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Bowl from a Large Pine Burl of Historic Significance Commissioned

One of the reasons I like to turn bowls for people is learning about the origin of the wood and the connection to the people who commissioned the bowl. These stories and the people involved have significantly enriched my life. The latest story involves a large spruce burl Kim and John brought to my shop a few months ago. I don’t usually turn spruce burls since they are often sappy and don't have those wild burly grain lines. I made an exception in this case since Kim and John really wanted it turned and the burl seemed to be important to them. Here are a few photos of the burl, the fresh turned bowl, and the finished bowl (20” diameter). The last two images are descussed below. Click on an image for a larger view.

The burl was indeed sappy but the grain was nice with darker colors, interesting patterns and some worm holes. These suggested the burl was quite old. When Kim picked up the bowl, she gave me some information about the burl. I learned it came from an old spruce tree that grew next to the Hathorn-Olson House in Cushing, Maine. The last photo above shows the old burly spruce tree next to the House. This old house is well known in American history since it is included in the famous 1948 painting “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth. This was surprising, and of course I had a lot of questions. The first was, how did they get the burl? Their daughter’s boyfriend Nick Olson got the burl off of a fallen branch from this old tree (see next to last photo above where the burl is seen on a branch close to the ground, not the large burl on the main tree). Nick is a direct descendent of the Hathorn-Olson family that dates back to 1892 when his great, great grandfather John Olson (a Swedish sailor) married Katie Hathorn. Katie and John are the parents of Christina who is portrayed in the Wyeth painting. Christina was disabled from a neuralogical disease and is depicted crawling in the grass toward the house! Nick lived near the old house (now a museum) and cut the burl as he cleared a fallen branch for the museum. The house dates to the 1740s when it was “built” by members of the Hathorn family. It was significantly altered in 1871. It is an important part of the early history of Maine. Today it is owned by the Farnsworth Art Museum and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Here is a link to more information on the house and the Wyeth painting "Christina's World".

I have learned a lot about the Hathorn-Olson history and feel lucky to have turned this old burl for the family.


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