Woodturning – Ken Hawtin

Gallery @ 501 is proud of its ongoing commitment to local and emerging artists within the county of Sherwood Park, and we are pleased to feature the work of someone who just recently began making art. Ken Hawtin didn’t consider himself to be an artist until he picked up a motorless lathe from the Bargain Hunter sales paper after a 45 year career in carpentry – but when he put a motor in it and got it working, he fell in love as soon as he picked up a gouge.

Hawtin’s turned vessels start with a selection of raw green wood, usually chosen for the interest in grain and pattern that will result – wood burls are particularly prized along with spalted (partially decayed) woods and unusual colourations. The piece of wood is then mounted onto a faceplate and secured to the lathe, where it begins to spin in place once the lathe is turned on. The wood is then worked with various tools – chisels, gouges – and the form slowly begins to take shape. After the rough form is created, the vessel is put into a shed to dry completely. To create the delicate forms of his pierced vessels, Hawtin turns the dry wood until it is less than .25” in thickness in order to allow him to carefully cut out his design using a high powered Teflon dental drill.

Similar to woodturning artists such as Alain Mailand, Binh Pho and the recently deceased Frank Sudol, Hawtin is interested in pushing the boundaries of woodturning both technically and conceptually to create a contemporary dialogue between what is craft and what is art. Hawtin uses various techniques of carving and ornamentation on the forms to create incredibly delicate vessels that hover on the edge between form and function. Taking as a reference point many different artists as well as his own environment, Hawtin blends and combines techniques and imagery to create his own unique approach.

Hawtin’s process and imagery can also reasonably be compared to that of contemporary artist Peter von Tisenhausen, whose animated, highly carved work on beetle-kill pine wood uses the materiality of the piece to express a deep concern for environmental issues currently facing Canada’s land, in particular Alberta. By comparison, Hawtin’s delicate and caring treatment of wood evokes a more subtle appreciation of natural Albertan resources and the quiet beauty inherent to cultivated lands; something philosopher Robert Pogue Harrison referred to as the virtue of cura, or the sense of fulfillment from the act of care and cultivation that drives human nature. Hawtin’s works embrace the concept of cura in celebrating the dual fragile/strong nature of the raw material, following grain lines and leaving natural edges to show the process of the turning; this creates an understanding in the viewer of how his vessels are made on an almost visceral level, similar to von Tisenhausen’s raw slash marks in a wall of timbres or the orderly lines of a farmer’s field. Cura is also represented in the incredibly delicate and laborious carving that ornaments vessels such as 2015’s “Winter is Near”, describing textural maple leaves and negative spaces with equal attention and devotion.

Hawtin’s work as an artist is just beginning to take shape; his ongoing experimentation with form, texture, and design hints at a developing style that embraces not only the inherent beauty of the medium but also includes a sense of place and interaction within the context of his natural environment. In whatever direction he takes his future work however, the viewer can be assured that a strong undercurrent of love – for the craft, for the labour, for the art, for his home and his work – will be present in each piece.

Miranda Mewhort, Junior Curator
Gallery @ 501

Interested in Proposing an Exhibition?

Community groups, organizations and artists are welcome to submit proposals to exhibit work in the Artrium in the Community Exhibitions space. This public space is accessible and easily viewed by visitors coming to the Community Centre to access Gallery@501, Strathcona County Library, Vicky’s Restaurant, County offices and the Agora event space.

We encourage you to consider showcasing your organization/group through visual artwork, a visual project, writing, photography, historical information, project examples or other visual means. There is no charge to display in the Artrium. This is a courtesy Community Outreach Service.

If your group is interested in proposing an exhibition, please contact Brenda Barry Byrne, Curator, at or 780-410-8575.

Last updated: Monday, December 04, 2017
Page ID: 40923