Let’s Talk SHOP: Fred Inman

Abby Leon, Paradigm Gallery Director

Fred Inman. Photo courtesy of Fred Inman.

Fred Inman’s curiosity led him to purchase his first lathe 15 years ago in 2006, when he began to teach himself to turn wood. Along the way, he had the opportunity to refine his skills by shadowing local experienced turners and by attending numerous workshops and symposiums with nationally acclaimed artists. Since then, he has perfected this art form and is now creatively unstoppable. This week, we are excited to introduce you to Fred and give you a behind-the-scenes look into creating an eye-catching vase for the Paradigm Gallery!

I enjoy harvesting wood and seeing it through to a finished product. There’s a level of excitement when you’re able to take a piece of wood and see what’s behind the bark. It’s much like opening a gift, but yet this is a gift that has been many decades in the making. Part of the beauty is realizing that no two pieces will ever be the same. I’ve been asked many times if I can “re-create” a piece or “do one like my friend has”. It’s just not possible. As I have explained, I can try, but the pieces will never be exactly the same. People and trees are much the same: some live in the shadows and others gather all their strength to face the storm. My job is simple; I need to take the natural beauty that has been given to us and figure out how to enhance it, making others appreciate it for exactly what it is. I believe there is a person for every piece and a piece for every person. When I put a smile on someone’s face with a piece that I have created, my job is complete.

Let’s see what lays beyond the bark of this ambrosia maple log:

First, I place the log between the centers of the lathe. Once it is centered and the lathe starts turning, I use a bowl gouge and a roughing gouge to begin the initial shape of the piece. In this case, I’ve decided to create a vase.

Then, I continue to refine the shape using the same tools.

Next, I place a steady rest on the lathe to stabilize the piece and keep it from vibrating as I turn.

Then I hollow and bore the center with a boring bar. My goal is to core the inside to match the outside contour of the vessel. After all the shaping and contouring is complete, I sand the vase with an orbital sander and apply one coat of finish while it’s still on the lathe. Next, I’ll remove it from the faceplate, sand the bottom, and sign it. Since I turn wood while wet, I’ll wait two to three months to allow the vase to dry and ensure that there isn’t any hairline cracks during this process.  

Once it’s completely dry, I sand the piece by hand with sandpaper to clean up any raised grain that occurred from the first coat. Lastly, I apply two to three coats of finish, hand wax, and buff.

Ambrosia Maple Vase, $400.

Come visit the FWMoA Paradigm Gallery to check out this stunning vase in person or to see more of Fred Inman’s artwork: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm; Thursday 10am-8pm; Sunday 12pm-5pm.

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