience through the generosity of turners’ willingness to share Lucas was
given opportunities to grow in the field of woodturning.
Lucas is currently enrolled in the Haywood Professional Wood Craft
Program at Haywood Community College in North Carolina.
The young Japanese student was
Minako Suzuki (no relation to Naoto Suzuki).
Minako had just completed the third year, of a four- year training
program in traditional turning and lacquer work. She was selected from a class of twenty-nine students and
most eager to begin her adventure.
On June 21st Minako Suzuki‘s
visit to America began. She flew
into Seattle, WA and was greeted at the airport by Bonnie Klein. After a brief
visit to Woodcraft they enjoyed a picnic lunch, of sushi, at Alki Beach Park
across the water from downtown Seattle. The
glorious day provided a fantastic view of Seattle. Bonnie seemed amazed that Minako didn’t appear to be
suffering from “jet lag”.
While in Washington, Minako
visited the woodturning shop of Bill Luce, Bonnie’s favorite local woodturner,
whose shop is an impressive place for serious turners to see.
Minako was most willing to share her work, photos and information about
her studies in Japan. The best time was spent in Bonnie’s shop with both of them
turning and exchanging turning techniques.
Bonnie was fascinated to see the tools Minako made and how she
uses them. Minako wanted to make a
threaded box, so they both made one, blending techniques from each other.
Bonnie learned how to cut the end grain on the bottom so clean that it
shined! Minako learned how to use
“our” chatter tool. Bonnie got a kick out of using Minako’s tool rest over the
bed of her Klein lathe. It worked
Bonnie thought the most fun part was when she had a
little catch and said “oops” out loud.
Minako quickly picked up on her “new” word as they both had several
occasions to use it throughout the day. It
was always good for a giggle.
Quick to admit that her time with Minako passed too quickly, Bonnie says
Minako is a delightful young lady. Taking
everything in stride, Minako was open to any and all experiences.
Bonnie comments that Minako is a great ambassador for her turning school
and that her instructor should be very proud of her.
Trent Bosch remembers when the AAW EOG Committee approached him about
hosting an exchange student from Japan. He
was very excited about the idea and a bit unsure about how it would work out
because of the language barrier. When
Minako arrived in Denver, Colorado she immediately made a hit with the whole
family, especially the kids. Trent and Minako shared woodturning techniques with
each other while Minako share origami techniques with his children.
They found Minako to be a very kind young lady who was able to understand
English reasonably well.
Learning from each other was the most exciting part of the whole
experience for Trent. The timing of
Minako’s visit was perfect as Trent had one of his workshops scheduled, that
she was able to participate in. She
caught right onto the western style of woodturning.
Using the sweptback bowl gouge, hollowing tools and carving tools, she
was able to create some very interesting work.
They got into bowls, hollow forms, surface treatment, texturing, dying,
bleaching, painting, etc. It was a
During her visit some woodturners, from the area, joined the Bosch’s
for a barbeque. Minako shared her
techniques and work with everybody during the event.
Everyone was amazed at how different yet similar their techniques were.
Trent shares that the time spent with Minako was enjoyable and
educational and he would not hesitate to do it again.
Thanking the AAW for the opportunity to host Minako, Trent enjoyed it
Minako then spent a week at the
Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Indiana.
As a student at the school she performed the western style turning, as
does everyone else in Alan Lacer’s class, something which Minako
had very limited experience in. On
Thursday she was asked to do a demonstration of traditional Japanese turning.
Fortunately she brought her tools and tool rest, necessary to share this
radically different manner of turning. Watching
her Alan knew he saw the makings of a master turner.
Minako’s lacquer work probably caused the greatest stir among those in
attendance. Not lacquer, as we know
in the west, but Japanese urushi. Urushi
is processed from the sap of the tree and painstakingly applied with spatulas
and fine brushes. Alan feels the
special effects Minako achieved with color and texture were astounding, and
equal to any of the best we have to offer as to such treatments on turnings.
Alan has made several trips to Japan and commented that he never met a
turner who did urushi work nor a urushi artist who turned.
