Large, abnormal growths found on tree trunks or branches do not bode well for a tree. Like cancerous tumors, these burls are the result of a tree going into complete distress and while it may survive, its foundation is weakened.
For woodturners like Chuck Aaron, burls are hidden gems – pieces of wood with crazy grains and if it is a box elder tree, huge red splotches called flames.
"You get the most incredible bowls with the creamy maple colors and flames of red in them," Aaron gushed, of working with box elder burls, though he gets just as excited about working with all types of wood from walnut to white ash, American elm and more.
"I like wood a lot," the Columbia resident said. "Woodturning is just so satisfying on so many levels."
Several of Aaron's pieces, as well as those of three other Maryland woodturners, will be part of the "Elegant Woodturnings" exhibit at HorseSpirit Arts Gallery in Ellicott City. The exhibit opens on June 12 with an opening reception at 4 p.m. and will be on display through June 23.
Robin Holliday, owner of HosreSpirit Arts Gallery, likes that many woodturners take locally found wood and turn it into art.
"We'll be driving down the road and have to stop," said Holliday, whose husband, Max Crownover, is also a woodturner and will be part of the exhibit. "If you find a down tree, call them."
Since opening on Main Street almost three years ago, Holliday has presented the works of 44 local artists in her three-floor gallery, with a different artists featured every month. In May, there was a photography and painting exhibit on the third floor; in July, two painters will be featured in the same space.
She has two criteria she looks for when she debates representing a new artist: their art must be good and they must be a nice person.
"I will represent them a long time," Holliday said, of her artists. "The gallery has all their work interspersed throughout. The upstairs third floor is primarily the exhibit. There is a sense of community in the gallery."
"Robin is a wonderful curator and communicator," Aaron said. "She has an immensely creative sense of design. The gallery is so different than others with its variety of styles and mediums."
The "Elegant Woodturnings" exhibit will feature some of the finer things woodturners can make, Holliday said.
"The featured artists got together and picked it up a level and called it 'elegant woodturning,'" Holliday said. "It is not the type of show you'll find forks for salads. It is the type of show you say 'Wow.'"
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"Elegant Woodturnings" will run June 12 through June 23 at HorseSpirit Arts Gallery, 8090 Main St., Ellicott City. An opening reception will be held June 12 from 4 to 6 p.m. For more information, call 410-461-3505.