A natural craftsman at heart, Don’s attention to detail is unparalleled, and it’s evident that everything he creates with his hands comes from his passion for design.
I always loved woodworking even as a kid. After high school, I went into the Army and when I got out I did other things. I was a welder, a car mechanic, and worked for Perkin Elmer for about ten years as an industrial optician. Then in the 70’s there was a big layoff, and I went to work in the trades as a carpenter in Vermont. After a few years, I started my own shop doing renovating and remodeling. I was prompted to get into boat building because it was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. It didn’t really work out, so I went back to doing regular carpentry work, which is how I made my living. After doing this for a number of years, I went back to the art side, making pieces that were artistic. I did some turning in Danbury on Balmforth Avenue where I had my cabinet shop and a bowl business. Then in 2004, I took a refresher class with (Lost Loon Woodworks, Brookfield, CT)…and that was it!
The first things I made were art pieces. When I first started turning, I made two pieces called “Stilts” and “Launching Landings” that were very artistic and featured in an art gallery in Ridgefield, CT. I sold both on the same night and I was proud. I was really quite happy with those kinds of things.
The Inspiration for the flower family, (shown far right below) started with the idea of making a sculptural piece that represents inclusion and diversity. Each is named; Victoria and her child have the same skin color and body shape, Aunt Alice Alabaster is taller has different colored skin, and has 3 legs a long neck, red mouth, a yellow throat, and 1 leg is white.
I became involved with the Brookfield Craft Center in the late 70’s with Dee Wagner as the driving force. They advertised for volunteers to help with repairs to the old buildings, and since I was in the business at that time, I offered for that and other work. I was also asked to teach, so I started teaching boat building and Shaker furniture making. At that time, these classes were in the old Woodworking shop. I taught a few classes with all kinds of woodworking projects and it went pretty well. Then in 2004 I started turning and offered to teach that class. The first class was pens and beginner level things. It’s been fun teaching there.
I’m pleased that a couple of my students have entered their work in shows. One of my students, Alan Ganning entered an epoxy rim bowl at a symposium in Saratoga a few years ago and won first prize. I also teach a nun at the Abbey in Bethlehem who created and showed a woodworking piece for a show of items from the Abbey.
As a teacher it’s nice to pass knowledge on to younger people…because this is an old man’s craft. If you get out the pictures of the old Woodturning Club, you’ll see lots of gray hair there!
My creative outlet now is just in wood turning…bowls, ice cream scoops, pens, those kinds of things. I’ve always liked doing something with my hands. When you’re working with turning, it’s easy enough to slip into the passion for woodworking. It’s harder to maintain that passion if you’re trying to make a living out of it, if it becomes a job. I’ve already been down that job road.
Now I can just create stuff, especially on the lathe. It’s kind of fast and when you make a mistake, you can get creative. When I start some pieces of wood, I think “what do I do with this thing, it’s totally useless.” When you make a mistake, you can change it a little bit. It’s not easy but more creative in a quicker way. If it doesn’t work out you only lost a piece of wood. You’re more free to experiment and try different things.