Bondo Wyszpolski

Woodturner Richard Gould… and Art at the Harbor

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Richard Gould in his workshop. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

Richard Gould in his workshop. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

Bowled Over

Woodturner Richard Gould brings his wares to “Art at the Harbor” this weekend

by Bondo Wyszpolski

Richard Gould holds up a chunk of wood, which gives rise to the inevitable first question” Okay, so what?

“It’s mystery wood,” he replies. “And it’s also free.”

Explain why it’s free, and why it’s also a mystery.

“It’s free because one of my friends was cutting down a tree, and it’s a mystery because I don’t know what it is.”

Would someone else be able to identify it?

“I’ve tried that with this wood. It looks like ficus, but some people say it’s not ficus. A lot of times you’ll get a wood and you won’t be able to figure out what it is. I know a lot of my woods, but this one is a mystery to me. It’s not ash, it’s not maple…”

Richard Gould is a woodturner, or maybe woodcrafter, but not a woodcarver, which is often imagined as an old guy sitting on a stump with a piece of wood in one hand and a penknife in the other. Gould is also more than a woodturner who specializes in bowls, and we’ll get to that part of the story in a few minutes, but right now he’s wrapping up preparations for “Art at the Harbor,” which he’s co-organized with Bernard Fallon. The event, a combination art show and sale, takes place Saturday and Sunday in Redondo Beach and it features Emily Brantley and several other artists.

A bowl made of walnut, by Richard Gould

A bowl made of walnut, by Richard Gould

Chips falling where they may

How do you get free wood?

“A lot of people all over the South Bay know that I’m a woodturner,” Gould replies. “A lot of tree cutters know me, too. So people call me and say, We’re cutting down a tree, can you come get it?” He does, and sometimes there are surprises, like finding a rare coin in your pocket change.

“You know Jacquelyne May?” Sure, who doesn’t? “Jacquelyne May’s next door neighbor was taking down this macadamia tree, and she called me on a Saturday and said, Richard, they’re taking it down right now, can you get over here? I said, oh my god, macadamia, that’s a little exotic, isn’t it?”

He’ll also find free wood on Craig’s List, and sometimes will drive a great distance to pick it up.

A translucent bowl made of Norfolk pine, by Richard Gould

A translucent bowl made of Norfolk pine, by Richard Gould

At this point we’re in Gould’s garage, a former three-car garage but now with hardly enough room to park a bicycle. “I have a whole woodworking shop here,” he says, stating the obvious, and with enough tools (and of course the knowhow) to make all kinds of furniture. As if that isn’t impressive enough, “I also have a small metalshop over there,” he adds, indicating another area of the garage. With his metal lathe and other equipment he can make his own tools. Meanwhile, the rest of us are keeping Lowe’s and Home Depot in business.

“My dad did woodworking when I was a kid,” Gould says, “and he allowed me to use his workshop. That’s what kind of got me into this, through my dad.”

So you’ve been doing this for a long time?

“I’ve been doing this a long, long time. Woodworking is my hobby; I don’t make money off of it, really.”

After another quick look around the workshop: It looks like a long-term hobby.

Inside and outside highlighted together in this carob vessel by Richard Gould

Inside and outside highlighted together in this carob vessel by Richard Gould

“This is collected over many, many years,” Gould replies. “I’ve just recently started turning wood, and I just recently started doing art shows. But I’ve always had a workshop, so my workshop’s been here for a long time. My lathe-turning is something that’s a little bit newer, like in the last six-seven years.”

But what’s the sense of interviewing a woodturner who doesn’t switch on his wood-lathe and show you how it’s done?

Gould does just that, giving an explanation and then a demonstration.

“I turn the outside [of the bowl] first. I plan it, and I plan it trying to get an interesting rim.” And in the process he introduces the functions of a spur drive, the tenon and the chuck, the headstock and tailstock. Chips fly, and then the outside shape of yet another bowl begins to emerge. “I turn the bowl around on the lathe in order to do the inside,” he says, but for now cutting off the machine.

“I also do mentoring for Boy Scouts,” Gould says, removing his goggles. “I’m a merit badge counselor for woodworking for the Boy Scouts, and I’m involved in a lot of Eagle projects where the kids come up with a project and need to do something out of wood. There’s not really much woodworking in the schools anymore, so I try to help out and give back that way.”

Richard Gould with one of his finished works. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

Richard Gould with one of his finished works. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

Man on the move

“I’ve always lived in the South Bay,” Gould says. “I went to El Segundo High School, I’ve lived in Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo, PV, then back to El Segundo, then back to Redondo, then back to Manhattan, and back to Redondo and then PV.”