He feels as if Minako’s artistic ability in both turning and lacquer
work is a very unique quality. To top that off is the fact that she intends to
open her own shop after completing her schooling.
Alan shares that all of this points to a most talented and motivated
Minako arrived in Washington,
DC, on July 2nd. Tom
Boley, President of Capital Area Woodturners, and his wife Judi, greeted Minako
at Dulles International Airport. CAW (Capital Area Woodturners) was selected to
host Minako for part of her visit to the United States because of its proximity
to our nation’s capital. Minako spent nine days touring the area of
Washington, DC and Northern Virginia. With
the Boleys having lived in Japan for many years, Tom easily communicated with
Mianko in Japanese.
On Saturday, July 3rd the Boleys took Minako to the local
Woodcraft store where the CAW were co-sponsoring a Turn-a-Thon for the Freedom
Pen Project. Minako turned her
first pen, which she donated to the US troops stationed in Iraq. She was pretty excited about it, never having made a pen
before, so she made a second one, also for the troops.
Minako signed the tag (which all of the pen makers put on the pens) so
the recipients would know who made each pen for them. Tom and Judy took Minako to a local exotic wood store to see
the variety of wood available to US turners.
Later, back at the Boley’s, Tom taught Minako how to make an inside-out
ornament. She made two ornaments,
and later took them to the CAW meeting, for show and tell, the following
Since Minako had been living at such a frantic pace since her arrival in
America, she welcomed the opportunity to just relax around the house on Sunday.
Yet, the Fourth of July was not without customary
celebration as the Boleys hosted a cookout with their neighbors. After watching the National Mall festivities on TV, they
dashed out to a Springfield, VA golf course to enjoy the live fireworks show.
Most of Monday was spent in Tom’s shop, as Minako made pens for gifts
to her loved ones in Japan. Minako
had an opportunity to go sightseeing on Tuesday, with CAW member Dani Klorig.
While visiting George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, they stopped to
see one of the remaining 13 white ash trees, which have been documented as
having been planted by George Washington himself.
Dani took Minako to some galleries and artists’ studios in Old Town
Alexandria. Minako was surprised to
see so much Japanese style pottery being made.
On Wednesday CAW held a special Skill Enhancement session.
Minako treated the members to a woodturning demonstration, of her
Japanese woodturning methods. After the session Phil Brown, one of CAW’s professional
woodturners, took her to visit galleries in Alexandria, VA and Washington, DC.
Neighbors of the Boleys took Minako for a “walk through town” on
Friday. They visited many large and
impressive monuments to presidents and events. She saw the White House and
visited several art galleries, including the Renwick Gallery.
Arrowmont School of the Arts
and Crafts was Minako’s next stop. She spent a week taking a woodturning class
taught by class Christian Burchard. Many
techniques were explored including the art of turning spheres and hollow forms.
Minako used tools and techniques that were very different from the ones she uses
in Japan. Christian commented on
how quickly she learned. Minako was invited to give a demo for the class on her
Japanese style of turning and her traditional tools and their uses.
They modified a One Way lathe so she could use the tool rest she brought
with her from Japan. Christian
shared that they were all impressed by her tool technique and speed as well as
the perfect surfaces that her tools left. Not
to mention that she forged all her tools herself.
While at Arrowmont, Minako had the opportunity to visit many other
classes being offered in other Art mediums being taught that week which
Arrowmont is famous for.
After leaving Arrowmont, Minako
traveled to Asheville, North Carolina for a few days where she was hosted by Ray
Jones and Linda Hynson (members of the North Carolina Mountain Woodturners).
During her stay she attended a meeting of North Carolina Mountain
Woodturners chapter, which was an all day session. She enjoyed an exhibit at the
Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, which was a great place for her to see
some excellent regional crafts. Asheville,
known for its wealth in the crafts and galleries, was a perfect place for Minako
to tour several galleries and local woodworker studios.
On a visit to Haywood Community College they toured the wood studio of
the Production Crafts Program. Minako
shared her portfolio and discussed techniques with the students there.
Minako experienced her first kayaking trip while in Asheville, thanks to
her adventurous hosts.
