With a membership of nearly 400 artisans, Carolina Mountain Woodturners (CMW) is the largest chapter of the American Association of Woodturners. “Woodturning has a rich history in the US, and this area has attracted craftspeople for over a century,” says CMW president Anne Ogg. “Also, the abundance of hardwoods in our area provides ample material for woodturners. Groundbreaking woodturners such as Stoney Lamar have attracted woodturners to the area. Strong supporters of woodturning and one of the founding members of the CMW, John Hill, created an environment in which woodturners could gather and share ideas.”
At $35, membership is affordable, and it generates a wealth of benefits, including mentorship, world-renowned demonstrators, members-only workshops and access to the Turning Learning Center shop in Arden, a 1,600-square-foot space filled with all the equipment needed to turn and embellish. “This allows opportunities for members who don’t have the space and/or the means to own the equipment to fully engage in woodturning,” says Ogg.
Ogg, who is the first female president of the group in its 24-year history, first discovered woodturning through CMW at the Mountain State Fair in 2016. “Guided by a club member, I made a honey dipper on a lathe and was hooked,” she says. “I immediately found a used lathe and began making turned wooden objects.” She joined the club and took advantage of its education-centered mission, taking classes and workshops and being mentored by accomplished woodturners Linda Topper and Tina Collison. “Our club has as its members some of the most well-known woodturners,” says Ogg. “Access to these innovative woodturners stretches my abilities as a craftsperson. Through our workshops and working with mentors in the club, I am able to learn from the best.”
CMW was founded by eight men in 1999, and even today, the membership is only about 10 percent female. “Woodworking education has not always been aimed at girls and women,” says Ogg. “When I was in middle school, girls were not offered shop classes. Fortunately, over the last couple of decades this has begun to change.” The Board has made a concerted effort to increase leadership positions held by women. “The visibility of a woman president is important in signaling to other women that they are welcomed in the club and larger community of woodturners,” says Ogg.
Board member Nicole Foti, who discovered her love of woodturning through a CMW workshop, says the club has grown and evolved over its history because of a dedicated core group that prioritizes progress. “Having a woman serve as the CMW president is important for all the reasons getting women, and other marginalized identities, into powerful positions is important everywhere,” she says. “The club and its leadership have initiative around increasing our membership to include a diversity of ages, race and orientations. Our current members are passionate about passing this craft on to all those who are eager to learn. Woodturning is a part of Appalachian history, kept alive in CMW.”
CMW presents free woodturning demonstrations on one Saturday of each month at the Folk Art Center. The next event is at 10:30 a.m. on March 18. Christine and Jim Smith from Murphy will demonstrate how to make wooden salt and pepper grinders. “Everyone is welcomed at our demonstrations at The Folk Art Center,” says Ogg. “The club is particularly adept at helping someone get started in woodturning but we also serve as a community for all woodturners, providing space to share ideas and push the boundaries of woodturning.”
For more information, including a calendar of events, visit CarolinaMountainWoodturners.org.