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Crafts: Wood

Philip C. Moulthrop


Philip C. Moulthrop, White Pine Mosaic Bowl, 1992, white pine with epoxy, 15 7/8 x 18 x 18". Collection of the ASU Art Museum, purchased with funds provided by the American Art Heritage Fund

About the Artist

Philip Moulthrop is one of the best known wood turners in the U.S. The White Pine Mosaic Bowl in the ASU Art Museum's collection was one of his first pieces using a "composite" technique. Wood turning refers to the use of a lathe to make three-dimensional round forms. A lathe enables an artist to use a stationary blade to carve a revolving block of wood evenly. Drawings exist of ancient Egyptians using a hand-powered lathe to carve bowls and containers. Today mechanized lathes are used for many commercial and artistic purposes to carve wood, metal and glass. Contemporary wood turners use lathes to carve one-of-a-kind wooden bowls or sculptures far removed from traditional functions.

Philip Moulthrop, who lives and works in Marietta, Georgia, started turning in 1979. He is known for his willingness to experiment with styles and forms and in 1993 he pioneered his composite technique which gives the white pine bowl its polka-dotted look. Beginning with a standard wooden bowl, Moulthrop glues on hundreds of "plugs" (4"-5" diameter end grain sections) until the surface of the bowl bristles. Into the spaces between the plugs, he pours a grout of black epoxy. When this solidifies, he puts the bowl back on the lathe, carefully smoothes the outside with his blade and hollows the inside until the original wooden bowl disappears completely. The shape of the bowl is simple and monumental to accentuate the grain of the wood and the pattern created by the plugs.

In addition to White Pine Mosaic Bowl, Philip Moulthrop is represented, along with his father and fellow wood turner Ed Moulthrop, in the ASU Art Museum's Jacobson Collection of Turned-Wood Bowls. In 1989 Edward Jacobson, a prominent Phoenix collector and arts advocate, donated his landmark collection of bowls and objects by master wood turners to the ASU Art Museum. The collection has toured nationally to museums including the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York City. The collection includes works by twenty-one American wood turners with a total of 78 pieces.