Alan Stirt: Woodturner, Artist and Teacher
These are images from the various series I've developed over the years. Click on an image to launch a slide show of each series.
One of my enduring interests has been the use of classical bowl forms. Simple, focused forms work well in showing off interesting grain patterns as well as being sculptural objects that can command space.
I made my first fluted bowl in 1981, inspired by a photo of a Chinese Song
Dynasty ceramic fluted bowl. My hope was to create an interesting bowl using
relatively uninteresting wood. The results were more successful than I had
hoped. Even plain wood has grain pattern which works with the carved flutes to produce new patterns and movement. Since then I have made fluted bowls from many different woods, both plain and highly figured, exploring the interaction of shape, carving, and grain pattern.
Around 1990 I started incorporating texture and carving in a series I was calling "double curve bowls."
The textures were a way to enhance the energy and movement inherent in these vessels. Varying the elements of line, type of wood, texture and pattern could profoundly change the personality of the bowl. These pieces had the feel of some African pots I half-remembered so the series got a new name. In the last few years I have been dying the wood black in some of these pieces, obscuring the grain and letting line, texture and pattern prevail.
Carving and texturing help me explore new forms of expression, both tactile and visual, within my pieces. l mostly work in an intimate, hand-held scale, where the tactile elements come into play. I am always striving to find a combinations of elements that work together to add life to a vessel.
In 1986-1987 the rims of the platters I was making became wider. This was a break from the thin, rounded edges that were predominant in my earlier work. I began to think of the rim as a "canvas" which would become a large part of the total composition of the piece. I called these pieces ceremonial bowls, because they referred to ceremonial functions rather than domestic ones.
The painted platters were a direct outgrowth of the ceremonial pieces. Cutting through a colored surface to reveal a pattern, modeled after the ceramic technique of sgraffito, enabled me to create new kinds of patterns while utilizing plain woods. With all of these pieces, the idea of the mandala was foremost. The rims carried a lot of energy, sometimes chaotic, which was resolved by the calm center.
I started my "Square" series in 2004. Influenced by the ceramic sculpture of Tony Hepburn and the wooden "blood bowls" of Jim Partridge, these pieces, turned from roughly rectangular blocks of wood, are both turned and unturned. They have led me to explore new types of patterns and to dive more deeply into the power of the imperfect and irregular.