Doug Mooney’s Artistic Woodturning

Welcome to the Artistic Woodturning Studio and home of Doug Mooney. I first met Doug at “Turning Tuesdays” and was impressed by his works of art. He invited me out to his home and I soon found that underneath all this talent is also a very interesting person. This was a unique learning experience for me and I hope for you too!

Doug was not always a woodturner or an artist and that’s where my story begins…

Doug was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. After high school, Doug was drafted into the Army and joined the paratrooper division. He jumped from helicopters, piper cubs, flying box cars and was the first paratrooper to jump from a jet along with his commanding officer, Captain Landy Nelson. Being the first test jet jumpers from a C141 cargo jet, the Army learned to add a shield to the side of the jet to protect the paratroopers from being thrown by the engine propulsion blast which caused the static line to deploy faster and melt half of Doug and his Captain’s parachute during the fall. Doug and Captain Nelson landed safely despite the incident. This shield is still used today to protect the paratroopers. Doug trained new jumpers, packed chutes and was a company clerk  in a quarter master unit. He also had reponsibilities of what Doug refers to as being a “Radar O’Reilly”, like being Captain Nelson’s driver and handling paper work for the unit. With only 6 months left to serve, Doug went on a furlough home and decided to marry his high school sweetheart, Karen. Doug and Karen have been married for “43 happy years”; has 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren.

Doug was discharged from the Army in 1967 and began data processing work for a bank in Buffalo for two years. In 1969 Doug’s brother-in-law, Frank, helped Doug get a data processing job at Western Electric.  Western Electric closed 9 years later and became Southern Bell, division of AT&T in Atlanta to which Doug transferred to in 1978. Doug worked in Atlanta for 2 years before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to open a new processing center for Southern Bell.

It was during this time that Doug found an interest in painting from a PBS art show teacher named Bill Alexander. Doug watched the shows and ordered Bill’s supplies and began oil painting. Doug began taking painting lessons from the Golden Arts Studio in Florida. He had a natural talent that led into becoming  a professional art teacher for the 3 studio locations during the evenings in addition to working for Southern Bell.

Bill Alexander came into the studio while Doug was teaching Bill’s painting methods one evening and sat in on his class. Bill was so impressed with Doug’s work and teachings that he asked Doug to paint him, which Doug did (pictured left above). Afterwards Bill asked Doug to take over for him on the PBS art show so he could retire. Doug passed on the opportunity deciding that he could not do all the traveling that the show would demand and still be able to keep his Southern Bell job and be there for his family. Doug claims, “It was the worst decision he has ever made”.

Another attendee that learned Bill’s painting methods from Doug’s classes was Bob Ross. Bob (also a veteran) from the Air Force and avid painter continued learning and teaching under Bill Alexander and took Bill up on his offer to continue the PBS show, “The Joy of Painting” which Bob did for 11 years. Bob became famous as well as a multi-millionaire, but died of cancer at the age of 57.

Doug continued painting and selling over 300 pieces of his artwork. After 5 years in Fort Lauderdale, he transferred back to Atlanta in 1984 as a second level manager and went on to retire in 1994 at the age of 50. Doug and his family moved to Bishopville, Ohio where he continued painting until 1999.

Below are a few of Doug’s paintings in this video collage:

Remember Frank, Doug’s brother-in-law who helped him get his Southern Bell job? Frank, being a “good-deed-doer” is also a woodturner that changed Doug’s interest from painting to being a woodworker.  Frank sent Karen a woodturned bowl (which Doug is holding in the picture above). Doug was fascinated and immediately hooked with curiosity just from this gift. Once again, Doug’s natural talent became greater with his tenacity, patience, effort and work ethic.

Doug acquired one of the first Shopsmith E11 lathes and some practically unused turning tools that a friend in Atlanta had in his barn, which Doug converted into a drill press (pictured left below). Since then, Doug has gradually added to his shop machines and tools. Doug commented, “Most of my tools come from Woodcraft but I always felt bad about spending money on tools because my family needed the money too.  I had to combine my love for woodworking and use the tools to make money in-turn for my family”.

I think you have a win-win situation there Doug!

Doug’s main creations are American Native Art Basket Illusion Woodturnings.  He pours his heart and soul into these wood bowls, plates and other artifacts that duplicate the original designs of the American Indians. Studying first from the library or purchased books, he makes sure his woodturnings are duplications from authentic historical Indian weave designs from Apache, Hopi, Puma, Anasazi and other tribes.  Doug creates each different design on graph paper using radial lines, then follows that design to completion on the woodturned plates, bowls and other products using a beading tool which creates concentric and even cuts into the  wood.

Doug patiently burns 144 radial lines into the wood which takes 100 hours on each product.  Burning is done completely to the bottom of the bead, cotterizing that area so that when coloring is applied it will not bleed onto the adjacent block.  He then colors each bead using Sharpie permanent ultra fine point markers, duplicating what the American Indians designed using berries.   All of the indian plates and bowls are made from, as Doug explained, “A big ash tree that was used as a landmark for guests to find his home in the country, but needed to be cut down in his yard”.  Pictured below are examples of one of the books next to his design and final products:

Listen now as Doug tells us about his crafts and plays one of his handcrafted American Indian flute instruments in the video below:

John Wolf, Tom Vensel and Tom Bennett are also from the “Turning Tuesdays” group and friends of Doug’s. Together they all belong to the Southeast Ohio Woodturners (SEOW) Chapter of theAmerican  Association of Woodturners (AAW).  As John, Tom Vensel and Tom Bennett have given back by helping Mikey Ellison, Doug gives back by helping mentally and physically challenged children and adults by teaching them to woodturn in his home.  Some of his students have gone on to take Woodcraft pen turning classes.  Doug stated, “All SEOW members help support mentally challenged individuals with woodturning education”.  Just as Doug is meticulous in all his works of art, he has ingrained this ethic into his students.  All these guys are also involved in “Turning for Troops”, but that’s a future blog!

Below is Doug’s Studio filled with his works and honors that he has received:

I could tell how genuine Doug is about enjoying his work from his story regarding the selling of one of his dogwood burl bowls. Doug likes to hang on to his finished items, before considering the sale of it. He was at a convention, showing his projects when he was approached by a man who wanted to purchase his dogwood burl bowl. Doug told the man he had just completed this particular artwork. He was only showing it, wanted to enjoy it for a while, and was not interested in selling it. After many attempts with much persistence from the man to get Doug to sell, Doug stood his ground and refused. The man came back at the end of the show for one more try at purchasing the bowl.

Doug shouted back with such a high price thinking the man would never go for it and leave him be, but the man reached in his pocket and laid the money down.  Doug was shocked and was forced to sell. Still today he misses that burl bowl and wished he would not have sold it because there is no duplicating that unique burl. Doug said, “All I have left of the piece is a picture on my computer which does no justice to how beautiful and unique the burl bowl was. Doug later found out that the man turned out to be the owner of the facility that the event was taking place!

As I left Doug, he was turning another platter.

Keep on turning Doug and we’ll be in touch soon!
Thanks for sharing your life and times with us.

Auf wiedersehen!…Frank

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