woodezine - Volume II - Issue XI - November 2004

Turner of the Month Mike Kaplan

Brazillian Pepper Tree, 11 x 8 in

Born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1954, Mike is a designer, woodturner and craftsman. He studied both graphic and industrial design in London. Mike returned to Cape Town in 1979 where he began his career in advertising, as an art director and designer. In 1990 he took up woodturning as a hobby and four years later resigned from advertising. He moved to a smallholding in Knysna, on the coast of the Indian Ocean, in order to focus his energies on woodturning.
During 1995 he had an exhibition in Lindau, Germany as well as one in Vienna. In November 1996 an exhibition was held at Head Interiors in Johannesburg. He has since exhibited at Knysna Fine Art and the Knysna Art Gallery. Mike sells his work from "The Natural Edge", a woodturning gallery situated at the Knysna Quay, which he and 3 fellow woodturners founded in 1999. He is a founder member of both the Western Cape Woodturners Association and the Association of Woodturners of South Africa, and a regular demonstrator at their seminars.  

African Mahogany with pierced rim, 15 x 4.5in

African Mahogany with scorched rim, 9 x 4 x 3.5in
"I try to find in the wood the best that it has to offer, and combine this with a form that is in keeping with the grain, figure and nature of it," Mike says. "However, for me design is paramount. If a piece lacks good design, I don't believe it works - no matter how stunning the wood might be."
"I have tried to create a general style in my work, with mainly indigenous hardwoods, that is my own and which also reflects something of its African origin."  

Camphor hollow form with
carved & stained Hard Pear neck, 13 x 5in

Coffee Pear wall hanging, carved and scorched
with gold leaf, 21.5in x 1.5in
"Through my work, I am trying to express my creative energies in the manner which I relate to best. I believe my work reveals my connectedness to nature and a sympathy with wood. Besides working in indigenous timbers, some of the wood used is "found" wood, the product of garden tree-felling operations or wood found at dump sites - wood that people no longer attach any value to. To be able to turn it into an object of beauty which people then admire and appreciate, gives me a great sense of satisfaction and peace."
"All I want from my work is for my, and the wood's energy, to connect with people - and for them to get a feeling of how I felt when I created the piece."  

Myaporum natural edge vase, 5.5 x 8in

Norfolk Island Pine with carved rim, 15 x 7in
"All the woods I use in producing my bowls come from two main sources. My main source of Indigenous timber comes from the State Auctions controlled by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. These Auctions are held two to three times a year depending on availability of timber, as well as demand from the furniture manufacturers, who are the main purchasers. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry are responsible for the management of the Southern Cape Forests and it is their responsibility to select the trees that come to Auction."

"These are often trees that are past their prime - that are felled to make space in the forest canopy to allow sunlight to reach the younger trees. Inevitably, during felling operations, some surrounding trees are damaged and these are brought to auction as well. Other trees that show signs of disease or have fallen over due to storms or erosion are also felled."

"My second source of timber is "found wood". This comes mainly from garden refuse sights where the remains of domestic tree felling operations end up. These sites occasionally contain Indigenous trees but consist mainly of invader and alien species."


Salmon Gum carved and stained, 11.5 x 9.5in

Mike doesn't seem to be turning much nowadays, but he has become an incredible photographer.
To view some of his beautiful work, visit him online.