When Mark Stinson returned from some intense military duty in Afghanistan, he had a difficult time finding his groove again. He said “I didn’t feel sad or distressed; I just kinda felt nothing inside, regardless of what I did to try to rekindle myself”. Things that had previously brought him joy, just weren’t doing it for him.
Then he rediscovered an activity that he had previously enjoyed at a friend’s shop; woodturning. He felt it; a spark that developed into a flame, and has now become a raging inferno.
Woodturning quickly evolved from an activity that Mark did occasionally to bring him joy and find his happiness again, into passion that now frames a large portion of his life.
Aside from his duties as a husband, father of 2 and daytime job as an arborist, Mark’s ecosystem is centered around woodturning; sourcing timber, turning bowls, and selling his work.
Sourcing Turning Stock
Mark is fortunate to have a dream day job for a woodturner. By day, he is an arborist in upstate New York. His days are spent looking after and treating distressed trees.
Through this work he has been able to develop relationships with several loggers who now contact him when they come across a tree that has to be removed that shows some promise of becoming high quality turning stock.
Mark also bought a special vehicle for harvesting bowl blanks in the rough terrain that he often has to deal with; a Jeep Gladiator.
He says “A big part of the fun of turning is finding the perfect stock, and getting my Jeep back into the rough terrain to salvage the wood that would otherwise rot on the forest floor. I love giving these dying trees a second life as salad bowls”
As fun as it is to find wooden treasures in the forest, Mark says “the serious fun begins when I chuck up a chunk of beautiful timber and get it spinning on my Laguna Reveo 1836 220V lathe. That’s where I get “into the zone”; stress melts away, creativity starts to flow, and I feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to do.”
Mark turns green stock, from a fresh-cut tree trunk all the way to finished thickness in one session. Then, several weeks later after the bowl has dried, he puts the bowl back on the lathe where he re-flattens the bottom, sands the bowl and finishes with a food-safe oil.
“People love the organic curves that appear in the rim of the bowl as it dries; a great reminder that this is a product of nature, rather than a synthetic manufactured piece.” Recently he added a Oneway Easy Core coring system so that he could get better yield from his stock.
The coring system allows him to get create a nested set of 3-4 bowls, instead of just a single bowl from his blank. “The coring system gives me great efficiency and I feel like I can honor the tree more by producing more bowls from each piece.”
Mark sells some of his work directly to customers, but finds that his selling efforts are better spent working with a boutique shop in Cazenovia, NY called 20 East.
“20 East allows me to reach customers who have an appreciation of the large scale, unique, high quality work that I do. It’s fun to visit their space and see my work prominently displayed. They sell enough of my work to keep me pretty busy year-round.”
Mark intends to continue honing his skills as a bowl turner and to grow his business until it can sustain him as a full-time job. He says “my wife and children have been extremely supportive in every aspect of this journey.
They continue to inspire me to pursue this life that brings meaning and joy every single day. This isn’t a passing phase for me; turning has become central to my mission. My life’s work.”