images provided by Barbara Dill off her website, www.barbaradill.com
Barbara, it looks like you have made a huge career change – from a 21-year career in nursing and psychiatric emergency care to a career in creative woodturning. So many of us dream of making a shift like that to an artistic career. What advice would you give?
Yes, I really thought that I would always work as a nurse. I was burning out dealing with psychiatric and emotional emergencies with patients as well as staff. I saw that a wood carving class was being held in Richmond for adults so I took it and fell in love with wood. A few years later, we decided that I could retire from nursing, so I did. In the summer of 1990 I studied with Michael Hosaluk. I was the only beginner in a design course, but everyone helped me along. I went home and bought a General lathe and I’ve been turning ever since. So my advice to others is to pay attention to opportunities and take classes of things you’ve never done…..you never know where that will lead you.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
The teacher of my wood carving class became a close friend. I loved the focus that he had and the passion he had for his craft…also the time he took to sharpen his tools and to make each carving. He had a reverence for wood. My father was a musician and my sister and I played brass instruments and started at a young age. I could lose myself while practicing, I could lose myself when studying mathematics and I can lose myself in my shop turning wood.
Your turned forms are exquisite. “Multi-axis works” and “split turnings.” Briefly, how do you make them?
I noticed multi axis turnings in the early 90’s. My first attempts were scary and exciting and frustrating. I gave up until 2006. I challenged myself to figure out how to think about multi axis work. I grew tired of randomly changing the axes and then not really knowing what had happened. So I secluded myself and just turned spindles and looked to see if any had anything in common. My mantra was “what if”. Once I had come up with a way to understand what was happening, I then started to play with intention, rather than randomly experimenting. I still feel lucky when something works, and it comes from having turned hundreds of spindles.
What level of student will feel comfortable taking your class?
It really helps a student to have skills with spindle turning….feeling comfortable with a spindle gouge or a skew and being about to reliably turn beads and coves.
Your studio is a large cabin in the woods in Virginia. Please tell us about it.
We live about 20 miles outside of Richmond on 10 acres of mostly wooded land. I built this shop just after my only sister died suddenly of a cerebral aneurism in 2003 just before her 60th birthday. I used the money that she had saved to build my studio. I named it “Two Sisters Studio and Gallery” in her honor and had my Mom and cousins come here from Tennessee for a dedication in 2004. It is a lovely and peaceful place to work/play.
Is this your first experience at Anderson Ranch? What are you looking forward to here?
For years I have heard wonderful things about Anderson Ranch. I know that it has a fabulous reputation for quality of instruction and facilities. And also that the location can’t be beat! I look forward to exploring the area around Aspen and to having the honor of teaching there.
Love what you see? Take Barbara’s class on Woodturning on multi-axis, or browse her website for even more awe inspiring work.