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Artist enjoys creating with wood

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Each wooden art piece Ben Smith of Jemison creates is an intricate design crafted from hundreds to thousands of smaller pieces of wood.

This art form is called segmented wood turning.

“The difference between inlay and segmented turning is inlay turning is a decorative piece that goes in the groove on the top, a secondary wood,” Smith said. “Segmented turning you go through and through the walls of the vase or bowl as a structural (piece).”

Vases and bowls are most of what Smith creates from the hardwoods he uses. However, curving art pieces, jewelry boxes and a hand-crafted set of dominioes are also among his collection.

Smith said the harder a wood is the cleaner the cut will be on each piece.

The designs are endless.

“It’s whatever you can dream up,” Smith said.

Nowadays, his inspiration comes mostly from pieces he has done in the past. Smith said no two projects are exactly the same.

The intricate designs look like there would be a lot of geometry involved. Smith said it really is “nothing but simple math.”

“Figuring out the angles” is his favorite part of working on a project.

Small design pieces are fitted together to form a ring that can then serve as a starting point for a bowl or another project.

Smith began doing this type of woodworking about 15 years ago.

“I had been a cabinet builder all my life, then I got paralyzed (lower body), and I needed something just to stay busy,” Smith said.

He went out to his shop and started working.

“It just kind of escalated,” Smith said.

Over the years, Smith has developed a number of shortcuts to getting pieces created quicker.

In the past, Smith has traveled to art shows to display and sell his work. Now, he only goes to shows close to home. He has also had some work in galleries in the past.

Most of his projects come from his own inspiration. However, some of his projects have been by commission. Smith said people will ask him to make something from wood that had once been a special tree for them.