Design Matters: Fair Curves

1411-DM-1-Lead-photoDave Fisher designs bowls by touch as well as sight.

by George R. Walker
page 18

The words “fair curve” get tossed around by designers, chairmakers and especially by boatbuilders. It’s almost impossible to pin down any of those folks and get a precise definition. About the best you might hear is that a fair curve is sweet to the eye, where lines flow in graceful arcs to make visual music. But for most of us, the world of curves is a bit murky

It’s true we may admire a flowing line that seems to carry the eye, but understanding how this works is not easy to put into words and it’s even harder to put into practice. Curves represent one of the biggest design challenges to woodworkers. Perhaps it’s because straight lines are predictable and lend themselves to building simple boxes and structures. Curves offer more surprises and more possibilities, but also more risk.

For Dave Fisher, a master at sculpting green wood into sumptuous, almost musical wooden bowls, the possibilities that curves offer are worth any risk.

As we stepped into Dave’s compact workshop in Greenville, Penn., it felt like a chapel dedicated to craft and creativity. Immediately my eye caught the curved lines of a carved bowl backlit from sunlight through a window. Circling the top of the wall was a long shelf stuffed with books on woodworking, craft, art and history. Below this (within easy reach) are his tools: chisels, gouges, hatchets, bowl adzes and drawknives, all razor-sharp and worn from use.

Peeking out everywhere are bits of inspiration and mileposts of his growth as a craftsman: carved panels on oak boxes, graceful wooden spoons, experiments in carved script and lifelike wooden animals waiting for Noah to finish building the ark.

Oh yes – the carved wooden bowls. A closer look reveals multiple curves and arcs dancing together to create a feast for both the eye and hand.

Blog: Read more from George R. Walker on his Design Matters blog.
In Our Store:Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design” and “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design: Moldings,” George R. Walker’s DVDs.

From the November 2014 issue, #214

pwm1114_150