Over the past forty-five years, David Ellsworth has become known as one of the premier designers of turned wooden vessel forms. His work is included in the permanent collections of forty-four museums and numerous private collections. He is a Fellow and former Trustee of the American Craft Council and has received fellowship awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, and the PEW Fellowship for the Arts.
In 2009 he was elected by the James A. Renwick Alliance of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. to receive the prestigious “Master of the Medium” award in wood. He is also the recipient of the Lifetime Membership Award from the American Association of Woodturners, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Collectors of Wood Art. In 2021 he received the Prestigious Visionary Award from the Smithsonian Institution. He runs his own private school of woodturning at his home and studio near Weaverville, North Carolina.
As my aesthetic in vessel making has evolved over the decades, I have tried to maintain a delicate balance between what the material brings to me and what I can bring to the material. It is clearly an interactive process, often a balance between working with unique materials to literally stumbling on a rotten old stump that becomes the inspiration for a whole new direction in my work.
My “Spirit Forms” are designed to capture the energy of the observer, to draw them into the interior, and to hold them within the privacy of an imagined space. As the potter, Paul Soldner once said, “Never underestimate the power of small objects.”
Cut rim bowl from half a log
Working from green wood has always been my passion. This demonstration will cover all the highlights of mounting a half log, adjusting the position between centers to maximum the exposure and direction of the grain, rough cutting the form, slicing the fibers to refine the design, shear-scraping the surface to gain a 220 grit surface prior to sanding, and reverse chucking the form on a home-made jam chuck to finish the base.
Natural Edge bowl from half a log
This will be an exercise in how to manipulate the form in order to maximize the drama of the design. Included will be manipulating the form to get the best design from the half log, roughing out and refining the exterior shape using slicing and shear-scraping cuts, then roughing out the interior prior to managing a delicate interior finishing cut using the “wrong” side of the gouge.
Hollow form from whole log
This demonstration will focus on manipulating the log in order to adjust the grain direction to accentuate the design patterns of the form. I will use my Signature gouge in many different directions, including backward slicing and shear-scraping cuts to refine the exterior. This will be followed by using my home-made hollowing tools to gut and refine the interior. And finally, reverse the form using a jam chuck to finish off the base.