Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Toby Fulwiler…came to turning wooden bowls from two different but complementary directions. First, for some thirty-five years, Toby has made a living as a writer and teacher of writing. He learned as a writer, and passed along to his students that attention to the process of composing made the product that much better. The process of writing something meaningful is messy, unpredictable, full of false starts and dead ends, often frustrating, and demands a great deal of patience and serious revision. Sometimes you control your idea, other times, the language controls it and pushes you to places you have never been before. At the same time, if you persevere, rough out your idea one way, then another, and trust the shape that emerges, your writing will make good sense, others will understand you, and you will feel good about your craft.
The same lessons about a messy process apply to making something useful and pleasing from wood: like the idea that triggers a piece of writing, you discover wood somewhere in the forest, chainsaw then band saw to circular form, and chisel on way, then another until the shape pleases you. As in writing sometimes you control the cutting, other times the wood—the grain, pattern, shape, knots, texture- demands a direction you never saw coming. In writing and turning both, what keeps you going are the discoveries, delights, twists and turns, and sometimes mistakes that make each finished product unique. (I was here, I made this, I’m alive, and all’s right with the world!)
The other direction that fuels this bowl-turning passion comes from where and how Toby lives on ninety acres of mixed hardwood in Fairfield, VT. Toby manages a woodlot for wildlife habitat, timber harvest, maple syrup production, and fuel wood. The forest, along with his vegetable and flowers gardens, keeps his small family in touch with life’s natural and fundamental processes. Then, last year, to Toby’s surprise and delight, his forest provided yet another precious resource: sugar maple, black cherry, white ash, paper and yellow birch, apple and elm—raw material for the creative life. if you have a working lather, sharp chisels, and a bit of imagination, the forest provides the fundamental stuff for imaginative expression. In some small but meaningful way, fashioning smooth and interesting shapes from the wood grown in good Vermont soil connects Toby to a long line of pioneers, naturalists, and artisans who lived on and learned from their native land. (Yes, I’m still here, I work the land, I’m alive, and least for now, all’s right with the world!)*All bowls displayed are finished with food-sage beeswax/mineral oil mix. Purchasers should not put bowls in water or dishwasher, and should wax or oil the bowls as needed.

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