Woodturning Artist Jamie Harrell
By Andrea Cruz
Native 863’er James (Jamie) Harrell has always seen the world as a tapestry of God’s creation, woven together in such a way that beauty can be found throughout nature.
“I particularly enjoyed the nuances of trees, how they would twist and turn and the uniqueness of each and every branch,” Harrell says. “It was like each tree was a fingerprint left on this earth by the Creator, reminding us that each of us has a purpose and we must find out what it is and then do it to the very best of our ability.”
Raised in Eagle Lake, Harrell says his parents instilled Godly morals and upright character. From them, he learned that much in life can be achieved through hard work and determination. At the same time, a spark for art was ignited inside Harrell at a tender age and he pursued art classes right up until he graduated high school.
“I would love to say I continued pursuing my passion of art but that was not the case,” he says. “I pushed my love of art aside and entered the workforce.” At 24 years old, Harrell started working as a Polk County deputy sheriff and retired in 2012 due to an injury.
“During my rehabilitation my passion for art was reignited. Although years had passed my desire for art did not,” Harrell says. “The difference was that this time I wanted to wholeheartedly pursue art in such a way that it would be an integral part of my life.”
As one who always enjoyed working with his hands, Harrell decided to try his hand at woodworking. Over the years Harrell had made a few miscellaneous items but never committed to making woodworking anything more than a hobby.
“As a birthday present to myself in 2012 I purchased a used wood lathe, and this is where my journey as a woodturning artist began to take shape,” Harrell says.
With no formal training and not knowing where to begin Harrell decided to go all in just to see what would happen, and opened a small business called Covenant Custom Woodworks.
“I mounted a small spindle of wood onto the lathe, turned it on, and began making shavings,” he says. “I wish I could say it has been smooth sailing ever since but that would be untrue. I have learned a lot through trial and error, but I have learned that as a wood turner I do not say I make mistakes — I do, however, have ‘design opportunities.’”
Speaking of, those designs are oftentimes revealed to Harrell by the piece itself.
“As each piece is turned and finished I am in awe at the stunning artwork woven into the very fibers of the wood,” he says. “I am driven forward by the need to see what beauty the next piece of wood holds. Each shape is dictated by the piece of wood being turned. As the piece is turned and shaped the wood reveals what the next step is to be done. I employ multiple techniques to achieve the finished work of art. The technique used may include wood dyes, carving, piercing, high voltage wood burning, or any combination thereof.”
Inspired by the works of woodturning artist Bihn Pho, Harrell says Pho’s techniques of turning thin pieces and carving intricate designs into the wood has given him the drive to push himself and the techniques used in order to consistently improve and not to settle for anything less than high quality.
“The art created by Bihn Pho tells a story and is not just a design cut into the wood, there is purpose behind every piece and a message to be conveyed. This is very much the philosophy that I have chosen to put into each of my art pieces,” Harrell says.
With hopes of opening a studio where he can teach woodturning to younger generations, Harrell, who currently sells his pieces at Saturday markets and art shows — and will be a vendor at the 863 Local FiArt Fest in April (see page 24) — says he hopes one day to have an exhibit to showcase his artwork.
“It is a lifelong dream of mine to be identified as a notable woodturning artist,” he says.
“Not every person that paints is able to produce a Picasso-quality piece, but I do believe that every person has an artistic quality,” Harrell says. “Sometimes in order to find your passion for art you have to get outside your comfort zone and experience new forms of art. I found my passion in woodturning.”
For more info visit Facebook.com/CovenantCustomWoodworks, or contact Harrell at 863-651-1593 or CovenantCustomWood@hotmail.com.