Robert “Spike” Cloninger

Fine Lathe Turned Vessels – Fairhope, AL

“Spike is the brother of my best friend Curt Cloninger. He creates wonderful treasures out of discarded wood. He sells to collectors and high-end art galleries throughout the country. We are proud to know Spike and his wife Claire. And to have his wooden wonders avaiable at 2Smith Art Gallery.” — Larry Smith

In Spikes own words…

“I am making wooden vessels – bowls, urns, vases, goblets – hand turned on a lathe, or hand carved, or both. My medium is wood that I harvest directly from tree or stump.

The wood that I work with is of no value to more conventional woodworkers. The twisted and gnarled crotches, burls and roots that I use are left in the forest by harvesters of lumber and pulp. Even firewood gatherers disdain the pieces that I routinely seek. The odd shaped, unwieldy, chunks that won’t split and won’t stack and won’t fit in the fireplace – these are the treasures to which I am attentive, and which come under my hand.

Most of the vessels that I make are turned from “green” (unseasoned) wood, straight from a log, burl or gnarly stump. It is the nature of such wood to continue to “move” a bit after they are turned, which accounts for the out-of-round and/or textured aspect of many of these vessels. If, while turning, I uncover an insect or larvae path, I try to incorporate it into the surface of the finished piece. I will sometime leave the marks of woodpecker activity on the surface of the vessel – the signature of the artisan who made a living in the tree before I have.

My wood yards are the log jambs and the swamps of our coastal rivers. Magnolia and Holly and the roots and burls of Eastern White Cedar, Swamp Gum and Oak are abundantly available. Hurricane debris is another of my sources, delivered on a regular basis here on the Gulf Coast. When I weary of working with local woods, I gather a pick-up truck-load of choice pieces and journey to the Carolinas to barter with other wood turners for Maple and Cherry burl, or to Texas to swap for Mesquite.

Thus my environment is my stock in trade, and my relationship to the rivers, and bay shores I live near is no less important in my art – both physically and spiritually – than the relationship of my hands and eyes to the spinning work piece.

From river, forest, bay and swamp to the music-filled coolness of my small shop – my days are spun in wood.” — Spike Cloniinger

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