sharing craft: why live demonstrations matter
This summer, the CCBC welcomed back artist demonstrations to our Granville Island location. On BC Day weekend, we invited beloved artist-member Allan Cusworth to demonstrate woodturning on his mobile lathe. Crowds gathered to watch Allan transform pieces of wood into his signature pieces such as his wedding goblets, bottle stoppers, bowls and honey dippers. Allan takes great joy in his work and is passionate about wood turning – onlookers at Granville Island could easily sense this. These demonstrations are great summer events, but also work in a way that build community, prompt onlookers to consider the nature of craft, and may even start some on their own craft journey as creators or collectors.
In light of him sharing his passion, we asked him to answer a few questions about his experience and how he approaches demonstrating his craft.
CCBC: Why do you like demonstrating your craft for the public? What’s in it for you?
Allan: I really enjoy meeting people and interacting with them. I have many years experience in woodturning and like sharing the things I have learned with anyone who is interested in learning about the craft. Also, my years of playing music for dances and parties, along with my twenty-two years as a Toastmaster, makes me comfortable when talking to people. I also am glad to be able to expose our craft to people who may be interested in turning firewood into a piece of art. The satisfaction of seeing people enjoy what I do is the reward I get, [along with supporting CCBC]..
CCBC: How did you prepare your plan for the demonstration?
Allan: It takes many hours of planning and preparation for any demonstration to come off successfully. My preparation for last Saturday's demonstration was no exception. First, I verified with [the shop] to make sure that the area where I would be working will be ready as we agreed. Next, I considered what I thought the visitors would like to see. Then, I decided which projects would fill that desire. I then prepared pieces of wood to make the projects from, leaving out the mundane and boring tasks like rounding off wood blanks and putting clamping tenons on them. After all, people want to see the neat techniques that I use to make things like captive rings and textured bands. I then reviewed the methods I use and made sure I had all the tools and supplies I needed; I don't want any surprises. Since a sharp tool is a safe tool, I made sure all the tools were razor sharp, and packaged them up safely. Lastly, I loaded everything into the car the night before and verified that I had everything. I didn't want to be in a rush on the day of the demonstration.
CCBC: You had a lot of attention from children watching on Saturday. What methods do you employ to connect with them specifically?
Allan: I love interacting with the children, they are so enthusiastic and intrigued when they see the shavings fly. I find that the best way to get, and keep their attention is to ask them a question like, "Have you ever heard wood talk? What if I make that piece of wood scream for you?" And then I make it scream with a chatter tool. The children especially love the spinning tops, of which I made a couple on Saturday.
CCBC: Did you become interested in wood turning from watching others?
Allan: I cannot lay claim to many of the techniques I use. I learned most of them from watching other accomplished turners in person and on the internet. There are many good sites available to glean different ideas and projects on the internet but you have to know how to weed out the unsafe practices that some use. There are quite a few world-class turners who are constantly developing interesting techniques. I then try to incorporate those ideas in my work. Without that, their ideas go to waste.
CCBC: How does your guild use demonstrations to share knowledge?
Allan: As I mentioned, I belong to two woodturners guilds, the Greater Vancouver Woodturners who meet in New Westminster, and the Fraser Valley Woodturners Guild who meet in Abbotsford. Members of these guilds have to pass a safety certification process to be able to demonstrate in public. A member demonstrating at an event such as the one we did on Saturday is required to get the event sanctioned by one of these guilds, which I did. This makes sure that only safe and correct practices are shown to the public by members of the guilds. It also provides the demonstrator with public liability insurance should anything go wrong. With all that being said, the guilds use the demonstrations to expose the public to a fantastically satisfying hobby and hopefully get some new members to expand it safely.
Allan is a great example of how our artist-members recognize their place in the larger Craft community. Just as makers such as Allan once learned from someone before them, they then have an innate since of obligation to do the same for the next generation. We are so grateful for artist-members like Allan who understand the importance of sharing what he has learned.
Keep an eye on our social media channels for the next CCBC artist demonstration announcement!