I work almost exclusively with wood, a medium that offers enormous opportunities for artistic expression. Possibilities range from graceful objects of practical utility to abstract forms expressing movement, color, or mood. After a long career in clinical medicine, I began my formal training in craft by learning to build traditional small wooden boats at the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building. Part of the curriculum included the making of tools essential to boat building that included basic and specialized mallets, wood planes and bevel gauges. From that point, I began to make some imaginative parodies of those tools in a growing collection that I call my Useless Tools. After learning wood turning, I've used the lathe to make graceful and useful items such as bowls, platters and goblets that emphasize the natural color and grain of fine hardwoods or that reveal shape through painted and carved surfaces.
My current primary creative interest is in combining wood turning and wood sculpture with found objects. Here I can combine fascinating found items (such as carved wooden figures that I've collected over a number of decades, unusual small antique tools, metal pieces from an antique Meccano set, boat yard scraps and wood elements of my own creation) into small sculptures that may suggest a story or may simply delight in themselves. I often title these works with the first line of the story that they suggest to me but leave it to the viewer to complete that story in her or his own mind. In that fashion, it is my hope that viewers will develop a deeper and hopefully evolving relationship with the work.
Through all of these pursuits, my goals are to find novel perspectives by combining new and old objects, to explore the natural beauty of wood, and to say something about the joy of creativity. I try to do it all with a touch of humor. I strongly believe that art should put a smile on the face of both the creator and the beholder.
Another section of this website is entitled Carmelita Stories. In it I share an entirely different but equally engaging interest -- bedtime stories written for my grandchildren and inspired by a wonderful work by a Philadelphia based found-art sculptress named Linda Lou Horn. The work is titled "Minnie, Mannie, and Moe Lost Again!". It features an imaginative but originally unnamed camel who we have named "Carmelita". The stories are a staple of overnight visits to Grandma and Grandpa and are intended not just to entertain but to encourage our grandchildren (or anyone) to imagine.
The most recent addition to this website is a collection of short essays that I have written about woodturning and the crafts in general. They are all essays originally written for the monthly newsletter of The Chesapeake Woodturners, The Final Cut. They are selected for sharing here because I think that they are of broader interest and reflect my sometimes iconoclastic views about the state of contemporary craft.
Richard P. Foa