Written by Jeffrey Keller
“The concept that woodturning could be an art form was introduced by Edith, my wife and an artist. The possibility that a vessel could be non functioning with a hole in it or have a wavy bark natural edge was not part of the discipline of the 1970s and 1980s. Now wood is appreciated as a medium to be honored in any form that will reveal its hidden beauty. .” –Wallace Kemp March 12, 2016 “Visions From The Lathe” published for the Fuller Craft Museum from a direct quote.
Wally retired from his job as a surgeon at the South Shore Hospital in 1973. He had enjoyed woodworking as a sideline during his working years and now that he had retired, decided to devote himself to woodturning -not that he hadn’t already been doing it as a natural extension of general woodworking and repairing antique furniture locally. Initially, he had found that after acquiring a lathe, that an instructor was hard to find in the states. So he did the next best thing and signed up for a course in Cotswolds, England. He said that “since the 1970s, woodturning has grown and become immensely popular”.
He was a founding member of the Massachusetts South Shore Woodturners Association in 1997. As the club grew, Wally was instrumental in encouraging the attendance at different woodturning shows both from the American Association of Woodturners and other local events. He took courses on working with wood from the North Bennet Street School in Boston and was later on their board of directors. He always wanted to learn more and become “a better turner”.
Wally knew various tree people and was the recipient of many burls left on his back porch slated to become beautiful bowls, spheres or art forms. When deciding how to cut a burl for mounting it on the lathe, he used to say, “You have to take what the wood gives you.” Over the years, Wally was always available to do demonstrations for small and large groups -spinning tops turned and given to small children were his specialty. He showed up at craft fairs and other events, and was always available to instruct new turners on the lathe. Local merchants knew Wally from offering his turned bowls and other objects for sale. Many of his turned objects grace local homes today.
“Each tree has a story all its own”, he once said “and this work just keeps me very happy”.
excerpts in this article appeared in South Shore Living in 2008
Follow this link to view Wally’s obituary