Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the people behind the product.
What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Paul Judkins, creator of the Wood Stem Champagne Flutes, Wood Stem Wine Glasses, and Wood Stem Margarita Glasses.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist/maker?
I didn’t make a conscious decision to become an artist. I can’t recall any time in my life that I didn’t think of myself as an artist of some kind or another. I have always made things with my hands and continue to do so today. I have explored many different forms of artistic expression. For several years I carved, sculpted and painted water fowl. After some years my interests shifted to antique stained glass restoration and eventually led to making unique stained glass windows. Over the past forty years I have been involved in some form of woodwork like designing and building furniture and making custom cabinetry. About 25 years ago I got hooked completely on woodturning after I realized it’s an endlessly creative art form. Along with my line of wooden stemmed glasses, I also make art pieces for sale in local galleries and as special gifts for our friends.
What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist/maker?
Freedom of personal expression. Although I try making my wooden stemmed wine glasses look as similar as is possible using hand turning techniques, each one is unique. Watching a finished piece emerge from a rough wooden blank is unceasingly fascinating, I never grow bored with the process even though, at times, it is quite repetitive. All the mesquite I use has a definite historical provenance and giving it a new life is a fantastic creative experience. Owners of my work not only have a unique art piece, they are also have a piece of Texas history.
What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Typical day – lots of wood shavings flying around. Generally I work at the lathe 3-5 hours each day. Usually I devote an entire day’s production to making just making the stems for the wine glasses and champagne flutes. The next day I will spend most of the day making the bases for the glasses. Nothing makes a woodturner happier than being covered with wood shavings, and to that extent I am very happy most of the time. On days that I am not actively turning, I take a chain saw and cut raw mesquite logs into manageable pieces. I take these rough log sections and begin the process of milling them down into stem and base blanks using on a large special purpose band saw in my shop. If I make the blanks from freshly harvest logs, I put them in milk crates and allow them to dry in my shop’s hot attic for a few weeks to reduce their moisture content. Since my wife is not especially keen on me tracking sawdust into the house, I try to spend a few minutes every couple of days vacuuming up wood shavings. The pictures will show that I am somewhat derelict in that duty!
Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
Actually I have two: my wrench, and my Lotta Bull picture.
My great grandfather was a blacksmith who came to the Oklahoma Territory and took part in the 1889 Oklahoma land rush. He and my great grandmother helped found a small community where he set up his blacksmith shop. Using his forge and anvil he handmade a “S” shaped wrench from two wagon wheel hub washers and an old file. His workmanship is of such amazingly high quality the wrench looks like it could have been cast as one solid piece. He considered himself as a simple village blacksmith; however, his surviving work demonstrates his exceptional artistic talent and craftsmanship. The wrench hangs among my turning tools in clear view near my lathe. It serves as constant reminder that artistry has been part of my heritage for the past four generations. His 200 pound anvil sits in our breakfast room on a base I made from dead old cedar trees near my home. I am surrounded by ever-present bridges to my ancestry.
I made the Lotta Bull Rancho sign when I was 14. I hand lettered the sign and carved out the letters using an old router bit in my Dad’s beat up old drill press. I grew up with horses, cattle and sheep around me all the time so I decided we needed a name for the property. Today, it hangs in my shop above the door. My uncle was a farmer and liked the sign so much he paid me to make several with his name on them for his ranch trailers. This was my first commission as a budding artist. Often, when I am trying to figure out the answer to a complicated question, I look at my sign for inspiration. It takes me back to a time, when like all teenagers, I had an answer for everything. Sometimes it helps me, but mostly it just makes me remember simpler times and smile!
Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
Wow! Cool! . . is what they generally express. I used to present woodturning demos for classes where my wife taught as a school teacher. I would make a wooden ballpoint pen during the demo. I gave each child in the class a ticket and when I finished the pen making demo, we would hold a drawing. The winner got to keep the pen. They always enjoyed the demos because they were fast paced but mostly because I made wood shavings fly everywhere.
What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“Keep working, the boss is watching!” Just joking, actually I don’t have one. The knowledge that there is a beautiful finished piece quietly waiting for me to release it from a rough chunk of wood provides me all the motivation I need. My shop is a never-ending woodturning adventure every day, I can’t wait to get started.