WHETHER IT’S FOR THE HOLIDAYS, a birthday, an anniversary or any other celebratory event, nothing beats receiving — and giving — a gift made by hand.
Our featured artist today is Gene Paolini, who hails from Northern California. He has been a craftsman and woodworker all his life. He got introduced to the magic of turning wood on a lathe in high school, but after graduation, life got in the way. So that interest had to take a back seat to a family and a career. Now retired after a successful management role with the city of Roseville, he has renewed his passion for turning out his own creations.
No matter how skilled you are, any new endeavor is going to require some trial and error. After buying a used lathe, Gene began experimenting with a few pieces of stock provided by the previous owner. The results were abject failures. “I really didn’t know what I was doing,” he notes. But persistence paid off.
“It’s never a mistake in woodworking, only an opportunity to learn something new.”Gene Paolini
When demand exceeds supply
ONE OF HIS MORE POPULAR items are snowmen (and women, of course), such as the guy up in the upper right of the page. Gene says the mustache started as a joke, but with the top hat, this gentleman is looking quite dapper. The figure is carved from solid birch. The arms are made from Peet’s Coffee stirrers. A clever bit of re-use there. The eyes, mouth and buttons are created using a hot iron that burns the wood.
Here is a bowl he gave to Sherry and me last year for Christmas. This is also made of birch. The granite stone top is a nice touch.
Here’s another bowl, made of maple. The blackened grooves are done with a wire that heats up as the wood is turning, creating the ebony effect.
And one last pair of the snow people. Gene says he got the idea for these characters after joining a Facebook page for wood turners. The lady’s headgear was by accident, after the grain of the wood intended for the rim of the original hat split. Once again, this was a learning opportunity, and Gene made lemonade out of lemons. The end result is a lovely knit-cap effect.
Gene says he has been able to turn out about a half dozen of these gifts for the holidays. As you might guess, demand exceeds supply.
We’re looking forward to seeing what he creates next.
If you know of someone who might make a good candidate for our “Art of Giving” series, just let us know!