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In Tom Willing's hands, pieces headed for the scrap bin or landfill are transformed into works of art and sold at LO's Holiday Gallery



REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Artist Tom Willing turns waste from other local artisans, cabinet shops and lumberyards into works of art. Many of his pieces are on display now at the Arts Council of Lake Oswegos Holiday Gallery.Tom Willing admits he prefers seeing wood in the form of a tree.

But the next best thing may be the bowls, spheres, vases — and even ice scream scoopers — that the Lake Oswego artist creates from pieces that are often diverted from scrap bins and landfills. Many of those works are on display now at the Arts Council of Lake Oswego's Holiday Gallery.

"In terms of sales, exposure and meeting interesting arts people, it's better than ever," Willing said of the show, which continues through Dec. 23. A Community Treasure Hunt, featuring 60 porcelain ornaments hidden throughout town, has helped draw art lovers to the gallery at 510 First St.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Tom Willing crafts many practical objects, such as bowls, pepper grinders and platters, but each is also a work of art."The ornament hunt has created a lot of buzz," Willing says. "It's fun trying to hide ornaments without anyone seeing you."

It's also fun to turn waste from other local artisans, cabinet shops and lumberyards into works of art, Willing says, and he should know: He's been working with wood since he was 10 years old, when his father first let him stand by as he worked on his lathe.

"I started at Daddy's elbow and never looked back," Willing says.

After turning out works of wood in every possible way, Willing became entranced by woodturning several years ago. Today, he is a member of the Pacific Northwest Woodturning Guild, Northwest Woodturners and the American Association of Woodturners, turning out beautiful pieces made from maple, walnut, madrone, myrtlewood, holly, dogwood, hornbeam, plum, pear, apple, cherry, lilac and more.

The simplest explanation of woodturning, Willings says, is "making a block of wood round." And the best way to understand woodturning is to see Willing take a block of wood weighing from 50 to 70 pounds and transform it into art.

"When I'm done, it only weighs 8 to 10 ounces," Willing says.

He doesn't like to see any good block of wood tossed aside, so he also works with arborists — including his son, Charlie — to rescue valuable timber from the chipper and the stump grinder.

"I hate to see a nice piece of wood go in the waste bin," Willing said. "It's hard for me to see a nice piece of timber end up like that. I like to see timber used well."

Charlie will often call his dad and say,"Hey, you better come get this piece of wood," Willing says. One of the father and son's favorite bowls, in fact, came from a hazardous maple tree that harbored a Wood Duck nest cavity. According to Willing's bio on the Pacific Northwest Woodturning Guild's website, Charlie insisted on waiting for the ducklings to hatch and leave before taking the tree down.

"Wood is a dynamic material," Willing says. "It's a wonderful thing for it to be uncovered, even when it has voids, knots, pockets and cracks. It honors a tree to have something good come through your shop."

Willing warms up for his creations by making some wooden tops for kids or some ice cream scoops. Then his artistic juices start flowing and he's ready to begin his real work.

Willing says that for him to be happy with his work, it has to have the right form, balance and proportion, and light must play well over it.

"With woodturning, you get caught in a tension between art and craft," Willing says. "It's a spectrum with no blacks or whites. I always hope the work in my hand will be my favorite piece. I always hope the piece I've just sold will be the buyer's favorite piece."

For more about Willing and his art, go to woodturningguild.com/tom-willing.

The Arts Council's Holiday Gallery is located at 510 First St. in Lake Oswego. Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Evening events are held on Fridays from 5-7 p.m.; the gallery will also be open on Monday, Dec. 21, for holiday shoppers.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or

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