My Path

My adult life has been spent, almost compulsively, making things of wood. I’ve made theatre scenery, toys, cabinets, furniture, doors, windows, stairs, boat parts, houses, outhouses, greenhouses, doll houses, and so forth. But when I ‘discovered’ woodturning almost 30 years ago, I knew right away that I was home.

Lathe-turning suits my criteria for a “making” process perfectly. I like the scale of the work, the rapidity of wasting down to a rough form, and the delicacy of final shaping that is possible. I especially like visualizing possible pieces that make use of natural features in the wood. Cutting into a log is a little like prospecting for precious minerals — even though there are indications on the outside of what might lie within, it is always something of a surprise as I roll each fresh-cut block over the first time.

I spend a lot of time roaming freshly logged hillsides, probing the stumps for their hidden treasure, and it never ceases to amaze me how fast the wild plants create an impassable tangle in their eagerness to embrace the blessing of new sunshine. There is a sense of optimism in a forest, even in one that seems laid waste … a kind of innate faith in the resilience of the force of life, an unwavering commitment to the cycle of birth, life, death and renewal.

In this time of widespread starvation, armed conflict and severe environmental degradation, I feel there must be another level to what I am doing than just making beautiful objects. When it comes right down to it, what really counts is how we express our personal values from moment to moment. So I hope my work communicates an awe and reverence for natural processes, a sense of the connectedness of all life, and the uniquely human search for perfection.


My Resume:

Robert T. McKay
Born 1945, Dallas, Texas
Immigrated to Canada 1968
Resides on Salt Spring Island, B.C., Canada

BA, Chemistry, Boston University, 1967 (High Honours)

Woodturning Workshops

1987 Richard Raffan, in Vancouver, BC
1987 Canadian Woodturners Association, Saskatoon, Sask.
1988 American Association of Woodturners, Redmond, WA
1989 Dale Nish, Victoria, BC
1990 Rude Osolnik, Abbottsford, BC
2001 Melvyn Firmager, N. Vancouver, BC

Selected Exhibitions (*one person shows)

1984 Maple Ridge Art Gallery, “Design and Discovery” with Dodie Wirth

1984 Robson Centre, Vancouver, BC, “Maker’s Showcase”

1986 Maple Ridge Art Gallery, “Fibre and Wood”, with L. Richmond and P. Cheuk

1987 * The Gallery, Harrison Hot Springs, BC, “Turned Wood”

1987 William McCarley’s Gallery, Vancouver, BC, “The Christmas Carpenter”

1988 International Gallery, San Diego, CA, “Out of Canada: East Meets West”

1989 * Circle Craft Gallery, Vancouver, BC, “Thetis Tree and Friends”

1989 Circle Craft Christmas Gallery, Vancouver, BC, Invitational Show

1998 Community Arts Centre, Victoria, BC, Invitational Show

2000 Artspring, Ganges, BC, “Summer Show”, Alliance of Salt Spring Artists

Published Project

1979 Fine Woodworking, Design Book Two, Spiral Staircase


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