I didn't create that grain, I didn't create that beauty.
All I did was [be] a participant to reveal the beauty
that was already there.
~ Artist Virgil Leih
Minnesota wood-turner Virgil Leih haunts urban "tree trunk dumps" looking for logs he can reclaim for his art. A self-professed "grain chaser", Leih limits himself to native woods, among them ash, walnut, cottonwood, and maple, rescuing from the chipping machines huge (2,000- to 4,000-pound) trunks whose shape, texture, and grain catch his eye. He says it's his privilege to let the beauty that's hidden in nature's raw material be revealed.
In the wonderful Minnesota Original profile below, Leih, who comes from a family of woodworkers, describes how his need for a challenge in retirement motivated him to become the innovative wood sculptor he is today. The monumental vessels he creates are impressive not only in scale but also in beauty. They reflect a genuine passion both for material and craft.
For a photo series about Leih's creative process, much of which he had to devise on his own to accommodate the huge pieces he shapes, go here.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, "Spring Trunk Show II" with Virgil Leih, March 19, 2010 - May 2, 2010
Randy Johnson, "Scrap Wood to Polished Wood", American Woodworker Blog, April 28, 2009
My thanks to On Being blog, where I first learned about Leih.