An Interview with Lindsay Rotherham
Lindsay started turning around 10 years ago and describes himself as a frustrated artist. He is a screen printer by trade and a graphic designer and wanted to find a medium that he could express himself in. He always felt that timber was so tactile and when a friend of his up in the bush invited him to come and do some wood turning with him Lindsay jumped at the opportunity and has never looked back since.
He started turning on a little secondhand Record lathe but it was apparent it was limiting and when he came upon a special at a show he jumped at the chance of owning a large Vicmarc.
So now the skys the limit and he can choose to turn any sized piece. He realizes there are limits to the size people want. Too large and it is only destined for a boardroom table so the majority of what we saw were items that could fit into any home.
Lindsay is a true artist. As you get to know him you realize that he is a talented man with many feathers to his bow. He paints, carves, turns – in fact I think he will have a go at anything especially when it comes to wood.
He gets his ideas both from the internet and just sitting down with a sketch pad and drawing. Not content with the bog standard, he is always trying to do something different. He admits this is not an easy task, as you think you’ve come up with a great idea and then you see something similar on the internet – trying to be original is very difficult. But he never stops trying. And on top of this he has a tough critic in Jen his wife just in case he slacks off a bit.
Lindsay is influenced by many different turners – as he talks about his passion names such as Paul Barton, Vic Walsh, Neil Scobie and Al Sturt are heard. And when you look at Lindsay’s work you can see elements of these amazing turners coming out in Lindsay’s work but in an individualistic style. Copying is something that Lindsay shy’s away from – he feels that this is plagarism – nothing satisfying there. Digging into his creative mind is key for him.
The house is full of amazing pieces and each piece seems to have a story, place, person or event behind it. This makes his pieces unique. We saw a large platter made from an old burl that came off the Tayman property that he speaks dearly of. Boxes made of native nuts. Asian influenced pieces – in fact, you don’t know what to look at first!!
Not content with just turning, he embellishes his pieces with texturing and colouring. He loves the grains of wood so even when colouring he allows the grain to still show through, which makes for interesting design. He spray paints some of his pieces but because of his screen printing days and his connections with this industry, he uses a lot of fabric dyes which are water based. He dabbles around with them, mixing them with metho or water, to get just the right finish he is looking for. An interesting piece that draws you in is this bowl. Simplistic in design but the choice of colouring the outside in red and then leaving the natural beauty of the wood on the inside, just waxed, elevates the piece from being a bit of turning to a piece of art.
Another amazing piece is this small cut out vase. It represents the fires and you would be fooled into thinking that the wood has been hand burnt to give you the finish. But you are wrong. His understanding of the wood grain has allowed him to give the impression of burnt trees.
Lindsay turns some of his pieces in green timber and then steams them with a home steamer. Not an easy thing to do if you want something not to warp and be able to stand flat on a table – but he manages to do this with ease.
Does he have any favourite woods? Well as with everyone he uses red gum because it is readily available but he likes camphor laurel because it is a light timber and has a very compact grain. He is also partial to Huon Pine and is lucky enough to have a source in Tasmania. Generally, Lindsay doesn’t buy wood as his wife’s cousin lives in the bush and maintains all the wood up there so Lindsay gets to pick up some great pieces – how lucky he is!! In fact, I think if Lindsay never collected another piece of wood he would have enough stored away to keep him busy for many years to come.
Now we know they say you should keep well away from kids – and with woodturning this is no exception. Just from a health and safety perspective kids and lathes can be a pit of a nightmare. That doesn’t deter Lindsay. He is already passing on his incredible skills to his 11 year old grandson and is proudly reporting that his grandson has already made his own chisel handles, couple of mushrooms and a couple of bowls. Lindsay doesn’t always make it easy and just to keep him on his toes he has put something off centre. Not phased his grandson told Lindsay you are trying to trick me!! From what we hear I think we have a fine turner in the making – we can’t wait to see his work entered in the Students Section.
Lindsay gets a real buzz out of making items but does not get attached to anything – he is just keen to get on to the next project. He admits that craftwork gives one a lot of pleasure but you never get back the value – especially with all the imports from Asia – this really devalues a piece that could have taken many hours to produce by hand and destroys the worth of the unique hand made pieces that are produce locally in Australia.
He is very proud of his workshop and I must say it is the envy of many. His Vicmarc lathe is in a separate room to try and minimize the dust creation around the remainder of his workshop. Being health and safety conscious it is hooked up to dust extraction. The main workshop also has an air exchanger to try and filter out airborn dust. Lindsay would love a stubby but admits he doesn’t really need it as the Vicmarc does everything that the Stubby can do!! But one can just dream!!
Lindsay has a dedicated carving area. Currently he is working on carving the handle of a walking stick and on another workbench is an off centre piece that he will eventually carve in a similar vein to Neil Scobie’s work.
Offset turning by Neil Scobie
Lindsay is proud of his Tormek that he won– he has to admit he has already spent quite a bit on attachments and jigs to it – but doesn’t regret it. He thinks the Tormek is a fabulous piece of equipment. The shine he can get on his tools is unbelievable and the work he produces from these tools just says it all.
There are projects on the go everywhere that he has started and yet to finish including a wacky bird which he hopes to finish one day. You can see he dabbles in box making and hanging on the wall is a beautiful depiction of a bonsai. The bonsai was done by scroll sawing out the shape and then embellishment with the Dremel to make the tree.
Lindsay belongs to Knox Woodworking Club. He doesn’t do too much turning there – mainly helps others improve their skills. He joined this club many years ago because of turners such as Vick Walsh and some of the old wood turners – reminiscing he said it was terrific. But as Lindsay has developed his skills much of what he does now is different to the turning done at the club.
Lindsay has had a tough year with ill health and hasn’t really done much turning since the last show – in fact he was in hospital when we made the presentations and his grandson proudly accepted The Tormek for the Best Novice and the Timbermate prize for the best Wood Art.
But he has just begun working again in the workshop and hopes to have a couple of pieces ready for the 2017 show. We certainly hope so. When he is back to form he can spend up to 6 hours in the workshop and no need to leave it when he is concentrating on a piece as the workshop is fully self contained with a private toilet and a hidden fridge for drinks with built in draws for his jigs!!
Lindsay doesn’t any wood being thrown away and just as we were leaving his workshop our eyes were drawn to a great piece of willow on which he has carved the most wonderful faces.
An inspiring visit. We wish him all the best and can’t wait to see his 2017 entries. Thank you for making us so welcome.
Written by Rachelle Leaver
Photography by Saadi El-Behiesi