Dixie Biggs, Florida, USA

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by working with wood. My mother enjoyed hand carving but put it aside after having children. The story goes that as a toddler I would get so close to her while she carved, trying to watch what she was doing, that she was afraid she was going to cut one or the other of us. According to her, I got my first pocket knife when I was about kindergarten age; much, much earlier than she would have liked. My interest in woodturning began in 1979 when I taught myself to turn so I could duplicate a chess set my grandfather had made. I attempted this on a small Dremel lathe that I found out real quickly was not adequate. The only instructional material I could find at that time was Dale Nish’s book, Creative Woodturning. Armed with that and, at the time, my new Craftsmen lathe I started my journey into the woodturning world. Although I’m primarily self-taught, I’ve received great advice and inspiration from many other woodturners and artist throughout my career.

Much of my work incorporates a botanical theme, an outcropping of my degree in Agriculture and a love of the outdoors. The shapes, textures, and simple beauty found in the natural world are most often the source of my inspiration. In each of my pieces I try to evoke the sense of tranquillity that one often finds during a quiet walk in the woods. Many of my sculptural pieces create a restful place on which my turned work sits.
Although each piece I produce begins on the lathe, I see this as merely a starting point, my blank canvas ready for further development, most often carving and painting. Over the years I’ve developed techniques for using rotary power carvers and a variety of burrs to achieve the detail I love to create. This carving can be even further enhanced by the use of a woodburner and the application of colour.

A full-time woodturner and artist since 1989, I have had an extensive show career and have exhibited my work in such notable venues as the Smithsonian Craft Show, the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, and del Mano Gallery. I continue to share my techniques and knowledge by demonstrating at various woodturning clubs, symposiums, and craft schools around the country and abroad.

Demos

Simple Surface Treatments
Woodturnings that are created from wood that doesn’t have striking grain features can be enhanced in a variety of ways. In this demonstration, I will be covering several surface treatments that are fun and easy for everyone. I will primarily be utilizing tools many of us already have on the shelf in our shop, such as a Dremel rotary tool and an engraver. I will demonstrate how to add even more visual impact to these pieces with the use of coloured dyes, grain fillers, and coloured waxes. I will also be covering some simple power carving techniques, such as incising a pattern into the surface of the turning and what I call my step pattern that is created with a modified carving bur. These are an easy place to start with the use of just a few carving burs.
Need Some Relief?

 

I will share my relief carving techniques using a rotary power carver. I will discuss the various rotary power carvers available and what I prefer and why, for the carving I do. Things you will need to think about in the turning of the piece that is to be carved, such as grain and wall thickness. Don’t let the apparent complexity of creating an overlapping pattern intimidate you. I’ll take you, step by step, though the stages I use to create my “leaf wrapped” vessels, from layout to detailed carving. I will show what burs I use for each step to create the look of overlapping leaves and how some of these burs are modified for specific purposes. I will demonstrate a variety of final surface textures that can be done to the leaves as well as the background areas. Also covered will be various sanding techniques and tips.

Adding Detail to Relief with Wood Burning and Colour.
In this demonstration you will see how I create my carved field of clover on a piece. This approach can be used with any small overlapping pattern. I will show how the pattern is built up and gives the appearance of multiple layers. See how the wood burner can be incorporated along with power relief carving to create finer detail and contrast to your work. I will demonstrate how depth and dimension can be further added to the surfaces of your pieces with the application of colour. With the use of fluid acrylic paints and utilizing a dry brush technique I will show how you can easily create multiple layers of colour. I will finish up with a short Power Point showing these steps on a lidded vessel.