Q: Tell us a little about your art.
A: Everything I create is made with sustainable yield hardwoods. I use woods from all over the world, I am looking for color and grain pattern in the different hardwood specie. Lacewood with its brown hues and honeycomb texture is from Australia, Boxwood with almost no grain and the color of butter is from Celyon, Katalox a beautiful striped purple wood is from South America. There are close to 40 different specie of wood that I have been milled ready to be assembled and laminated together with either natural wood veneers or dyed maple veneer. Laminated blocks are either 1.5 inches x 1.5 inches x 16 inches or 4 inches x 4 inches x 16 inches long. After the initial lamination the blocks are sliced, re-arranged, re-laminated and turned on the lathe. A Spirit Bowl, with a 2 inch diameter, can have 600 pieces of 9 different specie of wood and dyed maple veneer in it.
Q: Why did you start doing what you do?
A: In the early 1970’s I was trying to find my way in life. I tried graduate school in 2 different fields neither of which fulfilled me. I envied friends who had a cabinet shop, working with their hands to create a something that had not existed before! Title IX was passed by Congress giving women the same educational opportunities that men enjoyed and I was able to take advantage of this by being trained as a cabinetmaker by the State of Michigan. 2 & ½ years learning hand tools, drafting and machine tools. It was wonderful!
While finishing my training, I apprenticed in a shop where they made wood jewelry. Here I learned about the beauty of exotic woods and how to dye maple veneer, combining these two elements to make small intricate work. We discovered the process for the Helical Mosaic Pattern. Laminating an original block, slicing it apart, re-arranging it and re-laminating it into a second block and then turning it. The direction of my woodworking career had changed !!
Q: What makes you different from others in your field.
A: What sets my work apart is twofold. First is the overall size of my work, I am slicing and laminating 1/32 inch material, creating small work with hundreds of pieces of wood in them. The other distinguishing aspect is the dyed maple veneer accentuating the beauty of the exotic woods.I dye most of the veneer that I use. There are 2 different thickness of veneer, which also adds to the complexity of the patterns.
What I love is the patterns, how they emerge and change depending upon the orientation of the laminated material, the thickness of the slice and the thickness of the dyed veneer. The possibilities are endless.
Q: Where would you like to go next?
A: With bowls I am exploring geometric progressions in my first laminations and also in the slicing for the second lamination. In the past all the hardwoods would be milled to ¼ inch thick, now they vary in thickness from 1/16, 1/8, 3/16, ¼ inch. My most recent work has been with this kind of lamination, then cutting it at 45 degrees, matching the material, then slicing and twisting the lamination.
In jewelry I am exploring different necklace patterns.
This new work is on my ecommerce site www.studio-martha-collins.myshopify.com