Flow theory in craft, or blissing out turning bowls

I spent Friday collecting a large beech tree. This is an exciting time, I am very careful selecting wood that I hope will turn well, the right wood is a joy to use and makes great bowls. You never know from the outside of a tree how it will be to work. I am often asked which wood is may favourite, they are all individuals and I could not choose a species of tree as a favourite any more than I could say I like French people more than Italians. One beech can be heavenly and the next a real challenge, if it’s gnarly I am in for many weeks hard work.


 I cut it up with the chainsaw, my woodpile is in a nice spot.

 For 20 years I have cut my bowl blanks with a chainsaw where most turners use a bandsaw, I did this partly because I was a forester so I used the tool I had and knew and partly because I am pathologically tight and did not have the money for the bandsaw. I was recently offered a gorgeous old Felder at a silly price and Saturday I cut the first blanks on it, much faster with less waste, I can see why everyone else uses them.

This is the view form the doorway of my upstairs workshop, not bad.

 I turned a few bowls just to get a feel for the wood, it is a tough but has promise.

 Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I turned more getting better each day and changing the bevel angles on my tools to suit the wood. It will be worth getting everything right because it is a big tree and I’ll be making hundreds of bowls from it. Then today was full production. 4 days in and I am now in love with my beech tree. It is making the most beautiful clean simple bowls, it’s tough wood so I am turning them a little thinner than I sometimes do, the colour is going to be great when they are finished and oiled. Mostly though it is just a complete joy to cut, there is a theory of “flow” proposed by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, I was completely in a state of flow today, bliss. Oh and it was my first ever 20 bowl day too though I am totally wiped out.

FLOW is “Perhaps you know this feeling that everything suddenly seems to go by itself. You are so concentrated on your task that you forget everybody and everything around you. Time flies without you noticing it. You can concentrate effortlessly, everything goes smoothly, and you really enjoy what you do. You know exactly where you want to go, and you have the feeling of total control. Nothing seems to be able to stop you, and you are totally immersed in what you are doing. In a way, you have the feeling that you coincide with the activity at hand. At that moment simply nothing else exists. You feel as if in another reality and that is a very enjoyable experience.” (Roberts & Jackson, 1992)

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3 Responses to Flow theory in craft, or blissing out turning bowls

  1. pfollansbee June 13, 2013 at 12:28 am #

    20 bowls in a day, and no comments? Amazing Robin. Nice going, sounds like a wonderful day.

  2. Brian June 13, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    Great tree and a great run of bowls, and the view from the workshop aint to shabby :)

  3. jarrod June 15, 2013 at 2:47 am #

    a BANDSAW! what! I sold mine and went over to a chainsaw…bandsaw dust is a killer. Great stuff Robin, 20 bowls is very impressive.

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