Photos by Hillary Ehlen
You don’t have to look far to find a talented woodturner when you live in the FM area, since woodturning is a popular hobby in Minnesota. Our very own Dale Cook of Fargo is well-versed in the craft of woodturning. You may remember him as one of the nine artist-owners of Dakota Fine Art. We recently spent a warm, summer afternoon with Cook to see if we could carve out his artistic process for our readers.
Woodturning as an Art
Cook is originally from Mahnomen, MN, but has been living in Fargo for many years. The seeds of woodturning were first planted in Cook when he was introduced to it as a hobby. “A couple of different neighbors at the lake were doing it and I had a lathe,” he explained.
Eventually, Cook was encouraged to take part in the FMVA Studio Crawl by fellow artist and renowned local glassblower, Jon Offutt. “Jon saw some work of mine and said that I be involved in the studio crawl,” Cook recalled. It was around this time that Cook started to see that there was a market for his type of art. Now that he is retired, Cook is looking forward to spending more time at the lathe in his workshop. That is, when he isn’t enjoying the quiet moments with his equally-artistic wife, Joan Cook.
Form Over Function
The first thing that is necessary to understand about Cook is that his pieces are meant to be appreciated for their form over function. This means that his works aren’t usually utility pieces, or something that you would use to serve food. Instead, they are something that you could display anywhere in your home, depending on the environment of the room.
Much of Cook’s work is currently at Dakota Fine Art. When visiting the space, you will notice that all of his pieces are labeled. These labels tell the viewer what type of wood Cook used to make the piece, as he likes to work with a wide variety of domestic and exotic woods. Occasionally, Cook even experiments with stone. In fact, some of his pieces on display at Dakota Fine Art were formed out of alabaster.
Cook told us that his favorite part of the woodturning process is the initial carving out of the shape. “Usually, I have an idea in mind-like the shape of what I want to make,” he said–although sometimes the shape wants to achieve changes as he works with the wood. For any woodturner, the texture is almost as important as the shape. “Even some of the best turners don’t mind some tool marks left because it shows the handmade part of it, but you try not to have those,” he explained.
After carving out the shape, Cook uses a variety of techniques to achieve his desired results. Sometimes, that process involves applying upwards of ten coats of lacquer, which can be very time-consuming and requires a lot of patience. “I’ll use ten to twelve coats of lacquer built up over several days and let it cure for a week or two. Then it shrinks down, and you start the sanding or buffing process to get that high shine,” Cook said. Other times, he may apply resin, iridescent paint or experiment with new techniques.
This fall, Cook will once again be participating in the FMVA Studio Crawl, which is set to take place during the first weekend of October. Each year, Cook likes to perform several woodturning demonstrations at his lathe. That’s not all he has in the works, though. Cook will also be participating in Art Leap, which is an event based out of Park Rapids on Sept. 22-23.
Dakota Fine Art
11 8th St. S. Fargo