“Getting There” – Honestly and Decently

by Ken Keoughan

The Following Article originally ran in the Fall 2001 issue of American Woodturner (Vol. 16, No. 3)


 The most striking thing about Trent Bosch is that he is `going to get there” … wherever he decides “there” is. He is going to do it honestly and decently. And when he gets “there,” he won’t dwell on it, and in fact he may not even realize it, because he’ll already be excited and moving toward his next “there”. His most immediate and treasured environment is and will be his family: his wife and three kids. But for the rest of the world he will have sincerely striven not to harm the ecological environment in which he lives and functions.

A Quiet Risk Taker

Trent is quiet, almost but not quite shy. Yet he is a risk-taker. He exudes a resilient confidence. He invents techniques, designs pieces he has no idea how to execute, is astonishingly good at gently, quietly saying “no.” Talent? I’m not quite sure what talent is, but he’s got it. More important by far, he uses it, works industriously at using it. Trent doesn’t work hard; he works smart. Everything about his studio, his processes, his pieces, has been thought out. There is the same effortlessness about him in his studio that one sees in Olympic track athletes.

He is only 30-years old. Yet he has assisted David Ellsworth at Arrowmont, been a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Colorado State University, birthed and breathed life into his own prospering company, (the Rescued Wood Bowl Company), and developed, organized and taught a woodworking program for men in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease (the Eagles Club Respite Program). He has been a demonstrator at the AAW Symposium in Charlotte (2000), Akron (1998) and San Antonio (1997), Texas Turn or Two (2000), Rocky Mountain Woodturners Symposium (1999) and the Utah Symposium (1999).

And at these symposia he has taught his vessel within a vessel technique; surface treatments including sand blasting and dying; and green wood turning everything you ever want to know. And since one of his undergraduate majors was photography he has taught “Photographing Your Own Work/Setting up Your Own Photography Studio.”

In his spare time he has been graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in fine arts; and pursued and dropped out of a master’s program in teaching, since the replacement of woodworking with computer activities would have left him with nothing he wanted to teach; married and sired three beautiful children, Kailee, Sienna and Treden. He was there for each birth and each is reflected in his work.

I could go on with this litany of where he has gone with wood turning. Suffice it to say his work is in 50 galleries, including del Mano; has appeared at SOFA New York and Chicago, and is in the Bohlen collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts. He is also in many private collections.

Functional and Sculptural

Let’s talk about his work. As an overview he creates both “functional” and “sculptural” pieces. It would be easy to say that the “functional” pieces, sold through his Rescued Wood Bowl Company are pretty straightforward, but they are not. They are carved, painted, textured, sculpted … even though they are “functional.” Within the framework of his “sculptural” pieces there are six separate bodies of work, four of which he is actively producing and selling, two of which are in developmental stages.

First, the “functional” series. Rescued wood is what he uses, rescued from the tree surgeons or the landfill … taken down due to old age, urban development, and snow and wind storms. Among the woods he finds are silver maple, box elder, honey locust, elm, ash, walnut and ailanthus. In addition to rescuing these trees, he has rescued a 1961 truck with a crane on the bed to pick them up.

From truck to studio is routine, if you’re used to schlepping the wet logs around the foothills of the Rockies. Chainsaw, bandsaw, wet turned – nothing new here. Into the kilns, he’s built two with very large capacities. They dry in a month to about 7 % moisture content or so. Re-mounted on the lathe they finish-turned into virtually generic, and very comfortable shapes, sanded to 320 grit, reverse turned and sanded again using a vacuum chuck that he built.

After that they go in one of two directions. The first is to the mineral oil bath where they are soaked overnight. If on the second path, they are painted or carved or both and marketed as “Hand Crafted for Daily Use.” The oil process takes place last. These products are bowls of varying sizes ranging from 10-to-16-in., platters in three sizes, and hollow forms in three styles. The newest among the bowls is the `Mountain Series.” They are quite striking.

