For JB Phipps the creative process starts in the woods outside his studio, “staring at logs and waiting for an idea to develop.” The exposed ends of the logs and the shape of the bark give him clues as to what the inside might look like. With a few careful cuts with the chainsaw, the grain, colors, knots and other features start to reveal themselves, and a design develops in his mind.
A master of blind turning, a technique used to create hollow vessels, JB Phipps uses a bent cutting tool inserted through a small opening in the vessel to blindly hollow out the interior. “The interior shape of the vessel is seen only in the mind’s eye.”
As he works, JB Phipps enters a meditative state. “I am forced to quiet all other mental activity so that the interaction between wood, tool and maker is all that exists.”
The resulting sculptures are as delicate and light as Fabergé eggs.
While JB Phipps may have an initial design in mind, he takes his lead from the unique and natural characteristics of the wood. “My interaction with the material is what makes me feel connected to it, like we are partners in an endeavor to make something beautiful.”
It is not a perfect process. “One or two out of every ten projects end up in tiny pieces on the studio floor.” Whether he’s attempting to push his skill beyond his limits or has a momentary lapse of concentration, the result is a catastrophic explosion…and a rude awakening from his meditative state.
When not hollowing masterful wooden sculptures, JB Phipps also enjoys bowl making, a much quicker and less demanding process which allows for instant gratification and design flexibility.
No matter what he’s creating, JB Phipps believes his job is to honor the tree, to give the wood a second chance at life.