In My Workshop with Shaun & Jessica Stacey
We meet a father and daughter turning team in their idyllic lake-side workshop
We visit the Somerset workshop of Shaun Stacey and his daughter Jessica. Shaun began turning as a hobby several years ago, and Jessica was soon inspired to try her hand at it too. Here, they tell us about their inspirations, favourite things to turn, plans for the future and more…
WT. How, when and why did you start turning?
Shaun Stacey. I started turning 12 years ago, after being given a woodturning lesson as a birthday present. Having a young family at the time, the speed of completing the project in the limited spare time I had was a big attraction. I was also at the time running our large construction business as well as travelling the world shooting clay pigeons for the Great Britain and England teams. The time I had for turning was limited so twice a year I would go on a course with Tobias Kayne to keep my hand in. This period was all about learning to use the tools properly and understanding shape.
Jessica Stacey. When dad started bringing home things that he had made, I wanted to have a go. So when we had the workshop, I went up with dad to help clean up, paint and sand things. I ended up loving it! I started helping out in the workshop when I was about eight years old; I’m now 13. I have started to turn bowls myself within the last year, with occasional guidance from dad.
WT. What and who are the greatest influences in your work?
SS: The main person who has influenced my work is my great friend Nick Agar. I can clearly remember watching him blow colour onto his work and watching the instant transformation and thinking WOW! Nick has helped me in so many ways, but getting me to open my mind and eyes to see the world around means that almost everything has some sort of influence. Every minute I spend in Nick’s company is priceless! Another artist who just blows my mind with his work is Alain Mailand. Just a quick look at the gallery on his website starts the brain asking, ‘how did he make that?’. I also believe that everybody and everything influence our work and I love watching people work and demonstrate. There’s always something to be learned!
JS: The main person who has influenced my turning is dad because he is always there and I mainly see the things that he brings home. However, I also love going to Yandles and watching people demonstrate turning; it has blown my mind many times. I love watching Les Thorne, he is also so funny! And always gets dad to get me an extra ice cream! Nick Agar has also influenced me because I have watched him demonstrate and he is also a good friend of dad’s and has given me various turning tips.
This simple centre finding jig was made out of a piece of scratched Perspex. I had seen them in photos but could not find one to buy. It was so easy to make and is even easier to use. Jess and I use it all
the time, it is without doubt the most-used jig in our workshop. Saying that, I have just taken delivery of a new router jig for the lathe and I am sure looking forward to having fun with that!
WT. If you were to offer one sage piece of advice to someone what would it be?
SS: I would encourage someone to follow the path that inspires them while keeping an open mind and understand that sometimes there is no right or wrong, just different! Also, find a good tutor if you need to learn new techniques.
JS: Follow your heart and enjoy having no boundaries in the things you can create! And if you don’t have a Dad to help you along the way, ASK because from my experience people are always willing to help!
WT. What music and which book are you currently into?
SS: When I am in the workshop I normally have Heart radio on but truthfully I rarely hear any of it because I am so focused on the project in hand. If I am in Nick’s workshop, it could be anything! I don’t read a lot of books as I always seem to have my iPad in my hand doing research or sending emails. I do have a lot of woodturning books but just seem to pick them up to scan for ideas.
JS: When I am woodturning, dad and I have Heart FM on, however, I am the same as most teenagers and love modern music especially Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift. My favourite book at the moment is Divergent; it is also my favourite film as well. I also love looking through dad’s woodturning books for inspiration.
WT. What is your silliest mistake?
SS: Most mistakes are silly! And I think we all make them but the silliest one seems to be sometimes putting the lathe in reverse to sand and forgetting when starting a new piece and wondering why it’s not cutting!
JS: I don’t make that many silly mistakes because dad is always there to make sure that I don’t, however somehow I still manage to make some. My silliest one is that I was trying to spray dad with the watering spray bottle but I missed and it got a little bit on my bowl which I had just finished. The water gave it white spots and I had to start all over again.
WT. What has been your greatest challenge?
SS: Trying to apply my business brain to woodturning and the sale of my work. I am lucky that I don’t need the money to live but understand that other people do, so I try to never under sell my work and value
it on time spent and costs. The rest of the bits stay in my collection! Just finding the time to progress my work is another great challenge!
JS: My greatest challenge was learning not to be scared of turning; bits of wood flying around at high speed took a little bit of getting use to! Also to apply a decent amount of pressure without hesitation to give that smooth cut.
WT. Name one thing on your turning to-do list.
SS: To make that piece that everyone think ‘How did he do that?’
JS: To continue to gain confidence and be able to make things that are mind-blowing, challenging and completely beautiful.
WT. Tell us about the piece you are currently working on.
SS: I think like most turners I always have many projects on the go at one time. I am also working on different techniques. At the moment I am using metal patination and reactive paints. Every piece of work turns out differently using these products, which I find so interesting! There is always the reality of what sells however, so last Saturday I spent the morning rough-turning a dozen ash (Fraxinus excelsior) salad bowls!
JS: I have just made a pen for my friend’s birthday. I have also just finished a bowl with a multi-coloured rim and pyrography work.
WT. What is the one piece of equipment or tool you would not be without and why?
SS: The obvious answer would be the lathe, because that’s where it all starts and without it we would all be woodworkers and not turners! I am lucky to have so much equipment, from tiny dentist drills to large chainsaws, airbrushes to blowtorches and I love using them all!
JS: I love the little pen turning lathe, because pens were one of the first things that I made and also it was the first lathe that I used as dad could get it at the right level. I also love all of the little high-speed drill pieces and pyrography burning bits.
WT. If you could change one thing what would it be and why?
SS: In woodturning terms, I would want to change the public’s perception of the value of wood and the items made from it. Only then will the true value of our work be understood by the general public and a sensible living made by turners. This would also help encourage young artists like Jessica to consider a career in wood art.
JS: I am very lucky to have been awarded a DT Scholarship for my move into the senior school and am really looking forward to all the new opportunities, but I would have really liked to have seen a woodturning lathe in the DT classroom!
WT. What is your favourite type of turning?
SS: It would have to be bowls and platters as they allow so many opportunities to enhance and add artistic features in a short time, allowing it to be sold at a saleable price! I always like to have a project on the go
that takes hours to complete and I can just work on here and there, but normally these end up in my collection as the cost makes them unsaleable!
JS: I love turning pens, which is lucky as my friends always like them for birthday presents! I also have great fun colouring and texturing my bowls and I really like sanding.
WT. If you had one wish, what would you wish for?
SS: I wish that I live long enough to continue this fantastic journey and hopefully get somewhere near the end!
JS: That my life will be filled up with a creative path.
WT. If you could have one piece of equipment, what would it be and why.
SS: I have got the most fantastic workshop overlooking the lake. It has large sliding doors that open fully allowing a large through-flow of fresh air, which is ideal when sanding but it would be great to install a powerful extraction system to all lathe points and workbenches. I think we all dislike the dust we create and would love to get rid of it!!
JS: Dad’s workshop seems to have everything in it, so a woodturning lathe at school would be great.
• Cutting the log and turning it into something wonderful
• The relatively short time it takes to do the above
• The limits to what we create are only set by us
• After I have cleaned the workshop and sit there having a coffee
• Having my children around making and being creative in the workshop
• Finishing a project only to find a fault in my finishing and having to start again
• Learn how to use your tools with confidence; a good tutor will save you years of wasted time
• Check the quality of your sanding, adding a finish rarely makes it better!
• Watch everybody – there’s always something to learn
• Inspiration comes from everywhere, we just need to see it
• If your shape is good, it normally looks good
Enjoy the adventure