Bob Horowitz, aka Bob-the-Woodturner, is a well-known woodturner who makes the most of the fallen trees in our area.  We spent some time early this year talking with Bob about his experience and craft.

Bob the Woodturner at Work

How did you get started in your craft?

I was exposed to woodturning about a year before I retired. It was serendipity that my boss at the time was a woodturner and one day brought in some examples of his work. When he described what it was and I expressed interest in learning more, he suggested I take a class offered by Fairfax County Adult education. I did so and was hooked. I quickly purchased a mini-lathe (the lathe is the machine that spins the wood so it can be shaped) and some tools and learned the basics. The teachers were from the Capital Area Woodturners so I joined that group to expand my learning. I soon realized I needed a bigger lathe and once I set it up, my woodturning universe expanded as I could do larger projects. About a year after I started that first class, I retired and started my more intensive woodturning, principally learning by doing.

Cherry Bowl
Are you self-taught or did you take classes? Tell us a little about your learning experience. Do you have an opinion on instruction vs. self-teaching?

See above answer. Mostly self-taught. I think it is good to have some basic formal learning and from there it depends on what kind of learner you are. The basic learning also helps you decide what equipment you need and may save you some expense by not purchasing "toys" you don't need. I prefer experimentation and the self-learning method. But that is not for everyone. Given the quantity and breadth of woodturning I do, I gain more by experimentation and learning from the mistakes I make.

What quality or technique sets your work apart from other artisans?

Most woodturners create similar objects:  bowls, vases, platters, boxes , and more. But each of us has our own style. For example, I specialize in "natural edge bowls", preserving the organic form of the wood as much as I can. I also tend to make thinner walled bowls than other woodturners. If you compare the work of the woodturners in the Guild, you will observe distinctive styles from each of us.

One of Bob's "Natural Edge" Bowls

What one word or phrase best describes how you feel when you’re working? Explain in detail if you’d like to!

The joy of creating a piece of art out of a log that only reveals its true beauty when you get inside the bark.

Do you ever feel blocked creatively? How do you break out?

After the show season in the fall, I need to take time off. Preparing for shows and gallery displays is time consuming and can be tiring (as I age). I need some downtime to recover. This is not so much a creative block but more  "needing a break"

Please share one of your most interesting or enlightening customer experiences.

I have customers who see me at shows and then contact me to make something out of a tree they have to take down. I love the look on their faces when they see a finished piece from their own tree engraved on the bottom with their name as the source.

The Popular "Lighthouse" PlateIf you could start your artistic life over again, what would you do differently? What’s the best piece of advice you can give new artisans in your craft?

I am satisfied with how I began my artistic career (later in life). I am grateful for the technical knowledge I gained through the Capital Area Woodturners and its members and the business knowledge I gained through the NVHG and its members. I would advise artisans to get involved in clubs or guilds focused on their craft and then in guilds such as the NVHG.

You can see more of Bob’s work here: www.bobthewoodturner.com