Coastal Douglas County artists Jason and Jon Mast present their woodturnings of Pacific Northwest hardwoods in “Native Vessels.” A video documenting their work and process is also on view across from the showcase. “Native Vessels” is part of the Coastal Oregon Visual Artist Showcase.
Jason and Jon Mast are continuing a family and regional tradition in woodturning; their parents established the Myrtlewood Gallery in Reedsport over 29 years, and now represent over 100 Northwest woodworkers and artists in what they call a “museum of fine woodworking.” Myrtlewood is a broadleaf evergreen native to Southwestern Oregon and Northern California.
The brothers Mast have been turning wood from their early teenage years and were exposed to fine woodworking before they learned to walk. Jason Mast was recognized by the American Association of Woodturners (AAW) in their 2007 Turning to the Future exhibit and has been featured in Wood Magazine. The brothers work with primarily locally grown and native Pacific Northwest hardwoods: myrtlewood, big leaf maple, black walnut, cascara, spalted alder and madrone. Favorite woods to turn include mytlewood and Oregon maple. “I always try to let the wood speak for itself and attempt to bring out the potential in any given piece of turning stock,” Jason says of the opportunity to work with world-class timber. “Form is essential. Great wood to work with is a bonus.”
To start the process, a block of wood is roughed out on a 14” Rockwell band saw. The block is then mounted to a one-way lathe using a six-holed faceplate and square drive screws. One of the main tools used in hollow turnings is a classic Stewart System Hooker with arm brace. Another frequently used tool is the Jerry Glaser limited-edition ½-inch bowl gouge obtained at an AAW turning symposium in Portland. Once the turnings are finish sanded, they are reversed with the help of a one-way vacuum chuck to remove screw holes. To finish the turnings, the brothers use two coats of deft oil. After drying, a mixture of bees wax and mineral oil completes the project.
Sustainable forestry is highly valued by the Masts and the Myrtlewood Gallery. Wood is sourced from trees that have naturally fallen, landowners needing to remove trees, other wood collectors no longer wanting to move their wood, and occasionally logs that are otherwise destined for the chipper. The Masts don’t harvest healthy trees specifically for their wood as they are more valuable standing.
They are able to save a lot of wood that would otherwise be relegated to the firewood pile due to bug infestation. (Their large walk-in freezer can deep freeze the buggy wood for several days; killing any bugs that might still be hiding out.) Finally, the Mast family encourages their customers and suppliers to help plant trees for the future.
The myrtle tree grows 60 to 120 feet in the wild and is very slow growing, putting on only 1 to 12 inches of growth during each of its first few years. They may take 80 to 120 years to reach full size. The mytle tree is often multi-trunked but can be kept pruned to a single-trunk tree. When growing in the open, the myrtle tree tends to have a dense, rounded “gumdrop shape.”
Oregon myrtlewood possesses a wide variety of beautiful colors and grain patterns and is noted as one of the world’s most beautiful woods. The color of the wood is often influenced by the minerals in the soil, which could be a factor in its popularity on the Oregon coast. The colors range from blond to black with many shades of honey, browns and satiny grays, with reds and greens in between.
The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts is pleased to present “Native Vessels” by Jason and Jon Mast, the first pair of sibling artists to be featured in the Coastal Oregon Visual Artists Showcase.