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Having a cabinetmaker Grandfather might explain my desire to take up some form of working with wood. So too might the life long interest in trees. I was very young when I collected the Brooke Bond picture cards "Trees in Britain" I still have a treasured but rather tired and dog-eared collection. These cards were to be found in packets of tea my Grandparents bought. Oh the excitement of visiting them to see if more packets of tea would reveal those hidden treasures.

Of course a trip to my Grandparents could also mean that I might be allowed into the workshop. My over-riding memory of the place is the smell; that absolutely gorgeous aroma of a 'proper' workshop. I now know that smell was probably more to do with damp and dust but nowadays no workshop is a real workshop unless it has 'that smell'.

However, it was my eldest brother who had the privilege of spending Saturdays with Granddad, no thoughts of gals in the wood shop then!

It wasn't until I was …. well much older than when I was born …. that I decided to do something about my desire to work with wood. During years living in New Zealand in the mid-1990s, I enrolled on a woodworking evening course. I found a lonesome lathe, had a play, and that was that. Life hasn't been the same since!

Curious this addiction, as it was a rather inauspicious start. It was an under- resourced college. Few turning tools and the inevitable hunt for a drive centre or the faceplate, then for some screws for the faceplate etc.etc. The tutor would take away the gouge to another room to sharpen it! So for a 2hr lesson each week, 30mins was spent hunter-gathering and 30mins was spent watching the other two people on the lathe. That left 15mins waiting for the tool to be sharpened, 15mins spent tidying at the end of the session and 15mins for me to turn. What happened to the other 15mins? You don't think we started on time do you!

Despite all of that frustration something wormed its way into my brain cell and I just knew that I had to do more turning! So it wasn't long after that course that I bought a second-hand Nova 1500 lathe. A second-hand Nova chuck, a cheap parting tool and a new bowl gouge were bought on the same day. I could not believe I was spending so much money on a hobby! Neither could my husband, poor boy. Up until that time we possessed only a hammer, spanner and a few cheap and cheerful chisels.

With little means of converting timber for the lathe, a bow saw, soon became my best friend. That and a lathe with a bottom speed of 178rpm and a 1hp motor made it possible to mount some hairy, scary pieces of timber. Even now my toes curl at the memory of some of the logs I mounted on that lathe. I only ever broke one window though! I'm proud to say that I have cracked more windows with cricket balls than with logs! As hard and as time consuming as it appeared to be, I think that this use of logs and rough lumps rather that ready-made blanks has given me invaluable experience and a sound basis for 'finding' shapes. It is amazing what one can discover simply by roughing down a log or two!

Another great help to me was my time at the West Auckland Woodturners Guild. This was a fun and knowledgeable group and I learned heaps.

On returning to the UK in 1998 with my trusty lathe (and my wonderful husband and gorgeous daughter) I continued with my addiction trying to develop skills, using every opportunity to practice and to learn from others. I joined Avon & Bristol Woodturners (affiliated to the Association of Woodturners of GB) and the Gloucestershire Association of Woodturners.

All this club membership makes me sound a gregarious sort, which could not be further from the truth. However, acknowledging my lack of basic woodworking skill, no understanding of metals and tools meant that I needed to brave the big wide world and seek out new life and go boldly where this dumb blonde hadn't been before. The awful truth of the matter was that I couldn't get enough woodturning. Through my various club and association memberships, I have met some wonderful people, many skilled turners and some very knowledgeable characters.

My enthusiasm has led me to enter competitions from which I have received encouragement and enjoyed a little success. A big woodturning landmark for me came in April of this year when I was awarded a bursary from the Worshipful Company of Turners. With this bursary I purchased a Vicmarc 300 shortbed lathe and chucks. This lathe has been an absolute revelation.

Another major turning event for me was a recent trip to Derbyshire to the workshop of Allan Batty. Here I spent a week trying to soak up some of his knowledge and skill but a week is just a spit in the ocean. I am still staggered at the man's skill and history.

I now have some of my work displayed at three galleries and my husband produced a website for me from which eventually I hope to sell more work. I undertake some demonstrating which I rather enjoy - I get to chat to woodturners! However, I am seldom happier than when I am in my workshop with my lathe, ogling a few logs wondering what treasures they contain.

A selection of my work can be viewed at:www.julieheryet-woodturner.co.uk

The Connoisseur's Gallery, 2, Chipping Court Shopping Mall Tetbury, Gloucestershire.

Dansel Gallery Rodden Row, Abbotsbury Weymouth, Dorset

Isle Gallery, Courtyard ,Unit 4, Tynwald Mills, St. Johns, Isle of Man


  "The Lid"
Betula pendula / Dalbergia melanoxylon
30 cm diam
  "The Lid"
Betula pendula / Dalbergia melanoxylon
30 cm diam
  "Double Lid"
Acer pseudoplatanus / Dalbergia melanoxylon
30cm x 14cm x 9cm
  "Double Lid"
Acer pseudoplatanus / Dalbergia melanoxylon
30cm x 14cm x 9cm
  Walnut lidded
Juglans sp / Dalbergia melanoxylon
20cm x 18cm x 8cm
  Yew Bowl
10 cm max. diam
Taxus baccata
  Masur Birch lidded
Betula sp. / Dalbergia melanoxylon
18cm x 14cm
Acer pseudoplatanus coloured (ink)
18cm x 12cm
  Grass Root Hollow
Xanthorrhoea sp
15cm x 10cm
  Oak Hollow
Quercus sp
18cm x 15cm
  Grass Root
Xanthorrhoea sp.
19cm x 15cm
  Cherry Deep Bowl
Prunus sp.
10 cm max. diam
  Blue Platter front
Acer pseudoplatanus coloured (acrylic)
28cm diam
  Blue Platter back  
  Spalted Beech 2
Fagus sylvatica Hollow form
10 cm max. diam
  Spalted Beech
Fagus sylvatica Hollow form
10 cm max. diam
  Lacewood Bowl
Platnus hybrida
10 cm max. diam
  Mulberry Bowl
Morus nigra
10 cm max. diam
  Stumps 9
Fraxinus excelsior / Quercus sp
60cm x 30cm x 26cm

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