THE SIX FOOT GALLERY INTERVIEW: Michael Sinclair (Awakenings)

Six Foot Gallery is delighted to present its annual spring show, Awakenings, featuring twenty-seven artists working in a diverse range of mediums and disciplines including sculpture, soundscapes, textiles, collage, video, woodturning, jewellery, photography, screenprinting, performance, and painting.

Michael Sinclair is a native Orcadian, who has been practising the craft of woodturning for over 30 years. Being self-taught he has honed his skills using a combination of practice, experimentation and the desire to produce fine, attractive pieces. He was accepted onto the Register of Profession Turners (RPT) in 2017. Influence and inspiration are drawn from the works of Neolithic and Viking inhabitants of ancient Orkney. The culture of the Islands is also an important part of Michael’s life, and his work reflects his affinity with Orkney and its heritage of craftsmanship.

Hi Michael! Can you walk us through your creative process?
Whole logs are sourced, usually timber that is earmarked for processing into firewood. The log is cut into thick boards or blocks, either on our sawmill or with the chainsaw. At this stage defects or interesting grain patterns can either be cut away or selected for inclusion in suitable bowl-size blanks. Blanks are mounted on the lathe and the outside shape of the bowl is developed using hand-held woodturning gauges. The outside design of the bowl has to be decided at this stage. The bowl is then turned round and re-mounted on the lathe for the inside to be hollowed out. Any carving required on the outside of the bowl is usually done at this stage (while the timber is still green). The unseasoned bowl is then set aside to dry for a few weeks or anything up to a few months. After drying final sanding is done and any additional work, such as pyrography, or the addition of metal patches and staples. Finally, the piece will be given an oiled finish. This is my preferred method of working with fresh-cut timber.

How has your practice changed over time?
The core woodturning skills have remained the same however time spent working off the lathe has increased. Some of my pieces now have many hours of hand decoration done at the workbench and I see this continuing to be the case as I develop different aspects of my work.

Which artists inspire you? Are there non-artistic influences such as literature or music that impact your work?
The woodturning artists who inspired me when I started turning in the 1990s were Ray Key, John Jordon and Bert Marsh. Molly Winton was a great inspiration for her turning and her exquisite pyrography on pieces. Mike Scott ‘CHAI’ for his larger sculptural pieces. A sculptor whose work I admire greatly is Barbara Hepworth, for her work in wood, stone, and bronze. I have seen some of her pieces for many years, which are on permanent display at The Pier Arts Centre here in Orkney. I have also visited the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, a truly inspirational place.

What emotions or reactions do you hope viewers experience when they see your artwork?
I hope viewers have the urge to pick up my pieces and experience how they feel in the hand. I also like viewers to look closely at my work and discover small hidden details, hoping that each time they pick up a piece they uncover something new and interesting, whether this would be a natural feature or some small addition that I have made. A piece should be handled and enjoyed, this will also help it develop its own natural patina.

What do you do to keep motivated and interested in your work?
I like to have a variety of works in progress. I can divide my day up with various aspects of the process, turning at the lathe, working at the bench or even working with the raw material outside. This all helps to alleviate fatigue, and repetitive strain and helps keep the whole work routine interesting.

What advice would you give to artists who are just starting out?
Value and appreciate your own work, if you do not no one else will.

See more of Michael’s work on his website and his Instagram @orkwoodturner Awakenings runs at Six Foot Gallery until Friday 24th May.

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