July, 2010

Interview with Poest

Kevin Poest is a man who appreciates trees. During my recent visit to his studio, Poest, who goes by his last name, turned a cherry wood bowl on a big lathe. Wood shavings rained down around him. Thoughtful and soft spoken, he bemoaned the fact that trees are underappreciated.

"People are so unaware of the energy of trees," he said. "All the joy people have had sitting under them, looking at them, climbing them, and all the nutrients they contain." When old trees have to be taken down, he hates to see them wasted. "They're one of our most valuable resources," he said.

Poest enjoys the salvage aspect of his work. He gets pieces of wood that other people can't use and turns them into bowls and urns with beautiful, simple lines. An arborist friend keeps him supplied with freshly cut trees. He stores these in huge plastic tubs of water behind his studio to keep them supple until he's ready to turn them into something new.

Growing up in Zeeland, Michigan, Poest survived many a cold winter. "That's how I got into wood turning," he said. His family had a full workshop in the basement. When Poest was five or six, he started taking furniture apart to see how it was made. His grandfather gave him his first lathe when he was nine. Unlike the big, freestanding lathe he uses now, it was small and sat on a table.

His brothers also enjoyed the family workshop. "My dad had three boys to keep busy," Poest remembers. They made trashcans out of pallets as gifts for aunts and uncles.

Poest's family also had an 80-acre gladiola field. He loves gladiolas, and dreams of having a field in Portland if he could find the right soil. He can still name off different varieties of gladioli.

"Wood turner" is a better description of his vocation than "artist," he said. "I didn't get into woodworking for art," he said. "I liked the material more than the art aspect of it. Wood working had such a great impact on our history as a culture, making our homes more comfortable."

In addition to selling his creations, Poest is a carpenter and handyman. He would like to get into building furniture and doing more cabinetry. Right now, his biggest outlet for his wood pieces is the First Thursday Street Gallery.

Poest teaches wood turning in his studio. He advises aspiring wood turners to give it a try. "Start out with green wood," he said, referring to fresh wood that hasn't been dried or cured. "And get tutelage. It's really fun if you can make something useful with very few lessons."

Poest gets excited looking up at unknown trees and wondering about the hidden grain. "Oh man, I wonder what's in there," he said. "What kind of surprise is going to be in there?"

Email poestswood@gmail.com or call him at 971-255-6282 if you're interested in wood turning lessons or commissions.

—by Teresa Bergen

Visit Poest's Profile Page where you can view more images of his work.