Ray and Linda learned from
Minako, about her life in Japan, even as she was living each day immersed in our
culture, language and customs. Their
family thoroughly enjoyed meeting Minako and hope to see her again as she
travels the globe as a world famous lacquer ware artist.
Minako was eager to attend the
18th annual AAW Symposium held in Orlando, Florida.
She was looking forward to meeting Lucas Hundley, as her youth exchange
was drawing to a close, his adventure was just beginning.
The young artists were introduced during the opening session, along with
FEWS president Naoto Suzuki whose initial idea of an exchange program became a
reality. During the symposium
Minako and Lucas demonstrated to an attentive group.
In a filled demo room attendees were treated to the talent and techniques
of the inspiring youth. Both Minako
and Lucas enjoyed the opportunity to meet many people from whom they learned a
great deal. Lucas and his
parents were able to meet Naoto, and spend time with him discussing the details
of Lucas’s anticipated journey to Japan.
On Monday, after the Symposium
Lucas boarded a plane, bound for Tokyo, Japan.
Excitement mounted as thoughts raced forward in anticipation of the
journey that lied ahead. Traveling
to Tokyo with Minako and Naoto proved to be a comfortable trip.
Upon arrival, they parted company with Minako who went to join a friend.
After getting settled into a business hotel, Naoto and Lucas ventured out
for an evening meal. Lucas
commented on how quiet the streets were for being as busy with people and
traffic as they were. Having dinner
at a Japanese Sushi bar was an eye-opening experience for Lucas, as a conveyor
belt full of an enormous assortment of sushi made its way around the bar full of
The following day Lucas and
Naoto met Minako at the bullet train station to travel to Yamanaka, Japan.
Riding the rail across Japan in 2 ½ hours was a fast and impressive ride
for Lucas. Enjoying the scenery
along the way he commented on how the landscape was ever changing in between the
Upon arriving at the Ishikawa
prefecture, where Lucas would be spending the next two weeks, Minako took Lucas
on a tour of the facilities. Minako
who attends school here as well, showed him through the display hall, the lathe
and tool rooms, the basic finishing and the decorative finishing room.
Feeling in awe of the facilities, he quickly learned why this was known
as the “urushi capital of Japan.” Naoto
introduced Lucas to Mr. Goto who coordinated his stay in Yamanaka.
From there they went to an apartment in the oldest house in this little
town. Lucas met Keinopi, who lived
in the apartment and was to be his roommate.
Lucas began his studies during
his first night at The Foundation of Yamanaka Lacquer Ware Technical Center.
After being given small dishes that had already been covered in clear
urushi, he was instructed to paint them decoratively with colored urushi.
Nervousness quickly set in when Lucas found out that he was under the
instruction of one of the finest urushi masters in the region.
His instructor had a difficult time communicating with Lucas, as he never
took an English language class. He
sent one of the students to get a Japanese to English dictionary so he could
express to Lucas what a good job he was doing.
Lucas found this instructor to be very supportive and encouraging.
Challenged with a language
barrier Lucas was relieved, the following day, to meet his interpreter.
Thankfully the three days she was scheduled to be with him turned into
two weeks, which was greatly appreciated.
She traveled with Lucas and Mr. Goto as they visited a small factory that
made urushi bowls at production speed. They
also visited some traditional urushi artists.
Lucas immediately noticed that the urushi artists didn’t seem to have
lathes in their homes. Inquiring
about this he learned that urushi artists and woodturners were of two different
professions. The only name that
goes on the bottom of a finished piece is that of the urushi artist.
Realizing that the woodturners never received credit for contributions
towards the finished pieces. Lucas
met a turner whose natural rim bowls won a national award yet the turner never
received any of the credit. As a
result he immediately began learning urushi so he could gain recognition for the
work he was doing.
Lucas was amazed at the
polishing techniques of the urushi artists.
He learned from a urushi artist that they use sandpaper all the way up to
four thousand grit. One artist
explained to him, that instead of using grades of sandpaper all the way up to
four thousand grit, he uses another technique.
