Woodturning Turns Into Art for Tim Aley

Photo | Marylou Bono Kentlands woodturner Tim Aley holds his “Asymmetrical Natural Edge Vase,” on display now at Artists on Market, 201 Market St. West.

Photo | Marylou Bono
Kentlands woodturner Tim Aley holds his “Asymmetrical Natural Edge Vase,” on display now at Artists on Market, 201 Market St. West.

For Kentlands woodturner Tim Aley, it was “time to see if I can get out and sell some of this stuff!” A friend showed him the Gaithersburg Artist Collective membership application.

In their second round, he was juried into the group of local artists who show their work at Artists on Market in Kentlands Market Square. He professed to being new at putting himself and his work out in public even though he has “been around trees for quite a while and taken a lot of woodworking classes.” Readers may know him as a media center assistant at Rachel Carson Elementary where he also provides computer tech support to staff.

Always “crafty” and hands-on with repairs around the house and making things work, Aley’s career was in computer  programming before he became a stay-at-home dad. Once his children were off to school, he began experimenting with  woodturning in his father-in-law’s basement studio in Montgomery Village. For eight years, he focused on creations for family and friends and taking classes with David Ellsworth, the “father of new woodturning,” and others.

Woodturning or working has been around for centuries, has a compelling history and enjoys a strong hobbyist presence. Aley works in his home basement studio with a digital lathe. A chunk of wood is attached to the lathe and, as it turns, sharp tools cut, carve and shape the wood. He crafts primarily bowls and vases, but also some whimsical small birdhouses and bottle stoppers seen in the gallery. He favors primarily local hardwoods. “If a tree is coming down in a yard, I try to get the wood and make the owner a bowl,” he said. “Most woodturners favor what is free. I do like cherry and maple burl … anything with a lot of
figure in it is wonderful.”

A founding member of the Montgomery County Woodturners, Aley has served on the Board in various capacities and is active  in similar groups such as the Mid-Maryland Woodturners in Frederick, Chesapeake Woodturners in Annapolis and Capital Area Woodturners based in Alexandria. He frequently exhibits with the Creative Craft Council, an umbrella organization of fine craft guilds in the D.C. metro area.

“Woodturning is addictive,” Aley acknowledged. “When people start turning, they tend to get into it. It’s very peaceful … to see a piece of log and figure out what’s inside it, … use wood to the best of its abilities—so much fun!”

One of Aley’s striking pieces in the gallery is a V-shaped cinnamon brown vessel with natural edges and a stunning pattern of maple burl aptly named “Asymmetrical Natural Edge Vase.” “Someone called me and told me they had a burl,” Aley recalled. “I went to see it and it was 3 feet in diameter. I filled up several truckloads with the pieces.” A burl is a bump on the side of a tree that produces a pattern other than the usual growth rings. It proliferates in unique patterns, for instance where a limb has been cut off or some other stress has occurred to the tree. One never is sure how it occurs and develops its natural pattern.

“Anytime I can find burl, that’s what I’d like,” Aley revealed.

Another beauty is a large salad bowl gracing the gallery’s window and crafted with spalting wood, which occurs by fungi decay that causes coloration and black lines in the wood. Spalting wood is particularly sought by woodworkers due to its uncommon variations.

Recently Aley has been “trying to do a little with color. One of the complaints in shows is that everything is brown and round! I’m trying to get out of that.” Evidence of this is his lovely green-hued “Emerald Ash Vase,” made from tree branches of an ash tree that were infected with the emerald ash borer pest. He is also attempting various patterns to get away from round shapes and turning some multi-axis pieces.

Visit Artists on Market, operated by the Gaithersburg Artist Collective at 201 Market St. West. Hours vary, so call 240.686.5402 prior to visiting or check their Facebook page for details. Contact Tim Aley through the gallery or via email at teaturning@gmail.com. Stay tuned for the upcoming Creative Craft Council exhibit at Strathmore beginning April 8, 2019.