Greg Thomas started making furniture in the 1980s. His primary focus was on the Craftsman and Arts-and-Crafts styles. He continued to do this until in 2000, when he spent a week at Anderson Ranch and learned the basics of wood turning from master turner Judy Ditmer. As a result of this experience, he changed the focus of his work from furniture making to bowl turning.
The next year, he studied with Trent Bosch in Colorado because he wanted to learn hollow form techniques and study his innovative ways of shaping wood. Bosch, who is a sculptor as well as a wood turner, proved to be a great teacher. In March 2009, Thomas spent a week at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, taking an advanced turning course with English wood turner Ray Keys.
In 2005, Thomas began exhibiting at Cox Creative Gallery in Little Rock (the Arkansas Studies Institute Retail Gallery since 2009). In 2005, Mount Magazine State Park purchased a large sculptural bowl as part of the restoration of the lodge. He was commissioned by interior designer Toni Wyre to produce 107 turned cherry-and-black-walnut medallions for the Arkansas Bar Association's Memorial Wall in its new headquarters in Little Rock. This installation won the Gold Award from the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana Chapter, in the custom detail category.
In June 2008, his Oak Burl Bowl was chosen to be photographed for the Arkansas Artist Engagement Calendar produced by the Arkansas Governor's Mansion. From November 2008 until April 2009, his Oak Burl Bowl was in Arkansas senator Mark Pryor's exhibit "A Celebration of Arkansas Artists" at his Little Rock offices. In April 2010, Mim's Bowl, a box elder bowl, will be on display at the Arkansas Governor's Mansion.
In February 2002, he participated in "Tiger Tiger," a group show at the Mehu Gallery in New York. In October 2004, he had a one-man show, "Arkansas Wood," at Handmade in Fayetteville. In September 2005, he exhibited in "Equis," another group show at the Mehu Gallery. In June 2008, he taught a bowl turning class at Eureka Springs School of the Arts. In October 2008, his sculpture Ravens was accepted for the South Arkansas Art Center juried exhibition. In July 2009, Ravens was awarded Best in 3-Dimensional Art at the Artists of Northwest Arkansas's fifteenth annual Regional Art Exhibition at the Art Center of the Ozarks in Springdale.
When I first look at a piece of wood, the process of discovering its form and function begins. Some pieces will produce a flawless bowl that will serve salads, fruit, or nuts for generations, taking on a priceless patina from both its contents and its handling. Some have been invaded by insects and fungi. Some have knots, checks, and cracks. These woods will become turned art-objects that will be collected because of the sheer interest they invite. I take an art project that nature has started and work to show it at its best advantage. Some woods are a little of both, their worm tracks and fungal lines adding interest to a fully functional bowl.
As I continually expose new facets of the wood by cutting a tree into sections and the sections into bowl blanks, I make a series of decisions about how this bowl will turn out. Some are based on physical clues present in the exposed grain and natural shape of the wood; some are intuited, based on a feeling for what I will find beneath the surface of the wood. I am reminded of a favorite quote from Lao Tzu, "From wonder into wonder existence opens." The journey from tree to bowl fills me with this sense of wonder.
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