Art of Our Appalachian Woods Exhibition: Spotlight on Regional Woods

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“A rare collection of grand craftsmanship” – that’s how Scott Phillips, co-host of The American Woodshop, described the Art of Our Appalachian Woods Exhibition held at The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio, July 24 through September 6. Scott was a guest judge on behalf of Woodcraft, one of the show’s sponsors.

Twenty-nine artists are represented with 70 pieces in the Dairy Barn’s 5,000 square foot gallery.  According to Jacob Nagel from the center, “The show represents some of the best contemporary woodworking in the area. Each piece has to be created with at least 65% of woods that are primarily found in the Appalachian region.”

Maple River Table by Stonewall Farms, Athens, Ohio, is a 9’ x 3’ highly figured, live edge table with epoxy finish and custom steel legs. Scott Phillips declared this “the best looking piece of wood in the show.”

The facility also houses two studio spaces – a ceramic studio and one for fiber arts. Leah Magyary, the Dairy Barn director, said, “This helps us be able to do education, workshops and have beautiful exhibitions. We’re all about supporting the artists and about supporting access to art within the region.”

“Woodcraft is proud to partner with the folks at The Dairy Barn Arts Center to bring this exciting show to the public. We look forward to seeing the artists’ creativity and craftsmanship in bringing our region’s wood species to life,” said Woodcraft President Jack Bigger. The exhibition is also sponsored by Southeast Ohio Woodturners and Modern Woodmen, with grant funding from O’Bleness Foundation and Ohio Forestry Association. The Dairy Barn is offering free guided hikes along the Ora Anderson Trail.

All of the artists received loaded goody bags from Woodcraft, which included items worth nearly $75 in retail value. The reusable Woodcraft bag held goodies like proprietary products from the extensive WoodRiver® line, the latest issue of Woodcraft Magazine, some fun branded swag, and the most recent Woodcraft catalog and sales flyer for viewing and shopping pleasure.

THE EXHIBITION

Not only do the juried art pieces include all types of local wood species, they are crafted in many styles of woodworking: turning, carving, furniture building and luthiery. From banjos to benches, and tables to vases, the creativity of the artists is on full display. 

Here are a few of the pieces in the exhibition with some background on the makers and their creative processes.

Kitchen Harvest Table Rick Duff’s ash, cherry and beech table was designed as an alternative to a closed or fixed kitchen island. “The idea was that it would feel lighter and let light through,” he said. His project has influences from Japanese furnituremaking (reverse taper on the legs) and Craftsman style furniture (through mortises on the ends). The arch underneath is a bent lamination. “I feel like that adds a bit of lift to the piece, and it also breaks up any angularity.” Another interesting design feature is the thinned out top. “It’s actually a thicker top but the edges bevel to be thinner. The front of the drawers being one piece gives a sort of flow to the front of the piece. Gives it a sort of harmony. The drawers look like there’s some motion there. This is a piece, that I think anyway, looks like it might be going somewhere.”

The Athens, Ohio, resident has been woodworking most of his adult life, focusing primarily on furniture for the last 20-25 years. He has two other pieces in the exhibition, all made from wood that was cut and milled “probably within 40-50 miles of here,” he said. “We’re very lucky here in southeast Ohio to have the part of the forest that we do.”

Kumiko Table – This table by John Wood, of Amesville, Ohio, showcases an intricate Kumiko panel that includes 334 pieces, 69 lap joints and 1,233 hand-cut miters. “Kumiko is a Japanese word that basically means small pieces of wood or little sticks,” he explained. “It’s used to embellish shoji doors – the big rice paper doors that you’d see in a traditional Japanese home.” For this project, he cut all the pieces to make the panel grid, and then cut the small individual pieces with a specific angled miter on both sides, on all four edges. The process is very time-consuming but the effect is stunning.    

All of the wood in both pieces John has on display is from Athens County, Ohio. The Kumiko table is walnut and red maple, while his Group W Bench is made from walnut and Danish cord. The walnut was salvaged from a road cut on 144 and milled by John and a logger friend.

“I am a hobbyist turning professional woodworker. I have a farm in Amesville and when it gets really hot in the afternoon, I hide in my woodshop and make pieces for people on commission,” he said.  

Blooming Holly by Larry Weese, Jr., Ravenswood, WV. This Holly bowl is carved, then pierced and textured to resemble ocean coral flower. Copper wire centers complete the look.  

Cherry and Pearl Banjo by Stephen Owens, Albany, Ohio. This instrument contrasts the simple elegance of cherry with the sparkle of mother-of-pearl inlaid on the exterior of the rim, fingerboard and headstock.

