Process

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A wet Orkney sycamore blank is 1st turned on the lathe to the bowl shape. A rim has been turned round the top with a grooved out area for the sisal. While on the lathe lines are turned round the bowl to mark the areas for carving. The bowl is then left to dry for a couple of months, depending on the size. The next stage is the marking out for the hand carving. The bowl is placed back on the lathe as it is held in a good position to work on. If there are any rough bits Michael will sand the bowl before he begins marking it out. He starts by dividing the rim into quarters using the chuck jaws as a guide. These are the four places the sisal will loop to the inside of the bowl 1a. The width of the joiners pencil is just right either side of the quarter line 1b. Scientific and technical measurements don’t really play a big part here, ‘Organic’ form is our thing :-).

Next Michael marks squares with in the carving rings. 1c Once all the squares are marked a diagonal line is drawn on 1 followed by the lines to fill in the shapes 5.

Once Michael is happy he begins carving. The straight up and down lines are done then all the infill.791011 I’ll leave him to it, with a cup of tea and the radio. 

Back in the shed now (after a cup of coffee). All the carving is done, two rings of decoration on this piece 17. Small holes are drilled as a guide to help create the slots for the threading of the sisal 18. A Foredom carver is used to open up the holes. 20.22 Once the slots are all cut and sanded 2326 the sisal is wrapped around roughly to get the length required 28. The one end is then glued to the bowl, the other is given a coating of glue to make it stiff therefore easier to thread. Michael then laces the sisal around the rim keeping it tight and in position 30. He traps the starting end of the sisal under the first few turns and will thread the end under too. With a little jiggling the start and finish points are blended in to give a smooth and unobtrusive finish.

33Once all the sisal is in place a blow torch is used to burn off straggly fibres. This is the same process as is done to an Orkney chair for the straw and the sisal. To get the look of the Neolithic pottery ware (pots used on a fire) he burns the sisal more than the chair makers do so that the sisal is singed to a degree. 3437

Michael then uses the torch to ebonise the carved areas on the bowl. A piece of steel is used to create a barrier to contain the flame.404245

The bowl is now given its 1st coat of oil and left for a couple of days to dry thoroughly. The base of the bowl will be turned to a finish and several coats of oil will be applied with days in between each to ensure they dry. Each bowl will take different amounts of oil to finish to the standard Michael will be happy with only then will the bowl be handed to me to put in the gallery.