Interview with the artist - Michael from Truewood Wands

There are several reasons why I'm happy about this post.
It has been months since I was able to have an artist interview on my blog and it really motivates me to get back into it. Even better, however, is the fact that our artist today is not just a fellow cat lover, but also a smart and talented man.
I'm so glad he agreed to answer some questions and I hope you will enjoy this as much as I did.
Welcome, Michael!

Medium Bubinga pendulum

Tell us a little about who you are and where you come from.

I'm Michael Zimmerle. I was born in Oregon, USA, but have lived most of my life in Colorado. I grew up in the Denver area and have lived for the last twenty odd years in a tiny town in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado called Paonia with my wife and four cats (of course). I'm fifty one and a bit odd in general.

What's your craft and how did you get to do it in the first place?

I'm a part time craft woodworker and general putter-arounder. I like to experiment with different things including making odd things that make noise, from wind chimes made from old plumbing pipe and aluminum tent poles to cigar box guitars and lyres. My items for sale are mostly things I have made from wood on the lathe.

(Here's just one example of Michael singing an original song of his and playing on a handmade cigar box guitar, by the way.)

My father was a kind of renaissance man in that he could do a vast number of things. I had a book when I was a child: My Daddy Can Fix Anything. That's my dad. Toys, appliances, cars, furniture, if it needed fixing, dad would at least give it a try. One of the things he had (still does) was a multi-tool called a Shop Smith. It's a variable speed motor mounted on rails that will accomodate a number of attachments. One of those was a lathe. He would occasionally take my brothers and I out to the garage and show us how to turn wood into interesting things. There were candlesticks, a couple of bowls, and other things that he had made around the house. "Dad, how did you make this?" "Come out to the garage and I'll show you." That is the way I grew up.

Several years ago, about the time J. K. Rowling released her fourth book, I tried my hand at making a few wands. I didn't have a lathe, and made do with a drill and plain wood chisels. The results weren't great, but it did reignite my interest in wood turning. My dad got me a mini lathe for my birthday that year. I've been having great fun turning ever since. I don't get to do as much of it as I would like. 

12 inch walnut wand

Is there a story behind your shop name or why did you choose it?

I had been considering names and looking at other wands on the internet. One thing that struck me was the number of wands made out of synthetic materials. That's fine, particularly for prop recreations, and even for those for whom a wand is a serious magical tool, the synthetics can be useful if that's your thing. However, I noticed that some people were making it obvious that the wands they had were all wood. I have an affinity for wood as do most practitioners I know, so this seemed like a good thing to point out. Truewood Wands seemed like a good way to get this out in a simple way. I also like the way it sounds.

I think this is one of the most asked questions – where does your inspiration come from?

Part of my inspiration comes from me not being as good at my craft as I could be (laughs). I start a wand with a square length of stock. The first step is to turn it to a round profile. Because I'm a little sloppy sometimes, the result is a little irregular. Most times, these irregularities suggest contours that might look good on the wand. Sometimes there is a feature of the wood that a shape might accentuate or enhance. One wand I made for my wife had a pinhole knot. I considered trying to eliminate it with a groove, but instead made it the center of a bead/ball shape. Instead of being a flaw, it became an interesting feature.

Now, this is the part where I get esoteric. Each piece I work conveys something to me. I might have a wand tell me what it wants to look like. Sometimes the general “feel” of the wood suggests curves, rounds, sharp “V” shapes, and etc. I don't think I've ever made two wands alike.

(Actually I understand that very well, after all I like to say the wire and hook take over.)

Rowan wand made to order

Tell us a fun thing about yourself.

I've been told by friends that if I were in solitary confinement, they would have no worries about me. I can entertain myself with practically anything. A piece of string, sand, dust on the floor, a spot on the wall.

People in groups don't interest me much, but I really like most individuals I meet. There is always something delightful to discover about a person. I have run into exceptions, but very few.

Oh yeah. I'm a singer in a Blues band. HooDoo HEDZ. We are a bunch of old white guys who love the Blues. We gig around locally a couple times each month.

