Arts & Entertainment

Master Woodturner Jack Karmel lets loose

What do you do when you are already a master woodturner? You reinvent yourself!

Parkite Jack Karmel has been turning wood for decades. He has created incredibly thin turned wood pieces such as goblets, and vases so thin you can see light through them. Some of his techniques are now being taught at two woodturning schools, but he’s not standing still.

Jack Karmel with one of his art pieces

Step one: Loosen your control

Karmel is creating artworks using three new methods, which he selectively adds to his other techniques. What he had to learn for this phase in his art is to loosen his control over the end result. While the basic techniques are still meticulously controlled, he now allows himself to experiment with techniques that are far more unpredictable.

Hollow form vase by Jack Karmel

Drawing on bowls

Wood is a tricky material to draw on because of the grain. Karmel sketches his drawings on the bowls with pencil and then burns them in. His favorite subject is an acacia tree, which he adopted as part of his signature years ago. Now instead of only drawing it on the bottom of each of his pieces, he is adding the trees to the sides of bowls. He has a bowl he calls his African bowl, which includes an acacia tree, a giraffe, an elephant and a rhinoceros. He also dabbles in prehistoric subjects for his drawing.

Going organic

Inside of bowl by Jack Karmel

Another intriguing change he has made is changing the orientation of his bowls. This gives his intricately crafted art pieces an organic shape, enhancing their delicate appearance. Karmel is an artist and an inventor. Most of his vases have holes in the bottom, so you can insert a glass vessel to display live flowers or insert an LED candle to see the spellbinding effect of the flickering light through the wood.

His vessels are pieces of art, but you can use them by inserting a plastic or glass bowl for use as a salad bowl or fruit bowl. (The wood art pieces would be ruined over time if they weren’t protected.) Karmel does seal his wood bowls with food-safe edible oil, but since that dissipates over time, especially in the dry Utah climate, he suggests using the inserts.

Adding shapes

A bowl he is currently working on is speckled with spheres and ellipses, some of them resembling raindrops. When he first added shapes, they were placed at regular intervals. Karmel enjoys working with buckeye wood. Before he can even start, he has to fill in holes in the wood, for which he uses sawdust from that wood and an extremely strong glue. Since the preparation of his wood takes a long time, he tends to work on three to four pieces at a time.

Wood bowl in progress by Jack Karmel

Unusual requests

One of the most unusual requests he has had is to create an urn. His pieces take from three to 12 months to create, so he currently has one of those. Being an inventor, he came up with a design that is an elegant vessel for the deceased with the option of turning the top into an LED candle holder. His artwork is fit for royalty or those who appreciate true craftsmanship. You can see more of his artwork on his Facebook page.

Urn by Jack Karmel – Photo by Kirsten Kohlwey

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