Few people enjoy a direct and seamless path into a successful career as an artist. To some, it’s an obvious calling from a young age. To others, it’s a result of the zigs and zags life throws out along the way. The latter was the case for acclaimed woodturner David Barkby, who didn’t fully pursue a career in art until later in life.
David’s interest in artistic endeavors first piqued during his teens when he was exposed to art shows. It was during high school that be began woodworking for the first time.
“I started making a living at it at 17 when I worked at a kitchen cabinet shop,” David says. “I moved to making caskets when I was 19 and then I started my own cabinet shop doing custom furniture, which moved more into the commercial end doing kitchen and stairs.”
But all the while, David remained steadfastly drawn to the arts and would keep an eye on art shows in his area. Then, 20 years ago, his intrigue eventually fueled his decision to explore the art world more in-depth and hone his woodturning skills.
“I had a lathe in my shop because occasionally I’d have to do spindle legs on whatever furniture I was working on,” David says. “I was inspired seeing the bowl and vessel turners at the art shows, and decided to start playing on the lathe and go from there.”
It wasn’t long before David realized the joy of combining these two passions, and ever since he’s been dedicated to his craft. Today he’s well known for his wall sculptures, which typically range from 36” to 120” in diameter, and customer furniture. David especially enjoys the process of building something from nothing and trying new things, which means his work evolves from year to year.
“I have introduced some different things this year,” David says. “I have an agate inset in one of my pieces and an outdoor piece this year.”
So how exactly does a woodturner keep his work fresh? Much of David’s inspiration comes from observing the little things he sees in nature like interesting shapes in trees and rocks. It also helps that he transitioned from attending art shows to participating in them, including the Celebration of Fine Art.
“If you walk around this art show, you can’t help but be inspired,” David says. “I enjoy the whole appeal of what happens here –– the collaboration, getting to know the other artists, and just coming down here and having a good time.”
See more of David’s story below: