Terry Martin is a woodturner, sculptor, writer and photographer. Over the last 25 years his work has been in exhibitions throughout Australia and around the world. He is often invited to attend conferences as a speaker on turning and wood art, and curates exhibitions of both. His latest book, New Masters of Woodturning, will be published in June 2008. His work was featured in AWR#2, 1992 and he first wrote for AWR in October 1993.

Q: Okay we know you like it, but how did you get into woodworking?

A: I was training theatre technicians and there was a lathe in the workshop. Nobody knew how to use it, so I did a weekend course in how to turn an eggcup. That was 25 years ago. I’ve never turned an eggcup since, but I came away with the familiar bug.

Q: Who are your woodworking heroes/gods/gurus?

A: The woodworking equivalents of the Unknown Soldier—for example, the person who in ancient times who realised that if you put a piece of wood between two fixed points and spin it, you can make round things. I also acknowledge David Ellsworth as God because he spearheaded the contemporary turning revolution, although I’d rather you didn’t tell him as it might go to his head. Today, among others, I love the work of Thierry Martenon of France.

Q: What do you mainly make?

A: Turned oddities and Trees.

Q: Your thoughts on traditional vs ‘new’ and digital?

A: I’m a selective Luddite. I hate mobile phones, texting and MP3s, so by association I dislike digital woodworking machines. In contrast, I like woodiness and hand skills.

Q: What are you pet woodworking hates?

A: People who copy and take credit for other’s ideas. Also, pomposity—woodwork is just woodwork, it won’t save the world.

Q: What is your desert island hand tool/ machine/ timber/ woodie book?

A: Playboy.

Q: The best thing you’ve ever made?

A: A simple jacaranda bowl which I still have and use. It just makes me feel great to hold it. I’m pretty happy with my recent Trees.

Q: Your best excuse for not getting something quite right?

A: I was stupid.

Q: Your most often-made mistake?

A: Opening my mouth when my brain is not engaged.

Q: Your biggest woodworking disaster!!?

A: After years of negotiations, I had an exhibition in Paris which opened hours after the Sept. 11th attack on the World Trade Center. The streets of Paris were deserted and three people came to my opening. I sold one piece and it took me years to financially recover. A small thing in the big picture, but it still hurts.

Q: The thing I would most like to change about wood is…

A: I wish it would make up its mind how dry it wants to be.

Q: The thing I would most like to change about woodworkers is…

A: I wish they would stop asking ‘How did you do that?’ and ask, ‘Why did you do that?’

Q: The thing I would most like to change about my own woodworking is…

A: I wish I had the speed of Raffan, the ideas of Martenon, the fame of Ellsworth and the geniality of Vic Wood. Wouldn’t I do well!

Q: My final word on woodwork is…

A: Enjoy! It’s not important, it’s only what we do while we live our real life, which is staying healthy, making friends and trying to do a few kind things along the way.

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