wooden bowls

Wooden bowls are very simple things but they also have the capacity to be very meaningful. This bowl was made by George Lailey “the last bowlturner” who died in 1958 and was the inspiration behind my work. It is a joy to use and all the nicer because it has already seen 60 years hard use. Wooden bowls when made for use like this age beautifully, no bowl made on an electric lathe, sanded and sealed will have the vitality that this bowl has. This is what I am seeking in my work and hoping that my customers will enjoy using their bowls every day and seeing them develop in their character.
Here are a couple of porringers sent out in the post yesterday, I have recently changed my packaging, after 17 years of recycling wine boxes from the supermarket I have realised that a 40p new box makes people feel very different about the contents and that is important. There is a bit of me that still struggles with the fact that there is too much discarded packaging in the world but I have to make a living and the fact is folk feel very different having spent £70 on a pair of bowls if they open this package than if they open a scratty wine box. I pack them with wood shavings.

This is how I hope they will be used, a gorgeous photo sent to me by a customer a few years ago now, wonder how that bowl and owner are getting on now.


I was just sent a link to this blog talking about a glass bowl, some of the words I thought were wonderful and I wish had been written about my work, here they are;

Suh’s vessel is to my mind a perfect response to our contemporary condition, in which so much of what we experience is offered up as fleeting images accessed with our fingertips through glossy glass surfaces. Now more than ever, we need fully-formed, three-dimensional objects such as this that we can engage to remind us that we are human, and to connect us with the gestures of our distant past.”

If you are inspired to try using wooden bowls like this link will take you to bowls I  currently have available.

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14 Responses to wooden bowls

  1. ziggy March 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    About packaging: I find that using an old/recycled box, if it is wrapped in some brown paper (like a paper bag cut up, or butcher paper, etc.), makes all the difference. It hides the old thing from view upon arrival. Just a thought.

  2. Rickey Noel Mitchell March 7, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    "no bowl made on an electric lathe, sanded and sealed will have the vitality that this bowl has. "Good morning Robin. Just wanted to let you know I truly enjoy the work in wood and words ,your wife and you do. I 've been a professional carver and turner a good part of my adult life. with the exception of a 10 year break. While I see a treadle lathe in my near future.I'm still turning on an old electric rockwell lathe.I learned early in the game, the sharper my tool or blade… the less I sanded. These days when I do a round bowl I scrape not sand. Of course unless it's a really special piece of wood , I only work greenwood.There vitality is in my bowls. Cheers Rickey Noel Mitchell

  3. Robin Wood March 7, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    @Ricky, it is true that it is possible to make a nice bowl on an electric lathe but it is rarely done. Richard Raffan makes some lovely bowls turned green and left straight off the tool but most folk use dry wood, high speed, sand and seal. It no longer looks like wood but more importantly it is not a good finish for use and it does not age beautifully.

  4. Nick Membery March 7, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    I always send out my pots in second hand boxes – maybe I shouldn't?It is an interesting point that you have raised – as makers how should we present the beautiful, handmade and relatively expensive objects we make, to our customers?

  5. Nick Membery March 7, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. jarrod March 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    Great post robin, I too am struggling with the box issue…still one the fence though…

  7. Robin Wood March 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    I have struggled with this issue for years and always used old tatty boxes. I know how that would make me feel when it landed on the doorstep having spent serious money on the contents. It would make me feel like the maker did not value the work and I would not either. I hate masses of plastic packaging but a new cardboard box is renewable and recyclable, think about how you feel when opening packaging good or bad. My box cost 40p that is 1% of the value of the contents and it saves me time cutting and patching second hand boxes.

  8. Alastair March 7, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    I had locally made custom cartons when I made furniture many years ago – they looked fantastic and cost little compared to the value of the item. As a contrast, F Pain, author of 'The Practical Woodturner' used to send me crosses he'd made in old cornflakes boxes!

  9. Julian March 7, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    I started turning wooden bowls a few years ago when a chap I worked with told me about an electric lathe that was going cheap. It was this blog that inspired me and especially to throw away the sandpaper. To be honest though I always felt like a bit of cheat because I use an electric lathe. I was delighted when i came across the work of Jim Sannerud through Jarrod Stonedahl's blog and I feel ok about myself again now. I need to buy one of your lovely bowls Robin. Maybe I'll arrange to get it from you at Spoonfest and you won't have to package it at all.

  10. Robin Wood March 8, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    Julian I am glad to have provided some inspiration and particularly to work without sandpaper. There is absolutely no need to feel guilt about electric lathes I think they are good tools just most people use them the wrong way Jim's work is a great example of how they can be used well.

  11. Russ Morin March 9, 2013 at 3:06 am #

    Robin, could you address the 'care and feeding' of wooden plates and bowls? I always wash by hand but what else do I need to know?Russ

  12. Survival in the Wasteland March 10, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    Robin, is that bowl elm? How does it taste? i turned a set of bowls and plates for my family about 6 months ago, and they taste horrible with hot food- we use them anyway though, but has th' flavor mellowed after so many years i'm wondering? Great score by th' way, cheers, ~rico

  13. Robin Wood March 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    @Russ, I can only give advice for my own work, whether they last well depends more on how they are cut from the tree than anything you do to it afterwards. I never "feed" my bowls at home. I treat them when I make them with linseed, there is a blog post with a link on the right about which oils are best to use. I wash up in warm water with detergent, let drain dry then use again next time.Rico, yes it is elm. I often laugh when folk come into the workshop and go Oh doesn't wood smell wonderful, well yes some does and some doesn't I love the smell of ash and dislike the smell of elm. Most of the smell is in the sap and goes once really dry and once it has been washed a good few times. If yours are still not nice after 6 months I am surprised and not sure what is going on.

  14. Graeme December 2, 2013 at 12:38 am #

    From a marketing point of view, wrapping a used box in your own label would be a good move and the recycled box issue can be a covered to customer satisfaction with a blurb on the care card about environmental ethics ie it’s a wine box because you care.

    Flip side by buying new boxes, you are supporting a modern craft, that of rotary die cutter. While boxes are cut out by machines the dies are designed and made by hand. I have a cousin who was head-hunted by Pan-Pac for this. While he was scholastically challenged to say the least in the real world both his noggin and his hands are very talented.

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