Do you do other crafts, if yes, what? 

As I mentioned before, I putter around with a lot of things. As far as turning, I do some bowls and other serving items. I bead a little in a very limited way. Very limited way. I also like to experiment with things that make noise. I also make boxes, mostly for utilitarian purposes. I don't think I consider any of the boxes I've made as anything to be proud of.

I've also developed an interest in making things from recycled material. I have vague plans to work with pulped egg cartons and paper, recycling plastics and maybe doing some metal casting. That one is a way off.

Which one of your pieces is your absolute favorite? Which one was the hardest to make and why?

I really don't think I have a favorite. While I have made wands for myself, most of what I make I intend to send out into the world. I've been pleased with quite a few of my pieces, but I don't think that one stands out for me as a favorite.

There have been a couple of wands that have given me trouble, but I think that has mostly come from my own state of mind and not the piece itself. Years ago, I was working with a piece of wood. I tend to think that most good work comes from a place of love. Well, I was going after this piece (I don't even remember what I was hoping to make), and I wasn't in a good head space. I swear the wood said, “Love? You're not even being nice!” I put down my tools and set it aside.

Medium oak pendulum

Can you tell us a little more about the wood you work with? 

I work with a variety of woods, both domestic (USA) and exotics. I get most of my wood from local, large-scale wood shops as scrap or cast offs. On two occasions, I have been given some wonderful stock. Once was a craftsman who also did small scale logging and tree removal. I asked if he had any scrap. I went to his shop with a box. He sent me home with a truckload of absolutely gorgeous maple, apple, walnut, ash, juniper and a few others. Another time I stopped by a specialty cabinet shop and came home with purpleheart, wenge, mahogany, cherry, bubinga, and oak.

Each of these woods have special characteristics in both energy and the way they work. Strangely enough, even two pieces from the same board will sometimes behave differently. It's really fascinating. That's one of the things I love about this work. Nothing is totally predictable. There is always some interesting challenge.

I have a description of the various woods I work with on the shop page for those who are interested.

Is there someone whom you admire and who inspires you, artistically and/or for life?

I've been inspired by a lot of people. Too many to name, really, but I suppose my first inspiration comes from my parents. They are both people of exceptional intelligence, creativity, and character. They both have a kind of “go for it” attitude that makes exploration and experimentation a virtue.

What really inspires me is the sense of possibility. I see some works or people who simply ignore convention. It's like they have no concept of “the box”. Like, if you said, “Think outside the box,” they would reply, “There's a box?” We often have such narrow ideas of what art is. I love it when someone does something nonconforming. I don't always find it aesthetically pleasing, I don't always “like” it, but I always admire it. And it can be anything from wood, to music, to painting, or practically anything.

I'm also inspired by patience. I don't have a lot of that.

12 inch Bubinga wand

If you had free choice of one supply you need for your work, no matter how expensive, what would it be? (in your case I would guess wood, so maybe choose one you like best ;-)) 

Truth is, I have quite a lot of stock and most of the tools I need. What I really want is a year round shop. Right now, I'm working out of our carport, which my wife would like to actually use for the car. It means I don't have a place to work effectively in the cold months or in poor weather.

So, what I really want is space. And time.

Oh, and some ebony. That's a wood I have always wanted to work with.

Do you sell online, if yes, where can we find you? Do you do custom orders?

You can find my current offerings on Etsy at Truewood Wands. Keep an eye out for more listings. Right now, there isn't a huge selection, but I hope to get more wands up soon.

I love doing custom work! It's more fun when I have someone with me while I work, but I love being able to put the perfect wand or pendulum into a customer's hand!

Large Purpleheart pendulum

Famous last words ;-) Is there anything else you want to tell us?

Create! Make stuff! Find the magic in yourselves and your worlds! And love. Love lots.

Thank you so much, Michael.
I am looking forward to seeing more of your work and wish you a lot of success with your new shop!
People, head over to Truewood Wands and check it out ... you know you do want a wand or a pendulum as beautiful as Michael's pieces!

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