Turned to Art

All art is a form of expression. For Dan and Elaine Nealey, art begins in the form of broken or chopped pieces of pear, oak, maple and sycamore woods. One saying about wood art is that some burn it and some turn it. The difference for this couple is by the time the piece is finished, both have intertwined their abilities and imagination into their art.

“There are few pieces we discuss,” said Elaine. “Dan begins the process by turning the wood into what he sees, and then it is handed off to me.”

Being members of the Central Oklahoma Wood Turners Association, the couple enjoy the art with many other turners. Yet it all starts with the selection of the wood. Like most things, not all wood is created equally. “I have been turning wood for a number of years,” Dan said. “There are different orientations of wood, and I look for different styles. Sometimes I will work from the end grains [the bottom] and sometimes I will work from the side grains.”

After the wood is selected, Dan loads it into his shop and begins the turning process. Placing it on the wood lathe, he decides which size tool is going to be needed for carving out a vase, goblet, or whatever his keen eye imagines. This is the most critical part of the process.

“Stability and removing vibration is important because you sometimes want to turn wood down very thin and vibration, of course, can be bad,” Dan said.”

Once the wood is turned, then it is hollowed out. This is when Dan will conform the inside of the wood to the outside. After that, the inlay process begins.

“Sometimes when selecting woods, I look for those that have laid on the ground for a period of time because usually they have begun to decompose, adding character and leaving irregular voids in the wood,” Dan said. “In many of these, I will inlay semi-precious stones, metals, and contrasting woods, which will enhance and accentuate the natural beauty of the piece.”

At this point in the process, the piece is beginning to take on a permanent shape. It is sanded and handed over to Elaine.

“After I get the piece, I will stare at it, pick it up, turn it. Sometimes it takes a long time to decide what will go with the natural grain of the piece,” she said.

What she is trying to decide is the placement of the wood burnings and Prismacolor markers. Using her wood burning pen and markers, Elaine will burn flowers, birds, or leaves on the surface of the piece. After the burning, the piece is given back to Dan and a finish is applied.

“With every piece, there is a look that we are going for, and some finishes really bring out the tones of the wood grain,” Dan said. Depending on the desired look, he will apply several coats of a finish—polyurethane, walnut oil, sunflower oil or lacquer. Then the piece is sometimes decorated with ornaments. If both are satisfied the artwork is complete.

After completion, the artwork will be displayed in one of several art galleries throughout the state. The couple also sells many of their pieces in art shows but they choose not place their art in galleries across the nation.

“One of our limitations is building enough pieces,” Elaine said. “By the time we do our yearly shows, coupled with gallery sales, this is about all we can do. This is something we really enjoy, and we only produce so many items.”
Log onto www.turned2art.com to view the art of Dan and Elaine or to read more about the couple.

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