woodwork 6


Many of the old guard worked in almost total isolation before the 1995 conference, perhaps due to the absence of a large hobby movement and the kind of seminars and demonstrations that had been such a feature of the English-speaking turning world. One self-taught turner who went his own way was Fabrice Micha. He worked in isolation for many years and his workshop was a treasure trove of salvaged antique equipment put to unexpected uses. His work was remarkable for both its quality and originality, and as early as 1980 he was exhibiting his work in prestigious venues in Paris.

He built a career without reference to the growing turning revival and at the 1995 conference Micha spent a lot of time distancing himself from the other participants, convinced they were not working at his level. "I am not like them !" he protested. "I am an artist !" But he gradually softened his attitude and started to discover the pleasures of simple sharing with other turners. In 1997, he joined classes in the Escoulen workshop and in 1998 he was accepted into the ITE in the United States.

Micha's work was distinguished by an almost antique sensibility. It often looked like it had come from another era - a mixture of French clocks, watch stands and mirror frames. Many of his pieces, in traditional materials such as ebony and ivory, looked as if they served some arcane function, but also stood alone as superb examples of the turners art. Sadly, Micha died young in 2000, but it is fortunate that he emerged into the new movement of French turning early enough to make his mark and forge strong friendships.

by Fabrice Micha
ebony and ivory
20 cm (7 7/8") high

Untitled by Fabrice Micha

Empire Twist Building by Gérard Bidou

"Empire Twist Building"
by Gérard Bidou
assorted timber and paint
42 cm (10 1/8") high

French turners are usually very willing to adapt old techniques to creative purposes. Gerard Bidou began as a hobbyist in 1980. He confesses that he is "more cerebral than artistic" and his challenge has been to explore the technical aspects of turning. He particularly enjoys making complex chucks to turn forms which defy circularity. Bidou's "Empire Twist Building" is perhaps a wry poke at what Americans have done to traditional turning. What is less obvious is that it is all turned, including the sinuous sides of the building. For those who admire complexity, no turner has more to offer than Bidou, and since 1987 he has written several books on the subject.