Sculptural Engineer


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“Boxed Homonyms: Rock,” Cherry split turning with paint and carved elements, 2014. Doughtie says, “These boxes were traditionally used to aid in avoiding ambiguity in conversation, especially during lively social discourses in the parlors of old. When someone was making a point, they could find the appropriate box in the collection and, with a flourish, present the correct carving to the listeners, thereby making sure everyone was on the same page.”

Without A Shadow Of A Doubt, Wood-Turning Artist Sharon Doughtie Has Found Her heart’s calling. Watching it literally unfurl is truly a beautiful and humbling thing to behold.

Woodturning, a specialized form of woodworking, traces its roots to ancient Egypt. The art is created on what is known as a lathe, a mechanism that simultaneously holds and spins the wood while it is whirled and shaped with carving tools. While the early forms of woodturning produced mostly functional items, modern-day artists, including Doughtie, have evolved into allowing the art form to take a more creative approach.

Doughtie still can recall her very first foray into working with wood, remembering how, at the tender age of 8, she fashioned together a wooden box, replete with hinges and carvings and other intricate details. She still has it in her possession today—acting as a constant reminder of the humble beginnings that of her ever-evolving artistic journey.

Eventually, Doughtie worked as a sort of apprentice at a local wood shop when she was 18. That gave her some real hands-on experience with the practical minutia of woodworking. Yet it wasn’t until Doughtie caught sight of her first lathe that her penchant for woodturning emerged.

“In the shop where I was apprenticing, there was a rather rickety old lathe that no one even used anymore,” she shares. “And just seeing it, something resonated within me—it ignited a spark.”

And that small spark fanned the flames of a future passion for the Scots-Irish-born artist, leading her to study at acclaimed Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. And though, to the untrained eye, it may appear that Doughtie’s woodturning prowess is something innate, the humble artist is quick to correct this assumption, happily giving credit where credit is due.

“The woodturning community is really close knit and supportive, encouraging and inspiring one another in the craft,” Doughtie says. “There are these amazing collaborations all over the world …”

Even with an extremely supportive group of artisans to lean on—husband Pat Kramer is among them, an accomplished woodturner in his own right—Doughtie admits that nothing comes without effort. “I had a lot of failures until it worked. I just kept trying things,” she says. Doughtie credits her husband, who gifted her with her very first lathe, with helping to foster her familiarity with, and passion for the process of woodturning.

Still, it takes much more than skilled knowledge and learned mechanics to make the extraordinary artwork Doughtie is known for, creations that include distinctive bowls, boxes and more, which are characterized by their exquisite knotwork—a variety of highly stylized knots marked by intricate spirals, step patterns, and key patterns paying homage to her ancestry. Doughtie grew up with knotwork as an integral part of her daily environment, an experience that would be the first of many that would literally shape her future woodworking.

“I am three-fourths Irish, with some Scottish and French thrown in, and I grew up with knotwork at home,” says Doughtie, who continues on to explain how she bridges her Celtic roots with her now Hawaiian home. “I decided to put Celtic knotwork into my pieces, imagining the stippling in the background was the lava rock, and the designs might have been the petroglyphs we’d see today if the Irish had arrived first. I always had a story or feeling I was trying to convey before making a piece.”

These sculpted “stories,” woven into every intricate work of her art, are infused with Doughtie’s own life experiences. Deeply personal narratives are etched into every inch of wood. Each bowl, box and handcrafted vessel pulses with vibrancy, breathes with a soft vulnerability, and fosters a sense of shared familiarity that resonates within the heart of all who survey it.

One particular experience that has had a rather significant impact on Doughtie’s art is caring for her ailing parents. “From 2007 through 2012, I took care of my parents through the ends of their lives,” she shares. After their passing, the artist dedicated herself to handling their estate before taking some much deserved time o˛ in 2014. Now, returning to her craft, Doughtie is adopting a refreshing and welcome perspective on her present creations.

“I’m just getting back to work this year, and after the intensity of those years of caring [for my parents], where I wasn’t really able to get much work done or explore many new themes in my work, I wanted to branch out and make some pieces that make me laugh. I’m still designing knotwork, but am also making some pieces that are visual puns,” she says.

Undeniably clever and deliciously cheeky, this new collection includes Boxed Homo-nyms, focused on a pair of words which are spelled the same but embody different meanings. These wooden delights display Doughtie’s quick wit and fun-loving nature via playful pieces, such as her work titled “Another Conundrum,” a play on words showcasing an actual drum alongside a pair of drumsticks inscribed with the faces of nuns clad in full habits.

“I see my work as an expression of my journey through life,” Doughtie professes, which explains its natural beauty, soulful depth and endearing spirit.

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