The Ray Key Woodturners Collaboration Auction
This online auction is run by The Association of Woodturners of Great Britain (AWGB)
Following on from the hugely successful exhibition at the Nature in Art Gallery, Gloucester, these 120 pieces from the Ray Key collaboration by turners from five continents, are now available online to buy. The auction is open now, and will end on 13th October 2019 at 20.20.
Ray Key collaboration exhibition
Take a look at what’s available to buy…..
When I started to learn to turn wood, three people were particularly influential– Dave Regester on a five- day bowl-turning course and the books of Ray Key and David Ellsworth. Since then I have learned many different approaches to hollowing and carving wood but the essential theory and appreciation of simple but perfect form was set in stone for me after reading Ray’s “The Woodturner’s Workbook”. I only met Ray a few times but I am very aware of his enormous dedication and importance to the woodturning movement worldwide and I am honoured to have been asked to be part of this project.
My box with the part-turned oak blank arrived and I opened it with some trepidation. There was a major crack in the piece of oak burr which Ray had glued but then a chasm had opened above. Avoiding the crack was not really an option unless I made a miniature so I decided to try and bring the best out of the burred wood which must have attracted Ray in the first place and to embrace all the cracks and fissures. I wanted to keep a shape that would be reminiscent of Ray’s elegant forms but to carve and sandblast some texture into it in the freer, more organic way I tend to work. Balancing these two elements would be the issue and would determine the success of the piece. I hollowed the blank and carved rounded peaks into the surface and then sandblasted another layer of texture. Bleaching the vessel helped to bring together the sense of a fissured, eroded landscape- a piece celebrating both the essence of nature and growth and the beauty of classical form.
I have tried whilst finishing this piece to create something worthy of a collaboration with Ray and I hope he will look down kindly on it.
‘Avem’ is a tribute to Ray and the natural world. This unique piece was created by the fusing of Ray’s classic form with my methodology and mutual respect; capturing and upholding Ray’s dedication to the craft of woodturning and his love of nature.
The autumn leaf portraying sadness is redressed with the butterfly and pierced bird image symbolising resurrection and rebirth.
Ars longa, vita brevis.
Ray may you rest in peace.
I first saw Ray demonstrate at the NEC. I was captivated by the ease with which he achieved the shapes so easily. I met Ray at a number of the AWGB seminars and at exhibitions where we both exhibited as members of neighbouring craft guilds. We often had lengthy chats (Ray talked, I listened!) at those events. Later, I had the privilege of working alongside Ray as a volunteer with the AWGB. Ray was always passionate about the AWGB and what it stood for and he was always an advocate for the training programme, particularly the youth training. I have many positive memories of Ray and he will continue to inspire me for as long as I turn wood.
The piece I chose for the collaboration was cut to shape and had a hole drilled in preparation for mounting so it was clear what Ray intended to do with it. I used that as a guide and incorporated multi-axis turning to show off the wood to its best. I hope Ray would have approved.
I selected 2 pieces from Ray’s workshop, a small masur birch form which was set aside due to a fault in the wood and a piece of blackwood ready for a box. I turned the birch piece upside down and shaped it into an egg losing the flaw. The blackwood piece provided a box to form a base for the egg.
To reflect Ray’s lifetime work and passion for woodturning the “surprise” inside the egg is a small brass lathe with a bed length of 1 inch, This was made in dedication to his contribution to the woodturning world, and a personal thank you for a friendship built up over many years on the AWGB committee.
Early on in my woodturning journey Ray Key was a very important influence via his books and videos. He emphasised design, balance and form. He taught that a piece should have continuity and quality
throughout. He was a great ambassador for UK woodturning worldwide and was very important in promoting artistic woodturning. Later, when I got to know the man, I became aware his very kind and considerate nature together with his tremendous enthusiastic energy. He seemed to know everyone personally in the world of woodturning.
My collaboration piece is hollowed, carved,textured and bleached. The spalted beech posed interesting technical problems. I very much wanted to preserve Ray’s classical outline and shape and then add my own style and decoration to his form.
