New Work from Dennis Hales, an Artist in Wood.
Dennis is the son of a Norfolk farmer and grew up with a deep appreciation of the countryside and nature. He trained as a chef but kept his love of woodworking and converted a garden shed to enjoy his hobby. Gradually the hobby became his passion. Having made a croquet set for his children he decided the balls should be different colours, and that started a long process of colour development which has culminated in the beautiful work he makes today.
He tends to only use locally sourced Norfolk wood, such as holly, ash, maple and sycamore. The majority of his work is round bowls and dishes, often with fruit that looks good enough to eat, but occasionally he “wet turns” half seasoned holly. After turning and decorating the holly is allowed to dry completely. While drying the wood shrinks across the grain which tends to produce elliptical forms. The white woods are his canvas which he shapes and subtly colours. This involves the use of water soluble dyes and pigments. Traditional and modern dyes are combined with various techniques such as air-brushing, hand painting and marbling. The wood is then placed back in the timber dryer to reduce the moisture content. More colour is then applied before gilding and lacquering. The gilding involves metal leaf such as 24 carat gold, copper and silver leaf. The piece will then be dried and hardened again before final lathing and two coats of lacquer to protect the finish. Many of his round bowls and dishes (without fruit) have a clever rim turned in the base, which means it can be hung as a wall decoration as well as sitting on a table. But as Dennis advises, like a painting, don’t place his work in permanent full sunshine to avoid fading. In the right place it will retain its glorious colour for longer than you or I!