Inspired by the memory of an arab craftsmen seen in a Moroccan souk using an ancient style of bow lathe, Michael Mode began woodturning in 1975 via a whimsical experiment involving a foot powered lathe made from a sewing machine treadle and an assortment of odd mechanical parts. Within six months the experiment became a passionate creative pursuit and a motorized lathe replaced the foot powered version. A single book about woodturning written by a British production turner supplied Michael’s woodturning education. Quickly outgrowing several lathes led him to purchase a more substantial machine from a local cabinetmaker, who, upon seeing Michael’s output, offered him a job with his Milford Furniture Company in Spinnerstown, Pennsylvania. Work there involved electric guitar bodies for Martin Guitar Company and a steep learning curve. Within a year the scrap mahogany, ebony and rosewood of the guitar line became fancy inlaid stools on Michael’s lathe. Word of mouth sales led to joining a woodworker’s guild and eventually to the ACC Craft Fair in Baltimore in 1982, officially beginning his professional career. Meeting David Ellsworth and seeing his success as an artist provided key inspiration at this time.
>From the beginning Michael primarily created lidded vessels, the early ones of various woods laminated together, then through most of the 1980’s vessels utilizing burl or spalted wood. These he sold through craft fairs and galleries, along with some specialty items such as painted finial shaped christmas ornaments(thousands of them), and later, miniature chess sets fitted within a lidded vessel of less than six inches by six inches.

In the early nineties Michael’s work changed substantially, still within the lidded vessel realm, into architecturally inspired vessels of many woods assembled in domed and winged forms reminiscent of mughal buildings seen by him in India many years before. A series of lidded vessels named after the mughal ruler Akbar ensued. Following the Islamic inspiration further gave rise to many laminated vessels of colorful and intricate designs.

A desire to create a specific design eventually led to the technique (click on technique) of concentrically cut rings stack laminated into bowl forms. For the first time Michael left the domain of lidded vessels entirely, using the bowl as a canvas for seemingly infinite varieties of flowing and thought provoking patterns. It is this phase of his work you will see displayed here in all the galleries except the retrospective, which shows some examples of the major objects described above.


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