What about Torrance?

“I’ve never lived in Torrance, but my office has been in Torrance for 35 years.”

Currently, Gould and his family live in a large three-story home a bit down the road from Chadwick in Rolling Hills Estates.

“I’ve been in this house about ten years,” he replies, when asked. “I built this house [although not in his workshop]. We wanted to get my kids into the PV school district and so we moved up here. Now that they’ve graduated we’re thinking about building another house. This is like my fifth house I’ve built for myself.”

This peculiar-looking ash vessel by Richard Gould won the PV Art Center Gwen Sandvick Award last summer

This peculiar-looking ash vessel by Richard Gould won the PV Art Center Gwen Sandvick Award last summer

Well, Geppetto with all of his woodcarving skills could never have afforded anything this nice, so Gould must have been spending a lot of time away from the wood-lathe. But he did say that woodworking was just his hobby, didn’t he?

So what do you do as a real job?

“I ran an architectural company for a development corporation,” Gould replies. “Maybe in the 35 years I was with that company I designed and processed and oversaw the plans for 4,000 houses. That’s what I did for the majority of my professional life, design houses, either custom or tract houses, and implemented the construction of them. It’s kind of like an architect, but it’s not an architect: I had architects working for me.

“Later on in my career I got into real estate development. We developed properties, so it meant dealing with planning departments and planning commissions and city councils.”

He’s still involved in such endeavors, but seemingly at a more relaxed pace. When he states, “I think I’d rather wear shorts to work” that about sums it up. And pretty nicely, don’t you agree?

The finishing touch

Although Richard Gould has “only” been a woodturner for six or seven years, he’s already been recognized for his work. This past summer he received the Gwen Sandvick Award for 3D at the Celebrating PVAC Artists Groups Show at the Palos Verdes Art Center. He’s also a member of several related organizations, the American Association of Woodturners, the El Camino Woodturners Guild, and the Redondo Beach Art Group, among others.

Oak natural edge with turquoise inlay, by Richard Gould

Oak natural edge with turquoise inlay, by Richard Gould

We’ve been looking at one of his woodpiles, outdoors next to his house. Gould has lifted the tarp that covers the blocks of wood and points out how he seals the ends with wax so they don’t dry out too fast. While he’s pointing to the black acacia that came from Torrance I’m keeping an eye out for snakes, having lived on the Hill myself, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

Inside the workshop once more, Gould studies the rows of unfinished bowls. After he’s rough-turned them, they sit for a few months losing weight and drying out, and in fact Gould charts the progress of each bowl rather carefully. “When it stops losing weight it means it’s come to equilibrium in this climate, and I can go ahead and finish it safely. In the first month or two it’s very susceptible to cracking, especially if it’s really hot.” Then, if the bowl isn’t cracked, he’ll apply a type of furniture varnish called tung oil. It’ll receive between five and eight coats, while sanding with 800 grit sandpaper in between coats. If there is a crack, he often fills it in with turquoise, inlayed and sanded just like the wood.

Needless to say, the beauty of each bowl depends on several factors, beginning with the shape, the rim, the grain, the contrast of light and dark or heartwood versus sapwood, knots, or spalting (a fungus) which adds colored streaks.

Do you have a favorite kind of wood?

A bowl made of carob, by Richard Gould

A bowl made of carob, by Richard Gould

“You know what I love,” Gould replies, “is olive, because when you turn olive it fills up your shop with the smell of olive oil. You would think that wood like eucalyptus would be similar; they’re not. With eucalyptus, the leaves are the thing that have the aroma, not the wood. So olive is very fun, and it’s relatively soft and easy to turn, and it’s easy to finish, easy to sand.”

Depending on the venue, Gould may take 60 pieces when he participates in an art show, as he has at Malaga Cove Plaza this year. This gives potential buyers plenty to choose from, doesn’t it?

“Sometimes, yeah,” he says, “but sometimes I can’t make up my mind which ones to take, and then sometimes people can’t make up their minds which ones they want to buy.”

Of course, there’s nothing to prevent someone from picking up two or three.

Art at the Harbor is a group show and sale that takes place Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, and you’ll find it easily at 245 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach. It’s just across from Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach and in the parking lot next to Ruby’s. Other artists, working in assorted media, include Emily Brantley, Bernard Fallon, Carol Hungerford, Paul Blieden, Erika Snow Robinson, Bob Mackie, Rosine Sorbom, Patti Linnett, Debbie Collette, Adolfo Girala, Jody Wiggins, Val Simon, Wendy Viscarra, and Susan Schilling. To learn more, go to Facebook or send an email to ER


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