From Steel to Wood In One Big Leap
I had no interest in wood when I was at school and found woodworking a chore, then as an adult I went to work at ASW Steelworks in Cardiff,
I worked with hot steel for over twelve years until the fateful day in July 2002 when the company went into liquidation, overnight I had lost my future and my pension, what could I do now ???
The only skills I had were welding and steel fabrication and at 48 years of age no one would employ me in that area of work, the union arranged with Elwa Wales and the Steel Partnership ( set up to help the redundant steel workers and their spouses ) to re-train anyone in anything they wanted to do for the future.
After three days of racking our brains and wondering what we could do next as we had just bought our home and had a mortgage to pay, my wife suggested woodturning , which I had been doing as a hobby in my little garden shed for the past eight months. Her words were, lets have a go at woodturning, it doesn't look that hard so, for the next eighteen months we attended various courses including several courses in Sculptural and Conventional Woodturning, Pyrography and Carving and became proficient in the areas we thought we would need.
There were no woodturning courses available in South Wales where we live so there was a gap in the market for us to fill, our dream was to have a woodturning school. I had £2,500 redundancy payment from the EU because of working with hot steel, now we had a choice to make, pay the debts and start fresh or use the money to build a workshop which could give us a future. My wife and I built the workshop and we were on our way to re-building our life, the first few months were really hard with little or no money coming in, but we would not give up, we both enjoyed woodturning so much.
The professional wood turners we had met during our time of training were very helpful and pointed us in the right direction, they told us that it would be hard work to make any kind of living from it, this gave us a few reservations which were soon dispelled by the love of the wood, we decided that doing a job one could enjoy doing was much more important than becoming rich, even though that would be nice, we worked really hard for the first 18 months
perfecting our skills and becoming proficient in what we were doing.
We managed to purchase all the tools we would need and had a dream of owning a VB36, the rolls royce of wood lathes, we were told by some negative people that we would never make it, but with grit and determination and the will to prove the doubters wrong we struggled on, and we managed to raise the money to buy the VB36 within a year, as soon as we got the lathe in our workshop and turned it on for the first time, we knew we could not go back whatever happened, so our future was truly underway.
Unfortunately, my wife had an underlying lung problem, and was advised not to work with the wood in the dusty atmosphere of a workshop, this put a block on our plans to have a school of woodturning so we started selling our products at local craft fairs and country shows, now I do the turning and my wife does most of the other things needed to survive., she still holds on to her dream of woodturning again sometime in the future and in the meantime has taken up carving wood.
I have my work in several exclusive art galleries throughout Wales and England and attend the large craft events where a full range of my work can be viewed and bought, sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe I am doing something I enjoy, our love for wood has grown out of all proportion because it is such a beautiful medium to work with, each piece is different, I can now look at a piece of wood and know what sort of thing I am going to create by looking at the clefts and dips in the trunk, it seems I have been blessed with the vision of a finished product, and so far I have not been disappointed with any of the pieces I have made.
The one thing we had not considered after having to give up our dream of a woodturning school was the amount of lovely people we would meet through the craft fairs and country shows, our address book is bulging with people we have met that want to keep in contact, there are some we meet on a regular basis at craft fairs we attend, so it isnt just the wood in our life we have been blessed with, we have also been blessed with many new friends. Our hopes for the future are that we will make enough money one day to open a school of woodturning and a gallery of our own, until then we will plod along doing as we are, and we will do it smiling.