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Turning Grace creates handmade unique, one of a kind, practical art pieces wood turned gift items – Julie Hagan

Turning Grace creates handmade unique, one of a kind, practical art pieces wood turned gift items - Julie Hagan

Turning Grace is a small, woman-owned business which creates handmade wood turned gift items. It specializes in unique, one of a kind, practical art pieces. They are items you may use regularly in your home plus they will also make a great gift for family and friends. Julie Hagan started Turning Grace in 2016 when she found her love of wood turning.

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Motivation

Weekend craft fairs have always been a family favorite, especially when my daughters were young. Inevitably, we would find our way to the tents where woodworkers would explain their craft. We would almost certainly walk-away with a new bowl for our ever-expanding collection. The types of wood were fascinating, we learned about spalting, (wood coloration caused by fungi) Ambrosia, (streaks of color caused by the Ambrosia Beetle) and other spectacular types of figuring that can change wood into natural works of art.

Fear & Courage

When the girls grew-up and finished high school, and after nearly two decades of being a stay-at-home mom, I was looking for something to call my own. After taking a woodworking class, it was clear that the process of crafting art from a piece of nature was going to be my calling. 

However, overcoming the fear of big pieces of extremely dangerous equipment was going to take some time. To craft something of wood, you need to be comfortable with a table saw, band saw, chop saw, drill press and of course, a lathe. Each of these machines is fiercely powerful. With time and extreme caution, I started with smaller equipment and worked my way into the current workshop with full-sized professional equipment. This did not happen overnight.

The early days of entering Art Fairs in New England required an ability to overcome another fear. To enter into the Art World without formal training can give you a bit of an “imposter syndrome”.  After all, many of the painters, sculptors and jewelry makers had spent decades perfecting their crafts. Quickly, however, it became apparent that the culture at these events is warm and welcoming. In fact, over time there does become a feeling of community amongst the other artists and vendors. 

Before every show I find myself getting very nervous and wondering if anyone will stop by my table. I am quickly relieved and very happy as the crowds start stopping by to look, ask questions and purchase my items. Many customers are impressed to hear that I actually make the items myself. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of women woodworkers that I have met but I hope my work will encourage others to try.

Creativity & Practicality

There are limitless ways to show your creativity in wood turning. Many artists focus on items such as bowls, vases, and small containers. The skill and bravery required to turn some of the larger pieces of wood at high RPMs is nothing to be taken lightly. The energy and inertia that comes from spinning a 20 lb piece of wood at 1200 RPMs (rotations per minute) will test your nerve. While I am becoming more comfortable with turning these potentially-hazardous “shop bombs”, I do tend to stay with smaller, very practical pieces that can be used every day.  For example, I have turned incredibly high-quality ink pens using Oak from a bog in Russia that had been submerged for over 5,000 years.  I have taken pieces of birch found while walking the dog and crafted a truly spectacular Espresso tamper for my family. Using this type of creativity to craft every-day items for the home provides an incredible opportunity for expressing your imagination to create a true original, one-of-a-kind piece of art.

Recently, I have been experimenting with creating my own acrylic and wood blanks. It is a very long process to create these blanks but after they are turned, they are so unique and beautiful. The resin is very sensitive to moisture so the wood must be completely dry, drying too fast may cause the wood to crack. We rough cut a piece of wood and place it in a vacuum chamber with a resin called cactus juice that will stabilize it, which may take up to 24 hours. Once stabilized you need to cure the resin and make sure it is completely dry. We place them in a small oven at 200 degrees for about 3 hours. 

The next step is to prepare the resin. We first choose the colors we would like to use along with the perfect piece of wood that fill fit inside of the mold. We mix the two-part epoxy and carefully stir in the color. Depending on our vision for the design we may mix a number of different colored epoxy mixes. We then pour the colored epoxy into the mold. Next is to place the mold into a pressure pot. We will pressurize the pot to at least 50 psi, this eliminates all bubbles giving you a crystal clear result. It is recommended to allow epoxy resin to cure for 24hrs. It is always exciting to turn an epoxy resin blank since you never quite know how the colors and wood will look until the items has been turned, sanded and polished.

Pride & Repurposing

It is hard to describe the feeling of when someone holds something that you have created in their hands and express true joy. As a media, wood is remarkably complex and can be deeply personal. I have taken pieces of wood from a dance floor from an old high school that was built in the 1920’s which was recently renovated to our town’s art center, The Umbrella Arts Center, and crafted the pieces into high-end ink pens for supporters. Chairs and tables from a nursery school that were nearly 80 years old were turned into ice cream scoops, bottle openers… for the families to purchase to raise money for the school. Parts of a cabin that was built as a homestead in the 1880’s were turned into practical works for the family member who still tends to the land until this very day. Pieces of mangrove from a fishing trip were casted in resin and made into knives and other items for the generous people who organized the trip. The feeling of pride is a huge motivator to continuing with this line of work.

Challenges & Opportunities

The business is extremely seasonal. The flurry around Christmas is always a blur and it is common to completely run out of inventory. However, other parts of the year can go months with very little activity on the website. Arts and craft fairs tend to be Spring and Fall events in the Northeast. I am used to the spurts of activity and am learning to leverage my time accordingly. It is common for a piece to take hours on my feet, so pacing the workflow is a welcomed opportunity.  

There are very few ways to “scale” the business since I am the single producer of the items. This is not the type of business where you hire staff to do the work for you, this misses the point of creating items of personal interest that have a true connection to the client.     

The ideal opportunity that I feel is an unmet need in the marketplace is the ability to repurpose wood for families and organizations that has deep meaning that is uniquely special to the group. Here in New England, for example, it is common for a historical home from the 1600’s and 1700’s to undergo some type of repair or renovation. These homes have often been in the family for generations and wood that is extracted is old-growth hardwood with fascinating history and true soul. Crafting items from these homes, for example, is a unique and exciting opportunity to craft something that is deeply meaningful to the client. The same can be true for other heirloom pieces of furniture that are beyond repair or materials from Schools and Churches that require restoration.   

Looking Back

Turning Grace started with an idea of finding something different to do with my time, something that challenged me, and something that would be my passion. My husband and daughters have always supported me and Turning Grace. They help me at art shows, posting my items on their social media pages and sharing ideas on items I should try to create. Over twenty years ago, we lost our second daughter when I was 9 months pregnant. We were going to name her Grace so when it came time to name my business, we all agreed that this was the perfect way to honor her memory. It seems like every year the line of products have grown and I am looking forward to what else is next. Please check out my website at www.turninggrace.com and follow on Instagram and Facebook @TurningGrace. It is fun to share my story and to remember how it all came to be but also to reflect on how far I have come. “Hell hath no fury like a woman with power tools.”

MS, Durham University GP The work of a family doctor includes a wide range of clinical diversity, which requires extensive knowledge and erudition from a specialist. However, I believe that the most important thing for a family doctor is to be human because the cooperation and understanding between the doctor and the patient are crucial in ensuring successful health care. On my days off, I love being in nature. Since childhood, I have been passionate about playing chess and tennis. Whenever I have time off, I enjoy traveling around the world.

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