Vessel Within a Vessel

But it is Bosch’s sculptural work, and within that context, the “vessel within a vessel” concept that brought him to our spotlight at the 1997 AAW symposium in San Antonio.

The idea, of course, was to create the illusion of one form emerging from another. The technique came out of working with and studying under Lee Carter at Colorado State University. He taught and I think still teaches “bending” techniques. Lee, now an AAW board member, is retired from Colorado State University and conducts private workshops in all phases of woodtuming including “36 ways to chuck a piece of wood on the lathe.”

Talking about the process, Trent says, “The first step is to create the outer hollow form. Once I have achieved exactly the shape I want, I remove it from the lathe and carve and sand to create the “opening up from within” feeling. When I am pleased with the form of the outer vessel, the surface texture is created. This is done by a number of techniques from carving to indenting the wood. I do whatever is necessary to give the effect that I am looking for.

`Once I have the outer form, I’m able to visualize what the insert will look like. The insert is about 2-in.-larger than the opening in the hollow form. It is turned very thin, 1/16-in. or so. The insert is then boiled to plasticise the wood, which allows me to bend the piece enough to insert it into the vessel. Once in the vessel, I use a balloon to hold it up against the inside of the vessel. When the insert is dry, I can then glue it into place and remove the balloon giving me the seamless effect of a vessel within a vessel.”

Gimmick or Innovation?

I’ve heard someone say, someone who has not yet created an innovation of this magnitude in turning, “It’s really just a gimmick, this insert deal.” Yes, I guess that’s true. So is the pneumatic tire, the word processor and the airplane. This is not a gimmick. This is a breakthrough, an adaptation of a technique from another discipline. We don’t yet know where it will go or lead us. But we owe Trent our thanks for coming up with it and our thanks for his willingness to share with us how he does it. What we don’t owe him is a jealous put down.

Of the six bodies of “sculptural” work, the first is the Vessel of Illusion. In these pieces he uses two widely diver gent types of wood for contrast and tension. The Kailee Series is an extension of the Vessel of Illusion series. However here we see more. We see the process of creation, the emergence from within of something new, clean, innocent. The texture and coloration on the outside of the vessel represents the mother, a little spent and worn from the gestation and birthing process. It was inspired by the birth of Kailee~ his oldest daughter. And this series will evolve and grow as Kailee evolves and grows.

The Sienna Series has the outward appearance of a vessel within a vessel. It is not. It is one piece of wood, turned, hollowed, carved and textured. It is clearly Bosch expressing himself as he expressed himself in the Vessel of Illusion series. Here he has named the body of work after his second daughter, Sienna. And here the exterior is less beaten, less distorted. More a weathered appearance, created by sand blasting. The pieces seem to flow languidly with the grain. Sienna’s birth was easier than Kailee’s.

This series too will be ongoing just as Sienna will be emerging through life’s passages. The Carved Rim Series attempts to lead the eye out of the center opening to the edge of the rim and from there out into the surrounding area. This surrounding area is as much a part of the sculpture as the space within a vessel or bowl is a part of the sculpture.

The Wonder of Creation

All four of these series are indelibly Bosch. They are elegant, full of tension, and filled with the wonder of creation. The developmental ones, Vortex and Treden hold nothing but promise.

More about Trent. He is male-model handsome, 6-ft. 4-in. tall and at peace with himself. He’s ambitious, financially ambitious. He has the temerity to think that a wood turner can make a living, a really good living and more, from turning wood. I made my living in marketing, so I challenged him to explain how he could do that as we drove to the Denver airport in a swirling snowstorm. He convinced me and I’m not easy.

As I said at the outset, the most striking thing about Trent Bosch is that he is going to get there. And he’s going to do it honestly and decently. Trent is an artist willing to put out there for all of us to see “his expression of his world.” He is also an inspiration.

Ken Keoughan is a writer and turner in Friendship, ME, and a contributing editor for American Woodturner