Making masterpieces: Hawaii Wood Guild Invitational Masters Show begins Jan. 14

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WAIMEA — Anticipation has been building among collectors the last few weeks as the opening of the Annual Hawaii Wood Guild Invitational Masters Show fast approaches. Now in its seventh year at Isaacs Art Center, the display will feature of some of the most exquisite handcrafted furniture, sculptures and wood turning made on the Big Island beginning Jan. 14.


WAIMEA — Anticipation has been building among collectors the last few weeks as the opening of the Annual Hawaii Wood Guild Invitational Masters Show fast approaches. Now in its seventh year at Isaacs Art Center, the display will feature of some of the most exquisite handcrafted furniture, sculptures and wood turning made on the Big Island beginning Jan. 14.

Top works by talented woodworkers are displayed. All are available for purchase. Participating artists are eligible to win the “Peoples’ Choice Award.” Visitors can vote for their favorite piece. Up to 1,000 people participate.

The exhibit kicks off with an artists’ reception from 5-8 p.m. next Saturday. The show continues through Feb. 24, with several artists at the gallery each Saturday to answer questions of a technical nature.

Three prominent artists featured this year are Marcus Castaing, known for his joinery and furniture; Gregg Smith, a master in the art of wood turning; and Scott Hare, a sculptor who has received many awards over the years.

“As Hawaii Wood Guild (HWG) president, by far the biggest expenditure of energy is putting together the Guilds’ annual wood show. Several of us members have been here from the beginning and most for many years,” Castaing said.

HWG is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization comprised of professional woodworkers from around the island.

“This year we invited 19 of our award-winning master woodworkers to exhibit,” Castaing said. “They have answered the call with 55 pieces of work in furniture, sculpture and turning.”

Participants bring a variety of experience to the show.

“I started working with wood as a teenager with redwood burls salvaged from the remote beaches of Northern California in the late ‘60s,” Castaing said. “It was after moving to Hawaii in 1979 that I started making a living as a cabinet maker. I began reading Fine Woodworking magazine and it was not long before I was obsessed with refining my skills into that of a furniture maker. I have always loved making things with my hands and consider making my living in this way to be a lifestyle more than a job.”

A chair he designed won “Best of Show” in last year’s judged exhibit.

“I wanted to make a chair that would challenge my skill set and use some vintage fabric my wife purchased for me on Etsy,” he said. “I made several mock-ups with scrap wood to get comfortable with the shape. This design process can take many hours before I even get to actually making the chair.”

He uses wood harvested from down and dead trees.

“It is with these old mature and dying trees where you find the richest grain and colors. For me, using the inherent dramatic patterns of koa has always been a central part of my design and building style. I also enjoy working with dozens of locally grown trees,” Castaing said.

Smith, a professional woodturner for the past 18 years and a professional woodworker for over 33 years, uses a lathe to help cut and shape the wood for his creations.

“My first experience using a lathe came over 50 years ago in a junior high school class. My wife and I moved to Hawaii in 1984, where I worked in a couple of wood shops before starting my own furniture and cabinet shop,” he said. “When my father-in law passed away in 1996, I inherited his upgraded lathe. By 1998, I was turning full time and haven’t looked back since.”

His tools of choice include a joiner/planer, table saw, chop saw, band saw, and turning and sanding tools to create his vessels. Multiple coats of a teak oil/urethane mix are applied to the wood that is then buffed out with Renaissance wax. Smith’s attention to detail results in stunning segmented bowls, vases and urns that set his work apart from most woodturners who traditionally use one block of wood.

“Segmented wood turnings are created by building the vessel from small blocks glued into rings and stacking those rings to be turned into the vessel,” he said. “I draw to scale on graph paper before cutting the angled blocks, and dictate from start to finish the shape, woods and designs used in creating my vessels.”

They take an average of 1-3 weeks to build, one week to finish, and time to allow the glues and finishes to cure.

“My most popular turnings over the years have been Hawaiian umeke (traditional Hawaii bowls) . I burn in Hawaiian petroglyphs or a maile lei on them,” Smith said. “My wood of choice is koa, but I usually incorporate other woods into the design of the vessel.”

His koa and mango come from Hawaii, mostly milled on the east side of the Big Island by professional sawyers. He also uses some exotics for accent, which are brought in from around the world by local wood supply stores.

“I am basically self-taught, but have taken numerous classes with some of the world’s best woodturners by attending symposiums and classes offered through our local turning clubs,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, shop classes are rarely offered in our school system because of cost cutbacks in the arts. For those looking to advance their skills, I would suggest joining one of the two turning clubs on the Big Island, subscribe to a turning magazine, attend a woodturning symposium and simply practice as much as you can on a lathe.”

Hare focuses on foliage, dolphins, turtles, tikis and his favorite — birds — in the sculpted wood pieces he creates.

“One of my pieces was inspired by the alala, our native crow,” he said. “Made from milo wood, the piece took about 200 hours to make.”

Hare is currently doing a series of lidded calabashes depicting extinct and endangered birds, trees, plants and other animals.

“The pieces I do on extinct and endangered species I really enjoy,” he said. “They bring attention to the fragile environment we live in here in Hawaii.”

He almost always cuts his own wood from trees he’s harvested on the Big Island.

“I start with a chainsaw and end up with tiny tiny bits you can hardly see,” Hare said. “I visualize what the piece will be and all the intricacies. It’s always amazing to me how the wood contains so much beauty – the grain, the curl, the color, the tree’s soul.”

Also self-taught, he advises anyone interested, “If you love what you do and don’t consider it work when doing it, then you are in the right occupation.”


Proceeds from pieces sold at the Annual Hawaii Wood Guild Invitational Masters Show will go to scholarships for HPA students. The event is sponsored by the Guild, the Hawaii Forest Industry Association and Isaacs Art Center.

Info: 885-5884 or go to

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