Stephen Hughes, Melbourne

I have been teaching Art, Graphics, Metalwork and Woodwork in Victorian High Schools for the past 36 years. During this time, I have also been teaching Adult Education classes in general woodworking and woodturning in TAFE and other Further Education facilities around Melbourne. I have also been a woodturning demonstrator for over 30 years. Currently I am Head of Design and Technology: Wood /Metal at Haileybury College, Senior School, Keysborough, Australia.

During the last years of completing my Bachelor of Education at Melbourne State college I came under the tutelage of Vic Wood, Australia’s most revered woodturner. Vic inspired and installed in me my lifelong passion for teaching and working with wood as a creative medium. So, as well as teaching Art, Design and Wood Technology, I have continued practicing part-time as a professional designer maker. I work mainly in native Australian timbers to create decorative and sculptural works using woodturning as my primary technique. I also carve, cut, reform and use various surface treatments to transform my woodturnings beyond the symmetry created by the lathe. My design style is heavily influenced by nature particularly my love of the ocean and surfing and when I create my focus is to enhance the natural beauty of the timber I am using at the time.  The accolades and success I have received for my work has led to me gaining a reputation as one of Australia’s more innovative woodturners.  As a teacher of woodwork I strive to encourage my students to explore and discover their own individual style with this wonderful material.

I have exhibited in many local, national and international woodwork exhibitions and my works have featured in newspapers, magazines and books. I have also been lucky to have won various awards and resides in many public and private collections throughout the world. This recognition has led to me being invited to demonstrate and talk to woodturning clubs and groups throughout Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S.A.


Winged vessel
In this demonstration I will explain and show how I turn one of my ‘Winged vessels’. Making my winged vessels or boxes involves turning forms that retain the outer rectangular profiles of the turning blank used. This series of works has evolved from a glue up method I learned from Vic Wood (Australia), where waste wood is glued to the outer edges of a cuboid turning blank. Using this technique enables the turner to create a round blank with the waste wood used to surround and protect the outer square edges during the turning process. I explain how to achieve a strong glue up and how it makes what would be otherwise be like turning hazardous propeller like designs a much safer and stress free process. Most of my turned designs start from drawings I create before I turn and I discuss why I believe this is such an important skill and explain simple ways of developing your drawing skills to help you visualise your own designs. After turning is completed which involves reverse chucking to finish the base of the form the waste wood is cut away on a bandsaw to reveal the hidden winged form of the vessel. I then show how I sand the outer edges and explain the visual impacts that angling of these edges can have on the final design.
Four cuboids having a ball – spherical box with a difference.
In this demonstration I explain how I use a method of multi axis turning that I call ‘rotational symmetry’ turning to create a spherical box that is left cornered by four or eight cuboid forms; depending on the number of rotations applied. The accuracy of turning these fun pieces involves preparing perfectly machined square turning blanks to match the size of special wooden chucks that I make to allow the blank to be turned without gluing or screwing for ease of changing the direction of their rotational axis. I will explain how to make these chucks, how I center them and achieve accuracy in their sizing in relation to the squared turning blank used. I show how I create and use templates to obtain precise wall thickness when turning the two hollowed hemispherical halves of the box. I use a spindle gouge for turning accuracy of the insteps for a precise lid fit and also for the exterior shaping of the spherical box form. I show how I shape and sharpen my spindle gouges specially to suit this project. I will explain how I use my drawings to explore and visualise design for my ‘rotational symmetry’ concepts before I start turning.
Lidded bowl with decorative insert
I explain and show how I design and make what I call my ‘classical’ lidded bowl forms. I am always trying to perfect my bowl forms and in this demonstration I explain the various influences, forms and proportions that I use to help me achieve ‘classical’ bowl designs. To turn the bowl into a lidded form I demonstrate how I part out a central core from the bowl, this core is then turned to form the centre section of the lid. Making the lid also incorporates accurately fitting and gluing the it into a decorative rim. I explain how I use various techniques to create my decorative inserts including segmented laminations, carving, natural feature and cracked timbers with resin inlay. For my demonstration piece I will use one of my laser cut ‘fretwork’ designs as the lid rim. I will briefly explain how I use both hand and CAD drawing methods to develop my laser cut ‘fretwork’ insert designs. To complete the bowl form I demonstrate how I reverse chuck the bowl to turn a finely finished bottom. To finish the bowl form surface, I will show how I use friction polishing techniques on the lathe.