Kent Artist Profile: Michael Palmer
Wood is a material that is wild and beautiful. It can be used to create intricate works of art that are both striking and usable, which is a rarity. Artist, Michael Palmer, thinks that wood is the ultimate medium to work with – we had a chat with him to find out more.
If you had to define your art, how would you describe what you do?
I’m an artistic wood turner who has a passion for working with wood to express its natural beauty and character. My preferred style is fairly minimalistic, using a design that allows the wood to show its grain, figure and bark to best advantage. I love to include natural edges, knot holes, burrs, spalting, and other naturally occurring imperfections. I don’t like too much embellishment or fiddly features.
How did you become an artist?
I’ve evolved into being an artist since I retired six years ago. I started to learn to turn about fifteen years ago and I’m still very much learning! I’ve become somewhat obsessed with ‘form’, so as to get the line of the curve absolutely right.
Who or what are your artistic inspirations?
I’ve been much influenced and inspired by Phil Irons, who has helped me develop my turning skills. Bert Marsh’s work has been a great inspiration too. His ability to turn a vessel that somehow lifts itself is amazing.
What is it about bowls in particular that inspires you?
The great thing about bowls is that there are an infinite number of shapes and effects depending on the size and type of wood. Each one I produce is truly different and it isn’t always the one I expected to make! I am taking risks with the wood to produce an object with flowing lines that is pleasing to the eye every time, and I love that.
What has been your proudest artistic achievement to date?
I am very critical of my own work and am constantly trying to improve – occasionally though, I manage to make something I am content with. I recently made a hollow form in olive that stayed in one piece in spite of being a risky piece of wood.
Where have you exhibited your work?
In 2015, I had a joint exhibition at Creek Creative in Faversham with Geneviève Ellis. Her colourful photographs of tree bark complemented my natural bowl forms very well. This year, I was a guest at Pilgrims Way Artists exhibition in Lenham, and I’ve done Open Studios and Christmas fairs here in Faversham too.
You have three homes: one in Kent, one in Normandy, and one in Amsterdam. Does this influence your work?
Woodturning needs heavy machinery and I am lucky to have three workshops; my main one is in Faversham, where I store and process wood. I also have a big lathe in Normandy, but in Amsterdam my workshop is up steep Dutch stairs, so I use it to keep my hand in and make smaller objects.
What does the future hold for you?
I’ll be here until after Christmas with my eight grandchildren, then I’m off to France for New Year. I’ll be in Amsterdam until Easter, but am planning to have a second exhibition here with Geneviève later in 2018 – it’s all go! I’m always looking for new wood and love to make pieces for those who donate them from their own trees.