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Functional Craft: The Art of Bending Wood with Bill Peirce

Large Vessel by William Peirce
Large Vessel by William Peirce

The Art League asked William (Bill) Peirce, winner of the The Monkith Saaid Memorial Award for Best in Show – Sculpture in our July Open Exhibit, some questions about his award winning sculpture, how he creates his work, and woodworking.

How did this piece come together?

“I was thinking of making a vessel with a simple design—maybe just a series of simple parabolas of contrasting and complementing colorful exotic and domestic woods. I like the sense of movement that resulted.”

What is your creative process like, from an idea to a finished piece?

“Sometimes I first sketch a new pattern on a piece of paper, but I usually just look at my supply of wood, decide whether the next board I’m assembling will be made in rows from various wood species, random small or large pieces, balanced or asymmetrical, or a busy combination. New ideas and new patterns pop into my mind all the time. Occasionally, features of the wood suggest how I might highlight them in a bowl. My website shows the variety of possibilities.”

William Peirce
William Peirce

Why are you a sculptor? What is it about working three-dimensionally that you love?

“I’m a woodworker, so by default, whatever I make is three-dimensional. I have made a few ‘pure’ sculptures, but almost everything I make is functional craft.”

Vessel by William Peirce
Vessel by William Peirce

What are you working on now?

“I love to create something completely different from what I’ve been making lately. So I’m having fun right now working on some complex patterns for new large bowls—some of them highly symmetrical and some quite irregular.”

How did you first learn this technique?

“Peter Petrochko, the grandmaster of band saw bowls, wrote an article in Fine Woodworking magazine in the 1980’s where he described his use of this technique. I think that making bowls from stacked laminations with a bandsaw is an old technique, although I was not aware of it until I saw his article. I became intrigued by the possibilities, although it wasn’t until I retired from college teaching ten years ago that I actually made my first band saw bowl.”

Vessel by William Peirce
Vessel by William Peirce

What types of wood do you use in your pieces?

“Sometimes Mother Nature makes a beautiful board that I do nothing with except saw rings from it to let it shine. But usually I like to be creative and assemble the board by gluing together a variety of pieces of wood. I usually use exotic woods for their interesting colors, stripes, swirls, or figures.”


Be sure to check out Bill’s piece and the rest of the July Open Exhibit, open through August 5 in The Art League Gallery.

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