‘Turning Out’ wood show at Tomé Gallery


Wood working artists from around the county are hoping that interest in fine craftsmanship will have people “Turning Out” for the Tomé Art Gallery’s second annual wood show and sale.

The show, which runs through Tuesday, July 24, features wood artistry made from wood found right here in the Rio Grande bosque to pieces that have been fetched from the far reaches of Africa.

Submitted photo: Irling Smith creates beautiful patterned vases and bowls by turning wood on a lathe. Smith is one of the artists who will be featured in the Tomé Art Gallery’s second annual wood show and sale, “Turning Out.”

The show will feature wood quilting, furniture, retablos, gourd carving, intarsia, wood turning, boxes, bowls, wall hangings, carvings, mirrors and more.

Some well-known wood artisans participating in the show include Dennis Prichard, displaying his intarsia; Leonard Simms and his walking sticks; Irling Smith’s lathe turned bowls and vases and Carol Hanes wood quilting.

And while every imaginable wood working tool can be found in a store these days, Dave Candelaria’s display of antique woodworking tools reminds us that not only were woodworkers of days-gone-by making beautiful art, but their own tools as well.

A few days before the show opened, Prichard was at the gallery, hanging his detailed intarsia pieces. He said that while most people don’t like the idea of hanging a show, he enjoys the process of picking and choosing which pieces go up and how they all fit and flow together.

That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since intarsia is the art of taking small pieces of wood and shaping them so they fit and flow together precisely.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: With a lot of patience and time, intarsia artist Dennis Prichard creates a red egret from many tiny pieces of carved wood.

The art form was popular in 15th century Italy but eventually fell out of favor. Thanks to woodworker Judy Gale Roberts, it underwent a reawakening in the ’80s.

Prichard said Roberts is a well known intarsia pattern maker — such is her passion for the form that she is in the Woodworkers Hall of Fame.

Although some of his patterns come from a source a bit closer to home — his son, an engineer.

“He has drawn some patterns for me like this, the mountain lion,” Prichard said. “They have a lot of detail and are very precise. I keep telling him they don’t need to be that detailed; I’m just going to interpret them anyway.”

While his work starts with a precise pattern, Prichard said intarsia can be very flexible because each individual artist chooses his or her own woods.

“I get to look at whether a particular color, texture or grain pattern accomplish what I want. Do I want it to be a glossy shine or a soft, fuzzy finish?” he said.

The choice of woods gives him some freedom, but the overall process has definitely taught him patience, Prichard said.

“Each piece has to be shaped so it fits up against the next one,” he said. “You have to be so, so patient.”

For more than three decades, Leonard Simms has been creating one-of-a-kind walking sticks from woods from around the world.

When he was in the Army, Simms was stationed in Alaska in the ’70s. While there, a local wood called diamond willow caught his eye.

“I was interested in the wood because of its grain,” Simms said. “The way it grows, out on the tundra, it has fast summer growth and then freezes during the winter. It gets all gnarly with a nice, white skin on it and these very dark grains going through it.”

Simms said he continued to carve walking canes and sticks from wood that he “found where I could get it. Just out in the forests out there in Alaska.”

He eventually started selling the finished sticks to the guys going back to the states as a souvenir.

The diamond willow can only be found in Alaska, parts of Canada and Siberia, Simms said.

“I kept making walking sticks from different places from any kinds of wood I could find,” he said.

Many of his current walking sticks use exotic woods from Africa and South America, like red heart and purple heart.

Not only do Simms’ canes have unique woods, but each walking cane has a story that goes with it. If you look at one of his canes, along the back you will find knife marks.

“None of the lines are complete, there is a break in the line from top to bottom,” Simms said. “What the line says is the path you take to your goals in life are never straight.

“The goal is to trace a line from top to bottom without lifting finger or finding a break,” he said. “If you find a break, you have to go back up and go another way, find a path without a break.”

-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.