When Martin Thorne was young, he diligently collected thorns from rose bushes.
Trying not to prick himself, he carefully glued them to the medieval weapons he crafted. The thorns made the stick swords and shields look fierce. After all, they are nature’s perfect sculptures, Thorne says while holding one out on the end of his thumb.
Decades later, Thorne still collects the tiny spikes. Behind his workshop there’s a shed full of rose bush clippings. But his whittled swords and shields are a thing of the past. Now Thorne’s workshop is the birthplace for abstract wood sculptures. It’s part of a natural evolution, he says, standing in a sun-lit corner of the downtown Squamish studio.
“Woodworking has always been my thing, since I was a child,” Thorne says.
Thorne’s father was a “maker” and an architect. He always had projects on the go. The house was stocked with oil paints, watercolours and even a darkroom for photography. Any tools you could want or imagine were there to be used.
“I just picked up on it,” Thorne says. “I just ran with it.”
Having attended Ryerson University for architectural design, Thorne moved to Squamish in 1977 to work as a carpenter. He’s done it all, from interior finishing to custom furniture. But it wasn’t until the early ’90s that Thorne became serious about his true passion — wood turning.
The action of wood turning is similar to that used by a potter working with a potter’s wheel. One places a piece of wood on a lathe, which rotates rapidly, allowing an individual to carve shapes into the wood using special tools.
“The possibilities are endless,” Thorne says, while demonstrating the equipment. “To me it was more about the instant gratification. In a few minutes you have a space.”
In the early ’90s, wood turners were few and far between. But the art form has seen a resurgence, with a growing number of fine art wood-turning exhibitions and acquisitions having been made by major arts institutions, states the American Association of Woodturners. Thorne remains the only fine art wood turner in Squamish.
The art form is liberating, Thorne says. He finds inspiration from logs and sticks swept ashore after a storm. His stack of firewood offers up bundles of ideas. Wood turning is about using what’s around you, Thorne says.
“It is freedom,” he says. “It is freedom of expression.”
Thorne’s work will be on display at the “Into the Woods” art exhibit during the Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival. Opening on Thursday, Aug. 2, at the Squamish Arts Council building at 37950 Cleveland Ave., the show is inspired by Squamish’s forests, the spirit of logging and the loggers sports festival.
For more information on Thorne or the exhibition visit www.squamishartscouncil.ca.