The Creative Spirit: Andrew Potocnik

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Above: This image showing Andrew Potocnik featured on the cover of AWR#85. Photo: Raf Nathan

An interview with Wood Review author Andrew Potocnik introduced by Linda Nathan, Wood Review editor.

For Andrew Potocnik, long-standing contributor to Australian Wood Review, there are no mistakes in woodworking, only design opportunities. Every deviation from a plan, albeit open-ended, is an avenue for further exploration. Like rabbits, ideas breed in his workshop – Andrew is one of the most creative people I know, and I say that having known and worked with him for over 20 years.

Visiting his workshop I have witnessed his trails of thought in the form of the in-progress and one-day-to-be-returned-to projects for turned, carved, divided, wall-mounted and freestanding object he makes and sells through galleries. It’s a small space, crammed with tools, small machines and all manner of branches, boards and offcuts, many salavaged, all with a value one day to be discovered and showcased.


 In issue 89 Andrew combined LED lights and luminous pigments for an ‘illuminating experience’. Photo: Andrew Potocnik

Inspiration points are literally everywhere for Andrew as he has maintained a love of travel which has taken him and his wife Kate more than once around the world. His interest in architecture as well as the arts and crafts of other cultures is reflected in many of the things he makes.

Well over a hundred of Andrew's articles have appeared in Australian Wood Review since the first appeared in issue 8 (1995). As an author, Andrew is an all-rounder and has written everything from tool comparisons and exhibition reviews through to numerous projects and technique articles.


Two views of a burl topped and collared box which featured in issue 101. Photo: Andrew Potocnik

Several of his stories are on our website – you can see links to these to the right of this page. For this feature I also asked Andrew a few questions:

LN: How and when did your interest in woodworking develop?
AP: I’ve found wood an appealing material to make things from ever since I was a child. Even if it wasn’t the most appropriate material for the task at hand, it was the one I felt most comfortable with. For some reason I’ve always made things, be they in response to a need, or simply because something inside me drove me to do so. I suppose I don’t want to die wondering, so if there’s an urge, I feel the need to give it a go.

During my secondary schooling I had the opportunity to experience a variety of practical subjects ranging from art to textiles, metalwork, leatherwork and cooking. Mum taught me how to knit the European way, so I have had a broad range of experiences and techniques to fall back on, however wood has been the material that’s been there the whole time.


A turned clock made and photgraphed by Andrew Potocnik.

After school I wanted to continue working with wood but not down the trade path, but a creative one. Eventually I found a course that I suited and it suited me, which was within the teacher training environment of what was then Melbourne College of Advanced Education, later to be absorbed by Melbourne University.

Here it was back to the same format as Macleod High, Egyptian to Baroque and 18th and 19th century European Art, a smattering of all the art and craft subjects in the first couple of years, gradually focussing on key subject areas in third and fourth years. Then came the pay-off…a piece of paper that said I was qualified to be a teacher! I had completed all the education units along the way, including teaching placements.


Adding a shaped insert allows Andrew Potocnik to make a lidded vessel with textured carved flutes in an open-ended way. He showed the ‘cheat’s way’ to make a hollow form in issue 94. Photo: Andrew Potocnik

That’s how I became a teacher – by default! But once I worked out a curriculum that enabled me to share my interest in working with wood with students, and a way of fitting in making my own work, I found a happy medium which I enjoyed much to my own surprise. Leaving the job after 25 years, I can truly say that teaching is a rewarding occupation because you learn so much about people and in turn, about yourself.

After five years out of teaching in the formal sense, I still run into former students who are still willing to talk to me and it’s great to hear what they’re doing as their lives evolve.

LN: What are your main interests in terms of what you like making?
AP: Too many things that distract me from current projects. I’ve taken to explaining my making pattern as being a creative form of ADD. I start something, get distracted, start something else, get distracted... So I write notes to myself to remind me of future developments and where I’m up to. Dates of notes make me cringe when I get back to old projects and see further possibilities that get me started again. So what do I like to make? Anything that isn’t too big because it will take up too much storage space and will take too long to complete, especially as I’ll get distracted – hence furniture goes down the list of priorities.


Thinking outside the box and the circle, in issue 104 Andrew showed how it’s possible to deconstruct turned forms and reassemble them into dramatic artworks. This piece is called Chiaschuro. Photo: Andrew Potocnik

LN: Can you name three pieces of your work that you like the most and why?
In a word, no! Any piece that I’m happy with I’ll like for a short period of time before I become critical of any faults I can see, be they technical or visual. Every piece has faults, it’s just a matter of how long it takes the eye to pick them up. Sometimes it may just be a degree’s change in angle, a few millimetres left or right, up or down. There is always a way of improving a piece. For example you could draw the most beautiful curve and a dear friend of mine, the most talented person I have ever met, Matthew Harding, could come along and change a little bit here, tighten it there and so on, and once he was finished you would take a step back and think wow!


Turning and carving this Huon pine was a story by Andrew featured in issue 72.

LN: You are a professional woodworker but you also taught for many years at secondary school. What did you enjoy most about teaching? What are the main changes you observed during that time?
AP: The most enjoyable part of teaching is seeing students go through their growing pains and settling down on their journeys onto adulthood. In secondary education you meet a child and farewell a young adult. Nowadays education is a business driven by data rather than helping individuals make the most of their ability and find a way of contributing to society, rather than making the most of society to become successful representatives of how good the school that nurtured them is.


Watching his partner Kate make patchwork quilts inspired these brooches, as shown in issue 78.

LN: Are you a hand tool, power tool or machine kind of guy? What is your favourite machine and why? Your favourite hand tool?
AP: I’m not fussed, as long as the tool or machine enables me to transform an idea into a fully resolved final product as quickly as possible.


In issue 74 Andrew made the most of some mulberry wood branches rescued from a roadside heap.

LN: What’s your favourite part or process of making a piece?
AP: Probably somewhere around half way into the making, where things are moving along smoothly and difficult decisions can be altered or reversed without destroying the piece. Starting is exciting because it’s all fresh in my mind. Knowing when a piece is finished is a bit more difficult because there is always something more that can be done. As for commissioned pieces? Working out a price that’s fair to me and the client kills me!


In issue 89 Andrew combined LED lights and luminous pigments for an ‘illuminating experience’. Photo: Andrew Potocnik

LN: What’s the hardest thing about woodworking?
AP: Pricing.
…and the easiest?

LN: What are you making at the moment – will we see it in Australian Wood Review magazine?
AP: I have about a dozen pieces on the go at any given time. Some are completed quickly but most evolve over a long period of time, which is why commissioned pieces can be daunting as they involve a timeline. The story-teller in me usually finds a thread around which a magazine article can be woven. It’s all part of teaching.

Learn more about Andrew at

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