Michael Shuler | Goncalo Alves Bowl #732
Michael Shuler

born 1950
Resides in Santa Cruz, California

Biography              Statement              Ask the Artist
Mike Shuler has been an independent studio artist since 1973. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Wood Turning Center, Philadelphia; the permanent collection of the American Craft Museum in New York City; and the High Museum in Atlanta. Shuler's work was featured in the Wall Street Journal in June,1991. His bowls have toured throughout Europe.


Statement

I have been working with tools and materials all my life. That was how I spent my time as a boy and I feel fortunate that I've been able to go through into adulthood with the continuity of a kind of a playful occupation from childhood.

What I'm doing now is not really that much different from when I was seven, I've just got some more possibilities open to me now and my projects do come out a little different than they did then. I started turning wood in 1964, when I was 14. I didn't know what a lathe was but I had some tools and I figured out that if I could get the wood spinning I could put my pocket knife to it and make it out. So that's what I did a lot of that winter, making miniatures out of birch dowels. And turning became my first love.

Mostly self-taught and self-employed over the years, I began this segmented work in 1985 as a beginning point of a technique/motif that will eventually allow me the means to give physical form to ideas that began in my mind in 1970. This will involve large, segmented, turned forms combined as single objects. Somehow there is an extraordinary beauty produced by all this. The technique provides a complex three-dimensional symmetry and the wood gives it a fluidity or a motion of it's own. My desire is just to present simple beauty that will feed the human spirit.


Ask the Artist

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

For my segmented work, I got a huge mental image in 1970 of a very complicated thing to build, a sculpture. All my segmented work represents development of a technique/motif that will allow me to build it. Pinecones and proteas are simply the process of discovering what has grown in nature and is hidden by external layers of growth or material.

Do you work alone on your craft, or with others?

Alone.

Do you ever teach, or take on apprentices?

I teach whoever is interested, especially children. I also give lectures to groups.

What's the most exciting part of creating your works?

Imagining and then giving it form.

What's the most difficult part of creating your works?

The logistics of cutting wood to extreme exact tolerances that are normally only done with metals.

What sort of technology do you use in your work? Has the technology of your craft changed dramatically over the past 100 years?

Things such as high-quality saw blades and lathe tools that didn't even exist 15 years ago have made my work possible. Adhesives such as the cyanoacrylates have made a huge difference. My vacuum chamber is crucial in many ways. Even the photography opens doors that wouldn't have opened 100 years ago.

Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?

Commit yourself. Even if it's wrong. You'll find out soon enough. Then you'll be able to make adjustments.

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 think the biggest secret is not a secret at all, but we are blind to it nonetheless. That is, that we must believe in what we want to do with regard to bringing imagery into physical reality. We must cross a threshold of purpose or validity. Usually, once we do that, we find what we need to facilitate the work.

What are we missing by experiencing your work through the Internet and not seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling/touching it in person?

You are missing at least half of all of the above. The Net can only give you a little taste. But then that's all it's supposed to do. That's the way most of us live out our days. A little taste here, a little taste there. Sometimes we find something that tastes really good. Then we find a way to get more of it.


Michael Sherrill Susy Siegele