This artist grounds raw sand stone and mixes it with oil to make a paste.
The process makes an even finer surface than the four thousand grit
sandpaper. Yet that is not the end
to the process, the final step is to polish it with charcoal.
Lucas was introduced to the
Japanese style of woodturning and initially felt as if he was learning to turn
all over again. The lathe he
learned on was about three feet in length, most of it housing for the motor and
belts. The far end of the lathe is
what might be described as the front of a bowl lathe. Having no lathe bed to attach a tool rest seemed very odd to
Lucas. Shaped like a miniature saw
horse the tool rest is in no way locked down or attached securely to the lathe.
It sits upon a table that is a correct height for turning if you sit on a
bench resembling that of a piano bench. While
holding both a tool and tool rest in his left hand Lucas was instructed to grasp
the cross bar of the tool rest, just behind a designated notch, with his pinky,
ring and middle fingers. After
placing the shaft of the tool in the notch, of the tool rest, the index finger
goes over the tool and along the top of the tool rest.
The tools he was turning with were hook tools that required him to lift
up on the handle, place the blade under the piece of wood and then push down on
the handle to bring the blade up into the wood. While being instructed he was
taught not to take the tool out of the notch. These actions definitely took
practice, and Lucas admits to having broken several tools in the process of
learning. Lucas learned that even
the masters were breaking tools as they were turning as well.
Later in the week he learned how to make tools like the ones he was using
. Making and breaking tools was
part of the learning process and Lucas was pleased to report that he managed to
turn some fairly nice finished pieces.
The process of woodturning in
Japan varies from prefecture to prefecture.
Some woodturners prefer to squat at the lathe, as opposed to sitting on
the bench. Sometimes boxes were
built half as big as a room to house the motor.
The turner would have to sit on top of the box to turn as their feet hung
into the box to work the forward and reverse levers.
The doll turners Lucas saw worked on smaller lathes and used a massive
piece of wood, they let their tools slide on, as a tool rest.
When Lucas began learning the
process of urushi, he quickly reacted to raw urushi, the material is processed
from the sap of a tree. The
reaction was like that of poison ivy. Because
he does not react to poison ivy, Lucas thought he wouldn’t react to urushi but
found out differently. According to
his teachers he had a mild break out and could possibly become immune to it in
about a year, if he continued to work with it.
Lucas explains the many benefits of urushi include a gorgeous finish,
being food safe and being harder than any finish he’s come across.
During his travels in Japan
Lucas was amazed at the difference in turning from region to region.
Sighting the doll turners using different tool rests, the top turners and
toy makers also use very different tools from what he originally learned.
The difference in the tools themselves aren’t that significant but when
he asked them about using other types of tools these turners claim that they
never even heard of them. Lucas
explained that while visiting doll makers in Nikko, he learned that the head and
body of the doll were made from two different pieces of wood.
When the head of the doll was twisted on it would squeak.
A homemade spindle gouge is used to make the hole in the body for the
tendon of the doll head to fit in. These
artists have been creating dolls in this manner for centuries, yet two hundred
miles away turners have never heard of a spindle gouge.
Perplexed by this seemingly lack of sharing between woodturners, Lucas
wondered what causes the lack of communication between such talented and gifted
artists. He found that the answer
lies in that of a strong tradition within the Japanese culture.
Many artists learn their craft from family members, which pass their
knowledge down from generation to generation.
Lucas met families where many members were experienced in the same craft.
Feeling inspired beyond
woodturning techniques and finishes, Lucas and Minako convey their utmost
appreciation to the AAW and FEWS for what they describe as the opportunity of a
lifetime. Both young artists
experienced cultural diversity, shared memorable experiences and gained
knowledge in the world of woodturning.
The success of this premiere
project was astounding, and could only be made possible by the gracious
generosity of groups and individuals. The AAW EOG Committee would like to thank
everyone who participated in this project.
For it is with your support and dedication that we can continue to
provide education, information an organization in encouraging growth in the
field of woodturning.
Mark St. Leger, (AAW VP & EOG Chair), with contributions by those
individuals and groups involved in this project.