Jerome Mills
Tortue Studio

Lafayette, LA

Make something of me and I will make something of you. My relationship with wood began in the late 1970’s when I visited a nearby hardwood sawmill. I noticed huge piles of scraps and asked the owner about them. He told me they were trash and they burned the piles periodically. I asked if I could have some pieces and he told me to help myself. I made my way into the piles of wood. My pulse quickened, my heart pounded. The wood spoke to me, wanted my attention, pulled me in closer. Look, it said, touch me, feel my surface, my elegant curves.

With a borrowed belt sander, a wood rasp and skill saw I took that wood and fashioned benches and coffee tables. The relationship deepened as the wood pulled me into kinship. Career and raising a family took us away from one another; however our alchemical kinship did remain. Then in 2010 I was introduced to the wood lathe through a bowl turning course at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. With that experience a whole new world of relating with wood opened to me.

I am captivated with the organic process that wood undergoes in nature and in my work I turn and sculpt to amplify the metamorphic processes of growth and decay. Selecting and then mounting a piece of wood on the lathe begins an adventure, one where I never quite know the outcome and am always filled with anticipation as to how the wood might be willing to expose some of its mystery to me.

I use a variety of turning tools to assist the wood in revealing different facets of itself. Also I carve burn, bleach, paint and add a variety of elements such as brass, fabric, copper, aluminum, and stone inlay. All of these can help amplify hidden elements within the wood and I hope my forms trigger something in others. Sometimes I use nothing and just let the wood be, allowing it to just speak on its own. The process of creating a piece is alive with the tension between competing forces of playing it safe and pushing limits. During the process patience, skill and willingness to fail are constantly tested. The pursuit of mystery and the joy in revelation of that mystery are well worth the commitment.