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Dragon Woodturner

June 10, 2013

Dragon Woodturner
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter 30 hours of fjords and waterfalls on the Hurtigruta Ferry from Bergan, Norway, we unloaded our Mini-Cooper rental car onto the Trondheim dock and headed to the home of a wood turner I met over the Internet. We knew we were in the right place when we saw logs and lumber and even 3 bags of wood shavings.

Rune Hjelen lives in the suburbs with his family. He is an elementary teacher, but also earned a master’s degree in folk arts, especially turning and carving. We spent two days with him and learned about his specialty of “dragon style.” That’s the name of this style of swirling tendrils of plants and animals that form these amazing pieces. It’s the style you see on the Norwegian stave churches, 1000 years old and more. Rune stretches dragon style into more contemporary forms. Most carving here in Norway is acanthus, a baroque style of curving leaves and flowers that is also found in their “rosemaling” or rose painting” but dragon style is older, less common and I believe more powerfully compelling.

Pebbled PlatterDragon Style PlatterRune showed us some of his pieces, and I was instantly excited. I was in Norway exploring woodturning with the goal of using traditional styles but updating them into more contemporary forms. Rune was doing just that very beautifully. I was impressed with how he balances his busy life of teaching, being a husband and parent of two small children and also doing excellent and innovative work. In that way, he’s like many other wood turners I know.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARune’s shop is well equipped for turning and carving. He has a 24’ Vicmark lathe that I saw in several professional shops in Norway. That’s a popular lathe in Norway that is sold by the big Verktoy woodworking store from Stavanger, Norway, for whom Rune is often a demonstrator. Rune also teaches both turning and carving classes at the Rauland School in Norway. He also has an even larger VB lathe from England, capable of the very large pieces he is exploring. His goal is to do large commissions for public spaces or corporations in contemporary dragon style. I visited two other turners in Norway which I am blogging about. They each have different goals for their work. Trond Killi is a very busy production turner and Jorgen Bleken most often does commissions or restorations of traditional Norwegian designs.

Rune Hjelen and FamilyWe had a great time with Rune, Camilla, Kristen and Ottar, pictured here with my wife Merrie Sue as well. I thank them for their hospitality and all that we learned there. you can check “translate” to make this in English
Cruise along the coast of Norway with an astonishing array of the world’s best turners. You will probably meet Rune on board too.


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