Work by more than 100 Artisans inside new Carmel more

Hand-Turned Wood Bowls, Vases, Platters
Fred Inman

“When I start turning a log, I have a plan about what I want the piece to be, but sometimes part way through turning it, the log changes shape and ends up as something else.”

Mother Nature has a hand in every bowl, vase and platter Indiana Artisan Fred Inman has designed, shaped and finished. It was the Mother of Necessity, as well as a little TV watching, that piqued the retired farmer and factory worker’s interest in learning how to create wood art.

“We needed shelves for our new home and wanted to make them ourselves,” he said about the birth of his “I” Wood Artist business. “I was a farmer needing a new hobby, and I always wanted to work with a lathe. I was watching weekend morning TV shows when I decided to buy an old, big lathe and give it a try. I made jewelry boxes, clocks and end tables for our son, and then I started to turn bowls and glue together segmented bowls. I discovered there are many ways to do this, and I quickly learned to love the challenge and the process.”

Fred uses local wood from trees that need to come down or ones that storms have taken down. Oftentimes, friends drop wood at his door. He uses walnut, maple, ash, and coffee wood, looking for unique grains and marbled areas. “Every tree has its unique features, grains, knots, and worm holes you just can’t duplicate,” he said. “Those characteristics make it so no two pieces are the same. There are so many species of wood available in Indiana, I have an endless imagination of some of the great and beautiful pieces that can be made.”

Once he has a piece of wood, downtime isn’t something he can afford. “I let the piece lay for a day or two until I see a shape in it, then on the lathe it goes” he said. “The wood has to be turned and bagged to slow down drying and prevent it from cracking, although sometimes even bagged wood will crack.”

Mother Nature might draw the grains and natural unique patterns, but Fred says he puts his heart and soul in each fully functional and strikingly decorative piece. “When I start turning a log I have a plan about what I want the piece to be, but sometimes part way through turning it, the log changes shape and ends up as something else. I turn all my bowls, vases and platters on a large lathe. The large bowls, which are approximately 26 inches in diameter and 6 to 12 inches deep, are out-board turned, which means they’re turned on the end of the lathe with a free-standing tool rest. I use a boring bar for the large vases because it lets me get all the way to the bottom and thin the side walls out to a quarter-inch or less.”

Fred is happy that his work has been judged exceptional and earned the Indiana Artisan designation. “It is a fantastic opportunity to be part of the organization. I’m looking forward to many great opportunities to happen through it.” The Fort Wayne Museum of Art and Moose Lake Christian Craft Village in LaOtto, Ind., display his wood art.