Tea Table by Mark Nelson, Thurman, Ohio. Cherry table constructed with traditional joinery, including pegged mortise and tenons, hand shaped legs and turned pad feet. Finished with oil and varnish.

Centipede Bench by Robert Troup and Thomas Bennet, Pleasantville, Ohio. This is a “hopeful piece,” looking forward to the day in the near future when we can freely rub shoulders and experience the simple joy of innocent human contact. 

Turned Trees by Jay Hostetler, Athens, Ohio. This collection of 24 turned trees from different Appalachian wood species is simple, but joyful. “Something about the simple shape of these and the ability to use all types of wood is extremely pleasing,” the artist said.

Ariel Village by Gerald Meyer, Millfield, Ohio. “I had the idea for this piece for over a year. My inspiration came from a patch of zinnias,” the artist stated of his red maple and sugar maple project.   

Walnut and Holly Chair by Robert Troup, Pleasantville, Ohio. This eye-catching chair is tilted back to encourage comfortable lounging, reading and contemplative thought. Copper accents highlight the black walnut and American holly.

Zig Zag by Peter Klein, Hillsboro, Ohio. More than 275 pieces of walnut, soft maple and mahogany make up this striking vessel. The fine lines are maple veneer.

THE WINNERS

BEST OF SHOW

In looking for a winning project, Scott Phillips says he looks for elements in design that tell a story. For Best of Show, he ultimately selected the Large Crestback Rocking Chair by Thomas Zano of Pomeroy, Ohio. “This rocking chair design, built in the Appalachian Mountains, invites folks right on in! It evokes a feeling of warmth. It was crafted by hands that knew a hard life—I can tell by the care by which each joint was made. It is strong and will stand the test of time. Now that’s a testimony to a good piece of furniture,” he said. The craftsman used a combination of curly maple wood contrasted with curly koa for a striking effect.

Thomas will receive a $500 Woodcraft Gift Card for Best of Show.

Above: Scott Phillips, co-host of The American Woodshop, and Woodcraft representative Lori Harper stand with the Best of Show winner by Thomas Zano.

PEOPLE'S CHOICE

Woodcraft also sponsored two People’s Choice awards, voted on by the public over the course of the exhibition. The two winners below were an even tie! Each winner will receive a $250 Woodcraft Gift Card

Pod Box by Gerald Meyer, Millfield, Ohio. This intriguing piece was created almost exclusively using the bandsaw and was made from one block of black walnut. The drawer pulls are ebony.

Eclectric 2-Point by Don MacRostie, Athens, Ohio. This instrument combines gaudy curly maple, Appalachian spruce, ebony and fractal burning for a stunning effect. The artist stated, “It is an exploration of texture and color.”

DAIRY BARN HISTORY

The Dairy Barn Arts Center was indeed a true dairy barn at one time. The land upon which it sits was purchased in 1912 for pasture and to build a dairy operation to support the Athens Asylum. The dairy barn was completed in 1914, and provided dairy products to the patients, workers, and staff of the asylum. Dairy operations ceased in the 1970s and the plan was to tear down the building. Upon hearing this news, a group of citizens lead by Harriet Anderson and her husband Ora, members of the Hocking Valley Arts Council, along with members of the community, saved the Dairy Barn for an Arts Center. In 1978, The State of Ohio and the County Board of Mental Health donated the dairy barn to the Hocking Valley Arts Council to be the home of the Dairy Barn Arts Center.

Years later, when the Dairy Barn received the deed to the property, the barn and the 32 acres were deeded to the Dairy Barn Arts Center by the State of Ohio. Over the last 40 years, the 32 acres of pasture have since turned into a wooded area, with a beautiful ridge at the back of the acreage and a picturesque hillside. On October 19, 2018, the wooded area opened with the Ora Anderson Trail for the community to engage in healthy experiences in the outdoors.

VIEW THE EXHIBITION

If you are unable to attend the show in person, you can view the entire collection on the virtual tour at dairybarn.org

The makers not only enjoy sharing their woodworking with the public, but they also appreciate the chance to see the work of others. Exhibitor Rick Duff said, “We are, by and large, a solitary bunch working in our studios and our shops, and so getting to see what other people do is a very educational opportunity for me. I get ideas. I go home with a head full of ideas every time I see a show.”

John Wood said, “It’s also kind of an honor for me to exhibit alongside folks who’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have. I’ve only been woodworking really for about three years, and the people I go to, to ask questions and get advice from, are also exhibiting right here behind me.”

“It’s one amazing collection to see!” Scott Phillips said. “Unique works in wood from the Appalachian Mountains.”  Support the Dairy Barn, the artists and the arts, and maybe you’ll get some inspiration for your next woodworking project!

We hope you’ll be inspired!

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