(Leigh writes,) Although I’m a fairly new turner, I’m always up for a challenge, so when I read about the AAW exhibition of small pieces, I was intrigued. The theme was “Content,” (as a noun or an adjective, however you choose to interpret it) which is quite broad. After thinking about it for probably far too long, and even starting and abandoning some ideas that were a little beyond my current skill level, I settled on two projects.I’ve since learned that the piece sold at the auction in Louisville for far more than I could ever have imagined which is also flattering beyond belief and very confidence-building! Now I can’t wait to see what next year’s theme is. It’s quite a lot of fun to come up with an idea and create it…a nice change from bowls and boxes!
The first one I called “Content: The Dream.” To explain, I was a Technical Writer for many years, and still work closely with that field. In the world of tech writing, we refer to what we write as “content,” because it’s often written in a neutral framework. In other words, we don’t write a Word document or a Web page; we write a bunch of words and then process them into a Word document or a PDF or a Web page or online Help or whatever is required. Many people come to tech writing from fields like literature or marketing and they expect the tech writing process to be far more creative than it is. They dream that the words will flow from them like water. That idea inspired the first piece I created. I used the text of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” because that’s what I had! It’s also in the public domain, so no legal worries. The small bowl is black walnut and the “bamboo” fountain is poplar, with sisal trying the parts together.
Where there’s a dream, there has to be a reality. My second piece was, of course, called “Content: The Reality.” In it, I tried to convey the machine-centric aspect of tech writing, with the words grinding through the gears of a machine, which is closer to what actually happens to what we write. I’m not an engineer, so fortunately I was able to find a website that calculates gear ratios and generates a template. Cutting them out and sanding them was many hours of my life I’ll never get back, but I like the result. The gears are mahogany with aspen knobs. The shafts are oak and the tube into which the text flows is black walnut. The backing is hickory. The text is from the documentation of the DITA Open Toolkit which is an XSL-based set of transformations that turn XML content into various outputs. If that means nothing to you, consider yourself lucky. It’s a very popular tool in the tech writing industry and definitely the “machine” we pour most of our content into. That documentation is also in the public domain.
I submitted both of them literally at the 11th hour and was very pleasantly surprised when “Content: The Dream” was accepted for the exhibition.
In early May, I drove up to the AAW headquarters in St Paul to see all the submissions on display before they were sent to Louisville for the Symposium. To say that I felt flattered to be included would be a massive understatement. All of the pieces were outstanding and some were jaw-droppingly complex and intricate. I learned that my piece was chosen on the strength of the idea, which made me very happy, since I never thought for a minute that it was an outstanding example of woodturning. Seeing all those pieces was a real treat.