Building A Bowl -- Piece-By-Piece


The wooden bowls on display at Artists of the Rim Gallery shine impeccably. Southwestern inspired lines complement simple, elegant shapes.

Wood artist Curt Harp carefully crafts his wooden bowls, connecting them piece-by-piece and spinning them on a lathe. He glues the pieces together, allows them to dry, then shapes them.


Curt Harp stands next to his display of wooden bowls at Artists of the Rim Gallery. The bowl at left shows how wood artist Curt Harp uses many kinds of hardwood to create his bowls.

Harp sticks to round objects.

"I got a new lathe and I love that lathe so much that I don't make anything not on it," he said.

"I'm too old to do things I don't like to do."

A lathe is a special machine that can be used for woodworking. Harp crafts bowls from aspen, from walnut, even from an old shipping crate imported from Australia.

The crate contained 60 pound blocks of frozen meat -- Harp used to be a butcher. Now, pieces of the box have been integrated in Harp's bowls.

People often come across wood pieces and save them for him. "I never turn one down," he said.

He's worked with wood for as long as he can remember. "It's still a hobby," he said. "You would get hungry if you were trying to make a living at it."

He uses all sorts of hardwood -- not softwood. He lives in the trees of Pine, but says he only turns the occasional dead piece of wood or a burl into a bowl so he doesn't break Forest Service rules.

Burls turn up interesting patterns. Harp points to the pieces in his bowls and talks about where they come from.

By working four or five bowls at a time, Harp stays busy. Bowls need to sit in between layers. While the glue dries on one, Harp works on another. The process takes two or three days.


This bowl shows how wood artist Curt Harp uses many kinds of hardwood to create his bowls.

The bowls are mostly for display.

"They don't hold water. Water is not good for them."

Though three centuries ago, Europeans ate out of wooden bowls, Harp surmises those mostly likely leaked too.

Harp's creations are slightly more refined than their European predecessors.

The bowls cost anywhere from $10 for a small trinket-size to $95 or $125. People give the small ones for gifts, Harp said.

He has made boxes and cabinets before, but said bowls are good for an older fellow because there aren't any heavy objects to lift.

"I like the smell of the wood," Harp says. "It has a friendly feel. It's just an old-fashioned craft."

Harp said he never considered himself an artist. "I don't really care whether they call it an art or a woodcraft. I like it whatever it is."


Artist Curt Harp talks about the bowls he makes, pointing out the different wood and sharing the story behind it.

Harp is a simple guy. "What you see is what you get."

Calling all artists

Arizona State Parks and Arizona Plein Air Painters will host a "Plein Air" artist event from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Aug. 23 at Riordan Mansion State Historic Park in Flagstaff.

"Plein Air" means in the open air. It refers to the practice of painting outdoors.

At the "Plein Air" events, artists will look for something within the state park and draw or paint something that sparks their interest. They will then complete the work during the event and submit the piece for judging by their fellow plein air artists. At noon the artists will gather to judge their peers' work.

The "Paint Outs" began as part of State Parks' 50th anniversary celebrations in 2007 and will continue throughout 2008. The finalist from each one will have the opportunity to display their piece at a gallery show Jan. 10 through Feb. 1, 2009 at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. There will be a "Fun Paint Out" that will not be judged on Jan. 10, 2009. An opening reception will be held immediately following the "Fun Paint Out."


A bowl crafted by Curt Harp, sits on the shelf at Artists of the Rim Gallery.

For more information about the "paint out" on Aug. 23, call Riordan Mansion State Historic Park at (928) 779-4395. The park entrance fee is waived for participating artists. The park is located next to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff on West Riordan Road.

For more information about other "paint outs" or the opening reception, call (602) 542-4174. For information about Arizona State Parks, call (602) 542-4174 (outside of the Phoenix metro area call toll-free (800) 285-3703 or visit the Web site at

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