Artist profile

Kevin Miller: A Turn for the Better

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2000

Turning wood: Kevin Miller works with wood, turning alder and mountain ash on a lathe to create a variety of functional and decorative items. A Turn for the Better is the name of his home-based business.

``Wood turning is really enjoying a resurgence. There are a lot of artists that use wood turning as a medium, similar to ceramics. You have your salad bowl wood turners, like your cup and saucer ceramicists, and then a cadre of artists creating things you wouldn't even know came off a lathe,'' Miller said.

Miller said his bread-and-butter items are bowls and salad bowls, potpourri dishes, candle sticks, bottle stoppers and oil lamps.

``My focus has been functional items - it allows my tool addiction to pay for itself. I've been making noises about getting away from that and getting into more creative things, but I have a couple of small kids,'' Miller said.

Carving Celtic knots: Miller would like to develop his carving skills. He said he's carved Celtic knot work designs into several vessels and would like to pursue that.

In addition to alder and ash, both of which are local, Miller also uses a variety of other hardwoods as they become available. Most are scraps donated to him by other woodworkers.

``Since I got started with this, wood seems to come to me,'' he said.

Segmented sculptures: Another aspect of woodworking he's experimented with is building sculptures from scraps of hardwood, in a style called segmented woodworking. It involves using a miter saw to cut small pieces of wood into shapes, inch-long trapezoids, for example, then gluing them together in a ring-like section.

``Then you can create fairly elaborate designs using different colors of wood and different angles of cuts. It's labor intensive, but you can build them up ring by ring and create elaborate pieces.''

These can then be turned on a lathe and shaped further. Miller said he's seen beautiful pieces in woodworking magazines and on Internet sites dedicated to woodworking.

``There are some turners out there whose segmented pieces are selling in the four-to-five digit range. Unfortunately I'm not one, yet,'' he said.

Almost 30 years with wood: Miller, 43, was born in Ketchikan and has lived in Juneau since he was three. He's a computer programmer by trade and works for the city of Juneau. He's been woodworking since high school, and started A Turn for The Better in 1995. His work is at the Bear's Lair in the Senate Building and in two stores in Anchorage.

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