Turner by name, turner by nature.
An ‘atronym’ is the word for when a person’s name ‘is regarded as amusingly appropriate to their occupation’. Neil Turner introduced us to this term. He could have been called ‘farmer’, based on his previous work, however his destiny, it seems, was to become a wood turner.
Neil Turner was a farmer all his life, but from the age of 18, he pursued woodturning as a creative outlet, working in his shed at the end of every day. Upon retiring, he has been able to dedicate his time entirely to creating highly complex turned pieces from native Australian wood.
Neil is a man of few words, but here in this short & sweet Q&A he hints to the meditative enjoyment of working steadily in his workshop, and the joy he finds in timber and nature. To learn more about his craft, click the links below to watch the short story film ‘Neil Turner Artisan’ and find Neil in our Directory too.
Read on for a glimpse into Neil Turner’s woodturning life.
What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?
Artistic wood sculptor; woodturner; fine furniture maker.
Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?
My workshop space, in the south-west of Western Australia, is broken into areas for furniture making, carving and woodturning. I don’t have a showroom to display finished products.
Which of your tools do you love the most and why?
The spokeshave – I enjoy using this tool as I feel it’s an extension of my hands.
Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?
Beautiful pieces of timber & nature’s simplicity of design.
What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?
I’ve always enjoyed timber, not sure why; it just resonates for me. Timber allows me to use creative designs but with limitations.
Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?
I may have two or three pieces on the go at one time, moving from one to the other. I have ear phones with music on but occasionally I do enjoy the quiet time. Besides the occasional kangaroo that pokes it’s head into my workshop we don’t have pets anymore.
What are you working towards right now?
I’m catching up on work that has been neglected for ‘Turner + Turner’. I’m always trying to catch up; making many pieces at once is rare. Because there are no markets at the moment, only online, hopefully I can “get ahead”.
For ‘Neil Turner Artisan’ I’ve been creating pieces for collectors in the USA with a few more sculptures still to make. I’m designing a lectern and presentation table to make before the end of the year. Also designing pieces for the Craft Triennial exhibition in 2021.
If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?
To make a piece for Parliament House Canberra.[Collected 22 May 2019.]
Watch a carving and texturing demonstration by Neil Turner for the Rocky Mountain Woodturners (Recorded 4 June 2015. YouTube 1:37:46).
This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’. They are deliberately low-key.
Post script anecdote…
We first met Neil through a referral to photographer and film-maker Rae Fallon when we were scouting for local films about makers for ‘Real to Reel: The Craft Film Festival‘. Rae submitted the short film she had just completed with Neil and we were delighted that it was accepted for the 2019 edition of the Festival (which, by the way, is still touring Australia – its dates extended due to the pandemic.) This film from WA was one of three films from Australia to make the cut alongside two animations by Tjanpi Desert Weavers, and 30 other international films.
Anyway, when we premiered ‘Real to Reel 2019’ at The Backlot in Perth last year, we were delighted that Neil and his wife Suellen were able to join us (they live in a coastal town, about 175km south of Perth). Neil had a busy schedule in Perth that weekend as he is always in demand to give talks and demonstrations at the WA Wood Show; he even crammed in a radio interview with Bec Bowman on ArtBeat at RTRfm. Rae was also amazingly able to make it too, with husband Shane, having just welcomed baby Tully a couple of weeks before.