I was always a bit in awe of Ray as one of the “top guys” but his humour and down to earth approach put everyone at ease. The highlight for me was the 20th Anniversary AWGB seminar of 2007 when I was chosen for the Tony Boase award. He couldn’t have been more generous with his encouragement and I learnt a lot from his critiques as we shared the same love of form and preference for a simple aesthetic, famously verbalised as “keep it simple stupid”! It is impossible to overestimate his contribution the world of woodturning in this country.
I chose what I thought would be the easiest piece to work on from his collection, as, although thrilled and honoured to be invited to the collaboration, coward that I am, I was terrified of making a mess of it! It sat untouched in my workshop for weeks and weeks while I wracked my brains for some ideas.
Ray’s form was very pleasing to me and I didn’t want to change it and I didn’t see how I could develop it “in my own style”. I have been doing some colouring and texturing recently but didn’t want to detract from the natural beauty of the wood but I thought the more defined tool marks Ray had left towards the rim could be highlighted with colour and it would be lovely to keep that original input from him. So, I decided to hollow the bowl, highlight a band of Ray’s tool marks with white milk paint and gilt wax, and make additions that I could be freer with. I made a lid from burr elm and created an ebony and holly “leaf” finial that referenced my “leaf” series. The lidded bowl needed elevating, so I made a grooved rectangular platform and a beaded round plinth, both in Asian striped ebony, that referenced earlier work. I think the collaboration worked well in the end.
As a relative newcomer to woodturning I had never met Ray Key. He surprised me however, when, after being awarded a bursary from the Worshipful Company of Turners, Ray took the time to call me and offered words of encouragement. It was a huge boost for me and a testament to the warmth and generosity of the man.
The responsibility to create something worthy of the project coupled with a less than promising piece of spalted beech was rather daunting. The easy option was to fully colour the piece, hide the crack and the holes, but the collaboration deserved more. There must have been something about this piece of spalted beech that had made Ray turn a rough shape and put it to one side? So I looked at it again.
The grain colour and pattern were spectacular, not something to be hidden. The result, is a unique ‘Corvus Nero’ style piece with marbled bronze silver leaf to complement the rich natural colour of the wood and the background not muted, or hidden or bleached but oiled to really make it sing. I hope that Ray would approve.
A challenge and a tribute, to complete a partially completed small vessel/box. One of many that Ray was not long enough on earth to finish was certainly a challenge. My small half turned masur birch blank duly arrived, exhibiting a gently curved exterior line and a solid, unturned interior, this just had to be completed to form a small lidded box.
The remit was to retain the essence of Ray’s work whilst imparting one’s own style to the piece, an unusual posthumous collaboration to say the least. You will see that I decided to create a lidded box with an ebony finial, nothing outrageous but a contrasting feature to provide an interesting elevation. I also wanted to include something a little ostentatious that would slightly push the boundary of pure form that Ray was so noted for. Whilst working at the lathe I could imagine Ray’s presence looking over my shoulder and so I decided to include a gilded ebony paterae on the inside of the lid, just out of view, but a surprise revealed if the lid was lifted.
I do not like empty boxes, so to this end I have printed a miniature of my “ode to Ray” to be placed within the box, accompanied by a miniature bell turned from St Paul’s heritage wood removed from the cathedral in 2018.
Ode to Ray; Stuart King
A master in turning was my friend Ray
Whose life revolved around wood until his dying day
A true craftsman at heart, a proud man was he
With a reverence for his lifeblood, Gods humble tree
Ash bowls for the table, platters for our daily bread
Good honest treen, that’s what woodturner Ray said
Whilst handling some work so beautifully turned
Created for those whom plastic they’d spurned
From hedgerow and woodland Ray sought out the best
Ripple grain and olive heart were all put to the test
Revealing the inner beauty that nature endowed
To the tree that grew slowly beneath England’s warm cloud
Although Ray has gone his work erelong endures
And continues to provide pleasure, his legacy assured
The woodturning nymphs will be sofly sighing
Because his workshop is silent, no more shavings are flying
See the catalogue for the full list of items and current bids.
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