Philip Moulthrop is the son of Edward Moulthrop. Philip lives in Marietta, Georgia. His work is represented in the collection of The High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Kresge Art Museum, East Lansing, Michigan; and the Fine Arts Museum of the South, Mobile, Alabama. The American Craft Council has featured his work in exhibitions since 1982. And he has taken part in the International Turned Object Show three times--most recently in 1994.
Philip Moulthrop is also trained as a lawyer.
I think of my wood turning as a way to reveal the beauty and
texture which is found in the wood. The wood I use comes from
trees which are native to the southeastern United States. These
are not considered to be exotic woods, however, they possess a
richness in the grain and figure which is too often overlooked.
I create pieces using simple shapes and forms which will
best display the colors and patterns which are inherent in the
wood. My use of smooth curving surfaces and lack of carvings or
other surface embellishments is intended to better display the
wood and not compete with it. The finish enables the observer to
get a feel of the warmth of the wood while allowing its
intricacies to be imparted. I want the people who see my pieces
to be able to enjoy them just by looking at them, and not having
to know exactly how they are made or having to read an
explanation of the piece in order to do so.
Ask the Artist
Where do you get the ideas for your work?
- I am always trying to think of possible new forms which will express my approach to wood turning. I look for ideas in naturally occurring shapes and forms such as leaf designs or tree curvatures. I use simple contemporary lines, without surface carvings or embellishments, since they tend to show the natural patterns in the wood. I want the piece to appear, and I want the observer to know that the piece is made from wood.
Do you work alone on your craft, or with others?
- I work alone in my wood studio. I perform all of the steps from cutting logs with a chain saw, turning the piece on the lathe, sanding, and polishing by myself. I collaborate with my father, Ed Moulthrop, about different aspects of turning occasionally and we do the blacksmithing of our tools together, but the entire bowl turning process is done by myself.
Do you ever teach, or take on apprentices?
- I do not take on apprentices, however I do teach wood turning classes from time to time at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and similar places.
What's the most exciting part of creating your works?
- I feel that in the creation of a new piece, I have several points which I find to be equally exciting. When I initially cut a cross section of a log that I will use, it is exciting to be confronted with unusual patterns, colors, or wood grain. Secondly, as I turn the rough form on the lathe, I am able to see the actual patterns and colors that will be present on the finished bowl which can reveal unexpected and pleasing surprises. Finally, I find that when I apply the final finish and polish, the full color and pattern of the finished piece is apparent, and this is very satisfying.
What's the most difficult part of creating your works?
- The most difficult part in creating a bowl is determining whether the patterns in the log will provide a level of visual interest which will make the wood worth using and then deciding how to orient the pattern into the actual piece. The actual handling of the logs, and cutting can also provide their own difficult physical challenge to the process.
What sort of technology do you use in your work? Has the technology of your craft changed dramatically over the past 100 years?
- Wood turning has been a craft for hundreds of years, dating back to ancient Egypt. The craft was mainly for utilitarian purposes, such as food containers and furniture, until about fifty years ago. Electricity provided a tremendous boost to the craft as well as new metal technology for tools. Additionally, new wood preserving chemicals, and finishes have allowed turners to use more types and larger pieces of wood, as well as for more purposes. Modern saws, metal alloys, new tools and chisels, and abrasive papers have make wood working much less tedious than in the past.
Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?
- I would suggest to someone just starting in wood turning that they take several classes from different wood turners. This will provide them with basic knowledge of the techniques and expose them to different approaches and methods of turning. After they have learned the basics, continual practice will provide the most improvement.
Can you share a "secret of the trade" with us--something nobody else knows or that you found out only after years of experience? Put another way--what do you wish somebody had told you when you were just starting out that might have saved you hours of wasted effort?
- I have learned several "trade secrets" over the years that I have been a wood turner. Some of these techniques were learned from years of trial and error or through research and experimentation. The field of wood turning has literally exploded with new people learning to turn and trying to market their work. This has greatly increased the competition among professional wood turners for a share of the market. I therefore do not reveal all of my secrets.
I have found that many of the techniques can be found by reading the wood turning journals and newsletters which are published. The new turner can also find solutions in "question and answer" sections in which other turners describe problems or techniques they have encountered or use. The other good source of information is to attend some of the many wood turning conferences held around the country and listen to the seminars and discuss the craft with other people attending there.
What are we missing by experiencing your work through the Internet and not seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling/touching it in person?
- There is no substitute for seeing something in person. Although a viewer on the Internet may see photographically realistic reproductions of work, they will not sense the subtle color, luminescence, and light refractions which can only be seen by viewing the actual piece. In addition, a viewer who can touch the actual piece will be able to sense the surface texture and "warm" sensuousness which is inherent in wood.