The artist and author explains how frosting and a bad band saw led her to bowl making
By Mindy Kinsey
Carole Rothman’s bowls are colorful, glossy, silky smooth, and decorated with wonderful patterns. Her boxes are equally inspiring—some of them are cleverly designed to look like food and miniature furniture, and others have wooden bows or inlaid patterns. In a recent interview, Carole explained how her various interests and experiences come together in her artwork.
Q: Please share your background with us—your education, training, or other relevant experience.
A: I am a psychologist and college teacher by profession (Ph.D. in clinical psychology) who spent many years in private practice and in front of the classroom. I am an author and speaker in the field of eldercare and caregiving. I am also a lifelong craftsperson, enjoyed a home-based cake decorating business for many years, am a serious cook as well as baker, and have the practical skills acquired from maintaining and improving an older home.
What this means for my work as a scroller and designer of projects is that I come into this area with a great number of diverse resources that I can pull from. My cake decorating background is evident in the ribbons and bows that are part of my “signature,” as well as in many of the projects in my new box book. My writing, teaching, and media experiences are reflected in the quality of my written instructions and in the educational and entertainment value of my videos, live demos, and classes.
Q: What initially drew you to the art of scrolling, and what keeps you coming back?
A: I was initially drawn to the band saw and motivated to learn how to make collapsible baskets. The community shop’s band saw was in a sad state of repair, so I advocated for the shop’s board to approve the purchase of a decent scroll saw to serve as a substitute for small projects. It took several months of work to get it, but once purchased, I bought John Nelson’s excellent beginner book and got to work.
What keeps me going are the new ideas that come from “nowhere” that I just have to try, and the success that I’ve had translating those ideas into real projects. The interaction with the scrolling community, through the Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts forum and my blog, has been another incentive to keep on going, and, of course, the opportunity to publish my work and get it out there has been a real high!
Q: Are you trying anything new?
A: I try to do something different with every project. Over the past few years, I’ve tried to incorporate more diverse materials and techniques into my work to increase its interest and artistry. The major changes have occurred in several areas: use of new materials such as Inlace and plywood, emulation of lathe techniques such as open segmentation, use of small carving tools, exploration of new shapes and edge treatments, and incorporation of diverse scrolling techniques such as intarsia and inlay. I try to stay current with what’s being featured in mainstream woodworking publications, especially with regard to boxes and bowls, in order to expand the range of projects for the scroll saw.
Q: Have you ever had a big sloppy failure?
A: On the forum, we refer to those as “designer firewood.” Probably my most relevant failure was my very first attempt to make a simple one-ring bowl, based on a project written by Gary MacKay. I could not figure out which way to drill the entry hole and drilled it in the wrong direction. Then, once I got the first ring cut, I completely ruined it on the spindle sander. I did not even think of doing another bowl-like project for several years. Other disasters include my attempt to make a bowl from pieces joined by box joints (very badly conceived) and my first attempts at open-segmented bowls, which fell apart completely. I’ve had many misaligned swags… until I figured out how to glue them up properly. Even so, my “swag success rate” is not quite where I’d like it to be. I’ve also had finishing disasters, including a ring box that is covered with mildew for no reason I can think of.
If you’re afraid to fail, however, you cannot move ahead. Fortunately, my projects are small, so even a total disaster represents small amounts of wood and time. And even failures are not without value, whether they spur me on to try again or simply increase my understanding of my own limitations or those of the scroll saw.
Q: What is the one tip someone told you that has made a difference?
A: The best tip I ever received was from a teacher of cake decorating. As we became discouraged at our less-than-perfect work, she urged us to take a look in a bakery window. Sure enough, we quickly discovered that even the “experts” are not perfect. It was extremely reassuring. So, applying that to scrollers or bowl-makers, it translates into not disparaging your work, especially the early efforts, and to keep trying until you’re satisfied with the results. And if you look closely enough, you’ll discover that no one’s work is perfect.
Carole Rothman is the author of Wooden Bowls from the Scroll Saw and Creative Wooden Boxes from the Scroll Saw, both available from Fox Chapel Publishing. Learn more about Carole from her blog, www.scrollsawbowls.blogspot.com, or ask her a question via e-mail at email@example.com. Carole will also be teaching at the Fox Chapel Publishing Open House in May. Visit www.wood-show.com for more information.