In our ongoing Meet the Maker series we get to know woodturner Roni Roberts and learn what inspires her fascinating work.
How did you first get into woodturning?
Wood has always played a big part in my life. My mother built our kitchen and airing cupboard and cedar shingled the roof when I was a child. The beautiful smell of Cedar is one of my first memories. I was therefore delighted to take a course in my local FE college on furniture making and design. However, because my partner and I were caring for his mother with dementia I had difficulty finding enough time for long and complicated furniture construction. When I bought a lathe and started turning I never looked back. I was taught the basics but from then on it was a case of practice, experiment and practice some more. My partner was a precision engineer so he made sure I was operating safely. He was also very encouraging and helpful with giving me confidence with the big, scary machinery which enables me to plank tree trunks so I get the most beautiful wood and plank it in a way I know will work well.
What inspire your work?
The wood itself. No hesitation about that. The colouring, the figuring, the chance to show a bit of the history of how the tree grew.
Woodturning feels like the natural medium for me as what I really wish is to bring out the natural beauty which is in the wood already. This means it is the wood itself which is the starting place for my work rather than a pre-chosen design. I let the wood speak as much as possible.
What do you most like about the medium?
There is so much about working with wood which I love.The variety of different woods. There is so much variety within the same species, even within the same tree as the sapwood is different from the heartwood and a branch grow differently from a trunk. Include in the mix the chance to turn the wood wet when it will move and have the last say, turn it seasoned, allow fungi to alter it and the possibilities are endless. The trees are all locally grown too so I can show the beauty which is normally hidden all around within trees. Also, although it isn’t a new lease of life for the tree it is a chance to keep showing its beauty. I love that I am reusing and recycling – no tree has ever been felled for my use. Most would have just rotted, at best been burned for firewood. I have rescued pieces from people’s firewood piles and even better from bonfires.
Have you got a favourite piece? Or a favourite wood?
So many favourite pieces. I keep very few though as I want someone else to enjoy what I particularly love about that piece.
I have been very fond of particular trees as I have worked with them. It feels as if they have a particular character which I can feel as I work them.
There are several woods which I am particularly fond. Interestingly I think the most beautiful wood of all is old Sycamore. Once the tree is old enough for the bark to have gone rough then the wood has amazing patterns in it. Young Sycamore, on the other hand, tends to be quite plain, therefore very suitable for food items.
What advice would you give for someone aspiring to get into woodworking?
I would love to see more people, especially more women, woodturning. And especially using local woods.
I would advise following your passion. It certainly worked for me. I am happy to discuss with anyone interested in knowing more and I have written about the machinery I use for planking and turning on my website www.roni-roberts.com and in my blog.
I also post some of my latest work on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ronirobertsartisticwoodcraft/