Warren Vienneau: As the Burl Turns

Warren Vienneau: As the Burl Turns

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Warren Vienneau VaseAt age seven, Warren Vienneau visited relatives in New Brunswick, Canada who had a woodworking shop next to their house. They made doors and windows and Warren would get up early in the morning and go “work with the guys,” spending his day creating small fleets of planes and boats using scrap materials in the shop. And so began a lifelong love of working wood with his hands.

At Turned Works, he creates vases, vessels, bowls and sculpture from exotic woods, with a special affinity for buckeye burl. Warren has an eye for seeing the form that exists in a raw piece of material and knows that his imagination can bring it to life. In a way, these imagined forms speak to him, inspiring him to release the forms from the raw piece of wood.

Shown here is one of Warren’s larger pieces, a hollow, turned buckeye burl vessel – 20 inches high and 18 inches in diameter. Buckeye grows in the mountain regions in northern California and a burl is a growth that forms on the root system of the tree and is harvested from underneath the ground. The burl, all yellow in color to start with, develops the contrasting colors through a natural process called spalting as the wood develops mold. This process occurs over a six or seven month period. Warren receives the burl after it has developed its color and begins to work with it by cutting it into the sections needed for the design. This piece was created by first shaping the outside and then hollowing out the inside, all done by hand turning on a lathe.
Warren Vienneau
New forms and materials keep his enthusiasm for his work alive. Warren is currently challenging himself by working with “very large” burls to create outsized hollow vessels. The burl in the photo is 1,250 lbs and 6 feet x 5 feet x 3 feet in size. Burls of such a large scale allow Warren to cut the whole burl into multiple parts as he sees fit. He has already created a piece 4 feet in diameter and in theory could make a winged bowl up to 6 feet wide.

The Stihl chain saw with the 32 inch blade in the photo is new. Warren says, “You have to be awake to work with that saw!” When he bought it, the instructions said, “If you are not a very experienced cutter, take this back to the dealer and exchange it today!”

You will find Warren at Paradise City Northampton on October 11 – 13 this year as well as Paradise City Marlborough on November 21 – 23. Stop by and ask him about the challenges of working with burls, cocobolo, ebony and other exotic materials and see how he fared with the 6 foot burl and 7 HP, 32 inch bar Stihl chain saw shown in the picture above.

In this video, Warren shows how he starts with a 1,775 lb buckeye burl, finding “the hidden form beneath its course exterior,” and transforms it into a work of art.