Fractals and Woodturning

What is my woodturning about? Fractals and attention.

This will take some background… I take as a given that all things are connected, making a complex pattern out of simple elements that are linked on many levels, most of which are not perceptible, and some which call for a higher level of development of the perceiver. I am not there, by the way!

But I do look for shapes that reflect another level; think of the Neo-platonic idea that all that is relative in this world exists also in a perfect, Absolute form.

Fractals are natural patterns that repeat on different levels: the jagged edges of grains of sand, and a mountain range. When I make a good curve on a bowl and it breaks, each part still has a nice curve. The graph expression of a fractal equation is a beautiful curve, and I think of the curves as expressing a fractal equation, or An Underlying Truth.
Hogarth talked of the Line of Beauty, though what he drew was awful, but he was thinking about something along these lines, I think.

When I’m turning, it’s not about me; it’s about the piece, and the attention and time it needs. And I set aside the fear of breaking it or getting hurt.

There is a Sufi tradition that objects made with attention retain a certain virtue, baraka, as a result. Wood, wool, brass, and clay are thought (or perceived!) to be especially suitable for this.

I try and keep ego out of it, and competitiveness. I get more pleasure out of selling a piece to a first-time craft buyer than to a collector. I just turn shapes that feel right and look for harmony. Originality for it’s own sake doesn’t interest me.
One example of finding a good shape through harmony is how one makes the cuts. I shift my weight and rotate my body, with little arm movement, and it feels indistinguishable from Tai Chi.

Some turners that I admire are Bob Stocksdale, Del Stubbs, John Jordan and Bert Marsh, among others… but especially Bob, with his Quaker simplicity.

A number of books have influenced me, including the Sufi author Idries Shah, The Gift by Lewis Hyde, Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, The Unknown Craftsman: Japanese Insight into Beauty by Soetsu Yanagi, and Nature and Art of Workmanship by David Pye.

Is all that clear? If it is, it ain’t Artspeak!

– Barry Biesanz, 2012

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Our Botanical Garden in Escazu, San Jose, Costa Rica

Biesanz Woodworks Botanical Garden and Pond, Escazú, Costa Rica

Biesanz Woodworks Botanical Garden and Pond, Escazú, Costa Rica

Lately the pond and waterlilies next to the showroom and workshop have been looking especially nice.  We’ve got botanical labels on a lot of things now too.  There are some lovely things to see; some interesting medicinal plants, rare wood trees, some very unusual things to taste, and my favorite, lovely things to smell.  There’s a nursery of wildlife forage and rare wood trees.  We have stevia (the incredibly sweet herb), miracle fruit, dragonfruit, as well as the more common things like chocolate, vanilla, pepper, coffee, and bananas.   Here’s the full list (about 72 plants):

List of Plants at the Biesanz Woodworks Botanical Garden, Escazu, Costa Rica

Download (PDF, 2.43MB)

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Green frog stuck to the kitchen window this morning (Escazu, Costa Rica)

This green frog has been on the kitchen window all day – hasn’t moved an inch.  We can’t find him in the Costa Rica herpetology books – anyone know what he is?

From the other side of the glass you can see his belly – any even his toes.  How did he get up above head height?

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Monkeys in Quepos, Costa Rica

white faced monkeys in Quepos, Costa Rica

Barry says, “Down in quepos i thought the Capuchin monkey lying on the branch looked cute…and it looks like i’m wasn’t the only one!”

Sarah says, “The reaction photo is much funnier tho…”

Barry and capuchin monkeys in Quepos, Costa Rica

Sean took this on Quepos Point, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

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Ooh, these vulture chicks smell bad. Cute tho…

vulture chick in manuel antonio, quepos

These guys hiss and stink. That and projectile foul vomiting are their defenses. Eggs laid right on the ground!

I saw this one hiking in Manuel Antonio, Quepos, Costa Rica.

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Rainbow over San José, Costa Rica

rainbow over san jose costa rica

Taken from our roof. See what we have to put up with here?

I think there was an inversion over San Jose.

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Corcovado Park, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

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Boas in Escazú

boa snake in escazu costa rica

Seen a 3 foot female boa by our house in Escazu twice now, and a 6 footer was seen today… they’re everywhere! and sooo cute! Nope, not venomous. I think they are living on the field mice.

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Biesanz Woodworks in the news

Barry turned for the television crews, and he and Minor Loaiza did interviews for the cameras. It was for the Costa Rican Channel 6 morning magazine program “Giros.”

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Very determined beetles…

Beetle holes in cocobolo

Beetle holes in cocobolo

Scyllaridae beetle holes in cocobolo rosewood sapwood, and some in the heartwood too. They can even work lignum vitae, but it takes longer! These woods are so dense that they sink in water, so you can imagine how hard the beetles have to work.

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