Contemporary Woodturning...
              Expanding the boundaries... Ancient tradition... New expressions...

Woodturning has been known for thousands of years for its utilitarian, functional traditions.  However, since World War II and the advent of new tools and techniques, contemporary turners have been broadening this ancient art form to include “objects of contemplation”.

The work of Ray & Martha Rountree has been inspired by their love of Nature, and the new, developing traditions of the Contemporary Woodturner. 

Ray's turning experience began in January 2004, after Hurricane Isabel and his Retirement in 2003.  With a passion for all-things-wood, acres of downed-trees on the farm, and an old lathe in the barn begging to "try me", Ray became a student of the “Trial and Error School”, quickly discovering new skills and unknown talents.  Fortunately, his life-long career in shipyard-sheet-metal-fabrication had honed his 3-dimensional-perceptions, accelerating the Learning Curve and paving the way for his new pursuits.  By the fall of 2004, he had received acceptance and recognition in a juried art exhibition; and representation in his first, fine-art gallery.  His family was saying, "Ray made THAT?!?"
Ray with 2 of his favorites...
Ray primarily turns “green wood” which is easier on the turner and the tools, but requires a lengthy air-drying time between his Rough Turning and the Final Turning/Finishing stage. His tools include a tractor, chainsaw, wood-lathes (each weighing about 900 lbs.), small air-powered grinders, a multitude of other little tools and lots of sandpaper!  Woods native to Tidewater Virginia/North Carolina --such as cherry, maple, holly, box elder, pecan, walnut, magnolia, oak, elm, sycamore -- are his "canvas", and are harvested from damaged or dying trees.  Much of his wood is salvaged from the family farms in Suffolk, Virginia, or local tree surgeons.

Martha, a former elementary school teacher and Ray's soul mate, also, has no formal art training.  Initially her supporting role included back-office duties for Ray's work -- Exhibition Coordinator, Publicist, Inventory, Photographer, Quality Control, Website Designer, and Girl Friday.  However, Ray eventually drew her into his "creative web” to become the Embellishment Designer.  Today, Martha's designs may include elements of piercing, inlay, sculpting, texturing and/or coloring.
After penciling her design onto the wood,
Martha returns the vessel to Ray for execution of her design. 
The embellishing work is labor intensive, often requiring several weeks to complete. After Ray finishes the shaping, sculpting, inlaying and sanding, Martha may highlight some elements by adding color or shading, using pyrography, acrylics, or stain.  Finally, Ray seals the vessel with several layers of a UV resistant coating and a quality, clear lacquer for protection.

Ray and Martha’s collaborative works are the results of healthy and happy teamwork.  Reflecting on their endeavors, they acknowledge that the versatility and success of their work has been achieved because of their partnership.  Martha contends, however, that Ray is the Artist; while Ray happily insists that Martha and her designs have pushed him far "outside the box", challenging his skill-level, and advancing his turnings to a level beyond where he would have traveled alone.  The result of their pursuits now can be found in private collections coast to coast in more than 35 states and in several foreign countries..

"Some of my woodturning may have an element of sculpture, and some…an element of woodturning."
 Vaughn Richmond, Contemporary Woodturner, Australia  ~~  New Masters of Woodturning, Martin & Wallace, 2008