What are the chances two people living States apart in the US would meet in the upstairs knitting attic of a (non-closed) yarn shop along historical Mainstreet in Unionville, Ontario, Canada? That’s just how I met Janette, wife of The Whispering Woodturner! When it came to finding a prize for Air Bender MKAL, she popped to mind as Whispering was one of the potential name ideas ?. Let’s get to know our generous prize donor a little better. Please welcome Janette and hubby, Steve, to our event!
Q1. I’m fascinated by the process of turning raw wood into beautiful yarn bowls. What first engaged you in this creative outlet?
It was with the first lathe I bought out of a finger hut catalog. I started making candle sticks… you should see my wife’s collection. Being the yarn enthusiast she is, One day she asked me to turn her a yarn bowl. I upgraded my lathe to a jet and haven’t stopped making bowls since.
There is a bit of nostalgia to this business. About six years ago when a storm came through Georgia we were driving it in Roswell. We saw a bunch of trees laying down in the road and we knocked on the guys door and asked him if we could take one of the stumps from the tree that the city had been cleaning up in his neighborhood actually was from his yard. He said sure take as much as you want. So we took about three or four of those logs. One year later ( that’s how long it took the bowl to dry for a re- turn) we returned to his house to give him a beautifully finished bowl. He wasn’t home .. but we left it by one of his pillars on the porch with a little note. He got our phone number through the Whisperingwood Turner Website. He was overjoyed to get that bowl. The tree that fell had been in his yard for 30 years. It was something that was unexpected because we never told him we were going to do it. That was the Start of us trading trees for product for people. Steve has been doing it ever since.
Q2. Walking the woods here, I see many “perfect” felled trees. How do you go about selecting the trees for your products? Do you look for live trees or ones that have fallen naturally?
Most of the wood I use is from trees that have fallen during storms. Or that are being removed by excavation for building projects. Many trees have a story. Like our hurricane Irma bowls. Or our city of Forsyth bowls from a 100 year old walnut tree that needed to be removed for the new recreation center that was built in town. Our favorite bowls were from a friends farm that was in his family since the 1800’s. The property was sold and the trees were excavated. I got first dibs on the trees. I made all the surviving siblings souvenir change bowls as a memento to their legacy. I do occasionally buy downed trees that I find available on Craig’s list.
I select hard woods with the exception of box elder. My favorite woods to turn are, cherry, maple, Bradford pear, and walnut. I don’t care to turn oak and pine which are great woods for furniture making.
Once we picked up a truck load of burls from Wisconsin.. My son Jared, he’s a truck driver, had met somebody in Wisconsin who owns land and this man told Jared that he would cut all the burls off of his trees for my husband. In trade my husband made him two huge salad bowls and a couple of platters out of the burls. There’s another picture of a huge tree stump Steve is standing next to it. That’s from a 200-year-old tree in Atlanta. At that time my truck driver son was working for a tree service company that’s what he did as a younger boy. And he would always call us and tell us about these trees that were being cut down because the city was getting rid of them. Also the kids who worked with Jared that still work for the tree service contact us when there are some beautiful trees that they’ve cut down and then Steve will go pick up the wood at lunch and he makes them salad bowls and platters in return.
Q3. I love that your bowls are never stained! Do you employ any other eco principles in your process?
Other than using Gods natural perfect medium, I also purchase cabinet scraps (dry wood) to make our yarn swirlettes. This is an up cycle and prevents the scraps from ending up in a landfill. I also use all of the wood saw dust and shavings as mulch for our property.
Q4. Without stain, how do you get so many awesome colors in your bowls?
Nature provides the color in our wood. The various colors and patterns are from spalting and insects. The red in box elder and the tiny holes are from the box elder bug that infests the tree. The bug is the reason these trees need to be cut down. I am always on the lookout for box elder. The ambrosia beetle also attacks the maple tree and leaves unique markings in the wood. The spalting occurs, when green/wet trees are drying, and a fungus grows which causes unique coloring and markings. It’s an “ashes to beauty “process that occurs naturally.
Q5. Yarn and salad bowls, yarn swirlettes (genius, btw), t-shirts (hilarious one too boot), and cutting boards. What’s your most popular knitting item?
Our most popular knitting item I must say, is the yarn Bowl, with the swirlettes, coming in second. They’re not just a regular production item with our products, they are one of a kind hand turned treasures…. my wife says they are “heirloom quality”.
Puddles species to species question. On your website you mention your products are great for keeping pet hair off of yarn. Do you have a furry friend helping in production?
Our furry friend is a 9 lb Maltese named Shelby. She likes to hang out with me in the early mornings while I turn. On sunny days you will find her laying in the sun on our driveway waiting for me to give her a snack. It seems that in her 14 years of life that food has become her only focus.
Find The Whispering Wood Turner in person at the following festivals:
SAFF in Fletcher, Nc, October 25-27
Knitting in the borough in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, November 2.
You find us in May at Maryland sheep and wool every year and the Georgia mountain needle arts festival in Elijah Georgia the last weekend of April.