Jennifer McKinnon’s been turning wood for nearly a decade using deadfall and material gifted to her from a whole network of friends, who all keep a keen eye out on the brush in the area. Maple, cherry, walnut, elm – though “elm doesn’t get very big anymore,” Mckinnon admits. “But I’d like to think that I’m making it into something that will stay around for a while.”
From the growth of Dufferin County McKinnon makes functional pieces including bowls and vases. “I can tell you pretty much the very tree that any piece I’ve ever made has come from,” she says. “There’s a cherry bowl upstairs from my studio here that I made from a limb on a tree by the fence line out there.”
Mckinnon’s first acquaintance with wood turning came after she bought her retiring father a wood lathe. The two had signed up for a lesson at Lee Valley to learn how to use it, but her father was in intensive care the day of the workshop and McKinnon had gone alone.
“He never did get back to the lathe,” she says. So she inherited the lathe and with it the name of her studio, ‘Turn-of-Fate’, took root, “because I would never have tried it if my father hadn’t said, ‘You’re coming with me!’”
After receiving a log or piece of deadfall, McKinnon will perform a green-turn to rough out the shape and then let the piece air-dry. The whole process can take up to eight months, with most of that time spent drying. “I like to let the wood lead me,” McKinnon says. “I look for interesting things that may be inside it. My initial vision is never what it ends up turning out to be. The wood reveals itself to you.”
Inspired by animal tracks, the impression of leaves left on the ground and burned patterns made from nature; McKinnon takes pieces from the land and people around her and channels them into her work. “You listen to their stories, you listen to the history of the area, and it all inspires pieces of the area,” she says. Counting the rings on the wood she works with McKinnon imagines the history, “the agriculture, the settling that took place here so many years ago.”