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The Humble Grumble

Jean Turner, RPT

   ...the sporadic annoyances & humble mumblings of a Jeannius.

More About Jean

Born and raised in South Africa, I qualified to become a 'specialist' special needs teacher. Instead of working for the local education department, I joined IBM as a systems engineer where I landed up teaching adults and writing manuals used by IBM employees. There I met my UK born husband who also worked as a systems engineer. He had started out as something different too (mining engineer). We have been married nearly 30 years and have raised three sons, all now taller than we are. We emigrated to the UK in the late 80's and have made Wiltshire our home.

I started turning about 16 years ago - beginning by making bobbins for my mother, who had just started making pillow lace. I had never seen a lace bobbin up-close, and so turned them according to her verbal description of them. Each time I showed her a new set, she would say 'These are very nice, but they need to be a little thinner', and I would make some more. One day she nodded with satisfaction, and said something along the lines of '...just right', and added '...and you could start selling these, they're as good as any I have seen, if not a lot better.' I have been selling my turned items ever since.

While I can turn a large bowl just as well as a small one, I specialise in smaller items, particularly lidded boxes, lace making equipment and accessories and really small things like cribbage pegs and 12th scale items. I turn small things because I like doing so, and aim for the best quality finish I can possibly achieve. I am unashamedly proud to say that when I turn, I aim to make items that will last for at least 150 years, if not more. I would like to think that sometime in the future, someone will see my (hopefully well-used) lace making equipment or other turned items displayed in a museum as examples of fine work in the field.

I was accepted onto the Register of Professional Turners (as maintained by the Worshipful Company of Turners, London) in May 2011.

I enjoy combining bead work and turned wood in an effort to create a 'fused whole' - in such a way that the beads become a part of the wood work and vise versa. I like to use the turned form as a canvas on which to paint with beads.

This is very much my 'fun' area where I play, and the part that brings me most pleasure. My goal is to create an item of bead work that could hold it's own in any situation, made to exacting standards, and preferably in a design that I have not copied from anywhere else. In other words my own work in my own design using my own combination of colours. In terms of the wood, all the turned items need to be able to exist as fine pieces of turning in their own right. I aim for balance, eye-pleasing form, perfection in the finish, and an appropriate weight for the completed item.

The two 'good' forms are then permanently joined up to become an entirely new item, hopefully exciting, interesting to look at, and pleasing to the eye and other senses.

I am greatly influenced by the concept of the Whole being equal to more than the Sum of the Parts.

Most importantly, I want my creative output to please me - for when I am pleased with what I have made, I experience a sense of satisfaction within myself and that makes for a much happier Jeannius.

I have no personal need to become world famous (although that would be nice), to be the best turner in existence (that would be nice too), nor am I driven to 'find my voice'. I believe I have already found it. It was when - after years of searching for the answer - that I finally realised it was ME that I needed to please when it came to being creatively expressive, I could relax and stop worrying about what others might or might not think about what I make as 'art'.

I hope you like what you see here. If you don't, well, I am glad you read this far anyway.

To the person struggling to find their way as an artist, or wondering how and where to find their own voice - my advice would be to stop worrying about it - go with what you instinctively feel you should /would like to be doing - and please yourself, not the people around you. Make your item for yourself, and for the pleasure of making it, not for the gallery table at your wood turning club. Allow yourself the freedom of failure, and simply have fun playing, as you would if you were five years old with no sense of 'good enough'. If you like it - it is good enough!