Earlier this week we decided to sneak away from endless bouts of snow and cold to the land where palm trees sway. You guessed it… Hawaii! We got on the plane looking for summer and everything that accompanies – swimming in the ocean to fresh fruits and veggies. Yesterday we drove from Waikoloa on the northwest coast to the southernmost point in the USA, Ka Lae. I had read in one of tourist magazines about the 17th Annual Big Island Wood Turners Club exhibit at the Wailoa Arts and Cultural Center in Hilo. We are always mesmerized by the wood work we see here so we decided to go the long way around the island and check it out.
The quality of the wood work is outstanding. I always fall in love with the eloquent Koa wood rocking chairs and can justify why I need one… believe me, these are no Crackerbarrel front porch rockers. Every curve is meticulously carved and the joints are impeccable. If furniture is not your thing, there are tons of wood pens, decorative boxes, vessels, bowls, sculptures, paddles, and wall pieces to eye up.
All of the pieces in the Big Island Wood Turners Club exhibit must have some part of their creation made from use of a lathe. Koa wood, norfolk pine, avocado, mango, and jarcaranda are just a few of the species the artisans use. Most of the pieces in the show are traditional style vessels such as bowls, lidded boxes, and pens, but there are some non-functional sculptural pieces as well. There are a number of bowls turned out of of a single wood species of wood and polished so smooth you can see your reflection and could be mistaken for porcelain. Others are designed of multiple woods, with inlays and patterns, and even some with unfinished edges. The characters of the different wood species are explored by the artists.
We worked our way around the exhibition and in the lower level we noticed a makeshift wood shop set up. We wandered our way down. That is where we met Doug.
Doug Leiteo is the current President and the non-profit organization’s co-founder. About 20 years ago he and a few of his turning buddies decided to form the Big Island Wood Turners Club. When we first approached his work area he was finishing up his lunch and we were trying not to bother him – Daryl asked a question or two and then he opened up and started showing us his custom rosette cutter/die. He designed the machine and built it to fit his needs.
Doug started out as a US Navy mechanic and then opened his own machine shop where he worked on all sorts of projects but loved drag racing and engine work. His face lit up as he told us his story of where he has been and what he has worked on. Currently he is designing and building a custom glass blowing lathe.