Chipping Away with Tom Cote

Tom came into our world when we decided that wood is a fiber too…that we should extend our horizons and pull “those guys” into Fiber College. 

To make a long story short, my dad went up to Limestone for pointers on carving his carousel-sized dragon…and came home saying that if we didn’t ask Tom to join us…we’d really be “missing the boat.”  Wood carvers with spinners, knitters and quilters?  We reasoned that fiber tools were often made of wood…and then there’s the paper/wood fiber connection…and we needed to offer something for partners of people who love soft, colorful mohair, silk and wool…so we asked Tom to be the 2009 Artist in Residence…and then we turned him and his apprentices on to drop spinning…and his classes filled with women…go figure!

Tom is a creative, generous soul who makes you feel as though if you grab a chisel and a chunk of wood, anything is possible.   He’s teaching two classes this year, Hand Carving Duck Decoys on Thursday from 9-4 and Carve a Walking Stick on Sunday from 9-1…either class is appropriate for children who are capable of handling carving tools safely.  When we asked him to fill out our interview questions, this is what he had to say:

1. The unauthorized biography of you life is titled: “A Chip off the Old Block Can Be Knotty.”

2. If forced to choose, would you be an eraser or a permanent magic marker? I believe that I am an eraser, because you never know what you will run into when you start carving, and sometimes you have to change your mind about what the wood tells you.

3. Do you live with any animals?   No, not at this time.

4. What are you currently reading?Traditions in Wood”

5. What is the most surprising response to your art you have ever received. I had a lady in tears when she saw the portrait of her father-in-law.

6. How do you know when your work is done? It is usually done when there is no more wood to remove around the idea I see in the wood.

7. What do you listen to while you create? Canadian Radio and Oldies8. Why do you (knit, quilt, spin, carve, design..)? What is your purpose? I carve because I like the challenge of bringing out the beauty of a piece of wood.

9. What do you know that you don’t know? I don’t know what I will be carving next week.

10. How does, or should, the word “passion” relate to an artist? An artist’s passion for what he or she creates will always show in the design and final piece.

11. Looking back, knowing what you know now, is there anything that would do differently? No, at my age I just look ahead.

12. A lot of artist want to be famous, and some just want to make a living doing what they love. Where do you se yourself in 5 years? I just want to keep doing what I am doing now, and enjoying my grand kids.

13. If you could give advice to anyone aspiring to work with fibers, what would it be? Start by getting some good basic instructions. It will save you a lot of time and frustrations.

14. When it’s time to “tap” your creativity…where do you go to get the juices flowing? I just have to walk next door to my shop.

15. How many projects do you generally have going at one time? I usually have from four to eight projects going on at the same time.

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