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Tom July 13

Tom's turning wood and heads with his stunning bowl gifts

The guest speakers at our REACH and Construction Award evenings were both “bowled” over by the gifts they received for their services.

Tom Dennis has been turning heads as well as wood during his first year on the University Centre’s BA 3D Creative Practice degree course, supported by the Yorkshire & Humber Institute of Technology.

Having been described already as the “Master of York College” by Deputy Head of Art & Design Phil Simpson, Tom was, therefore, a natural choice when we were looking for a student to design and create a thank-you present for Jodie Hill and Emma Simpson after they had shared their inspiring stories at our end-of-year Awards celebrations.

Tom, who progressed into Higher Education at Sim Balk Lane after two years on our Level Three 3D Design Extended Diploma course, produced two beautiful wooden bowls that were made from Ash with a natural beeswax finish.

He will also be making more bowls for September’s Graduation Ceremony.

The bowls take Tom a couple of days to make – “mainly to ensure there are no imperfections” – with tutor Phil admitting the apprentice has even been teaching the “masters” one or two new tricks.

“Tom was asked and commissioned by myself to do this guest speakers’ project because I knew he was very capable of doing it,” Phil declared. “It’s always nice when students can produce these items.

“In previous years, we might not have had somebody with the skills, techniques and motivation to do it but, then, along came Tom and, in the first year of his degree, he’s kind of progressed to become the Master of York College. In some areas, he’s a bit better than the staff who are teaching him, which is really what we all want.

“With his professional skills, he’s even teaching me stuff and I’m very proud of him and very pleased with the work he does. He always delivers his work on schedule and the bowls were above and beyond his work for the course, but it was a really good opportunity for him to do a live project.”

Tom confessed that it was an honour to be asked to produce the gifts, having perfected his bowl-making skills during the course.

“I love wood turning so will always take any opportunity to do some more,” he said. “I’m really proud that the College thought I had the skill and ability for this responsibility out of anyone.

“It’s great to express myself creatively in a way that people are going to see and appreciate. The brief was to design a bowl but everything else was left to me.

“When I started turning wood, I did bowls first and, since then, I’ve done some vases and more decorative, sculptural stuff. I’ve also been getting into asymmetrical turning between points and multi-access turning, so when you look at the object it doesn’t look like it has been wood turned.”

Tom added that he has benefited from the opportunity to follow an educational “pathway” to degree level at York College & University Centre, where he has also been encouraged to fully explore the potential of his creative skills.

“It’s been great to have that pathway under the same roof because you get to know the staff and the standard of teaching is good,” he pointed out. “They allow you to express yourself and go down different routes and explore with their guidance.

“They push you to go in the directions you need to go to get the most out of the course. I’ve always liked to express myself creatively and I like to be hands-on because I can visualise what I want to make and then make it.

“The course allows me to aim for perfection, so each thing I make is getting better and better and I can see the progress I’m making. The course also gives me the guidance in terms of what I need to improve and how to get better at the craft I’m doing.

“I’ve enjoyed the experimenting I’ve been able to do during my first year. I wouldn’t even have considered starting the asymmetrical turning for the course if it wasn’t for this course.

“It was just a case of doing one of the projects and stumbling across some shapes and figuring out how I could actually get those shapes out of the wood in the technique I prefer, which is wood turning. I’d turned one thing on my previous course in College so had a basic understanding of wood turning but have got fully into it on this degree course.”

On what he hopes his studies will lead to in the future, Tom said: “I would like to be a self-employed wood turner, making beautiful objects that people appreciate and want to buy. That’s my end goal.”