Wayne Tarris works on a rocking chair in his shop at his Medford home. Tarris' artful pieces will be among those at the woodcraft show this weekend in Ashland. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]

The artful side of woodwork

Man has valued the beauty and versatility of wood for centuries. With equal parts skill and imagination, craftsmen have coaxed everything from functional implements to stunning works of art from this rich and abundant resource.

A range of wood craftsmanship will be displayed at the 38th Annual Harvest Show of Fine Woodworking to be held this weekend at the show's new home in the Hay-Patton Rehearsal Center, 30 S. First St. in Ashland. The center is situated half a block above and across from the Ashland Springs Hotel in the center of the city.

The Siskiyou Woodcraft Guild, an association of fine woodworkers based in Southern Oregon and Northern California, will show custom-made furniture, turned bowls, carved art, tables, boxes and more from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26. Admission is free. See siskiyouguild.org for information.

Guild member Wayne Tarris of Medford says he has spent 40 of his youthful 78 years working with wood, but doesn’t describe himself as a fine woodworker.

"That’s a little different mentality," he says. "We have so many craftsmen in the Guild that fit more in that category. Those woodworkers have studios. I have a shop.”

True to his more practical nature, Tarris prefers to use Oregon hardwoods to make useful things.

“I like to make cribbage boards, wooden boxes, spice racks, wine caddies, that kind of thing. And, I figure, why make one thing at a time when you can make 10?”

Although he has the greatest respect for his fellow craftsmen, he adds with a chuckle, “My definition of someone who can make a living as a fine woodworker is someone who has a wife with a good job.”

As a youngster, Tarris learned to work with his hands by helping his dad build houses.

"I’ve always been a fixer of things,” he says. “Through the years, I got bigger and better tools, so I was able to expand into making cabinets, bookshelves, tables with inlays and other types of furniture.”

Contrary to artistic whimsy, Tarris says his creative vision is often sparked by need.

"I specialize in small boxes, and I have a unique method of putting them together using pocket hinges. So, say you have a couple decks of cards you can never find, that might give me an idea for making a card box to store them in.”

Retired from a long career in the electronics business, Tarris now designs and sells plans for a variety of woodworking projects. One of his most popular is a child’s rocking chair that is cut out of plywood and put together in one piece with no screws or glue.

A Guild member for 20 years and current member of the steering committee, Tarris says there are advantages to being involved with other craftsmen.

"I really appreciate being a part of this group. If I ever need anything, I can connect with an unbelievable network of woodworkers from Grants Pass to Shady Cove.”

Since 1980, Guild members have contributed a wide range of talents, knowledge and interests that include custom furniture design, veneering, carving, turning, joinery, making musical instruments and building wooden boats.

Professional and hobby-level craftspeople will be available during the show to discuss their work and answer questions about design, technique, tools and finishing.

Like any other skill, wood crafting takes patience, practice and some guidance from those who have spent years brushing sawdust from their eyebrows. Asked for his advice, Tarris says, “If you’re an aspiring woodcrafter, don’t be intimidated. Get involved. Join the Guild.”

The Guild supports woodworking in local schools and also offers classes in the winter. More information will be available at the show.

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