Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rex Peters • Wood That I Would

March 7, 2009 - April 1, 2009

Woodturner Rex Peters is one of the original founding members of the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery, and has been an active with the gallery since its inception in 1996. Peters is “passionately, maniacally, wildly enthusiastic about the co-op, as members of the co-op can attest.” His duties as gallery manager leave him with little spare time, so his upcoming featured-artist show, “Wood That I Would”, is only his 3rd in the past 13 years. This rare treat will showcase new and exciting works, such as sculptural pieces, and furniture quality pedestals, as well as favorites from the past decade-- bowls, boxes, and wine bottle stoppers. Peters has been turning wood for over 20 years. “In 1988 I turned my first bowl. It took me days to turn that thing. I still have it. I still use it.”

Using many local woods, Peters often creates using mesquite, black walnut and other woods found locally in Arizona. “I like mesquite because we’ve got a lot of it, and the tourists like it. I use apricot whenever I find it because it smells so good, like dried apricots.” He also now features copper inlays in many of his pieces because, as Peters says, “Copper screeches ‘Arizona’".

Red Pedestal and Natural Edge Mesquite Bowl with Copper Inlay by Rex Peters.

Peters is a native of Washington State. “I had always been self-employed. I went to trade school and studied hydraulics, and became a mechanic. Even though I had a lot of aptitude for being mechanical, I had no aptitude at all for being a salesman,” explained Peters. In the 1980s he began an annual winter trek to the southwest, camping in the deserts, and meeting artisans and craftspeople. Inspired by these encounters, Peters decided he wanted to be a craftsperson. Initially he began learning the skill of metal spinning, forming metal into shapes, after inheriting tools and a lathe left to him by his father. “I got sidetracked into making bowls and never learned to be a metal spinner.” After encountering friendly and encouraging artists in Jerome, Peters began a yearly winter pilgrimage there in the 1990s, specifically to sell his wares in Jerome’s Art Park. He finally moved to the Verde Valley full time in 1993. “I’ve been here since the police made me move here,” he says with a chuckle. He’d been living in his bus, renting shop space, and selling his work at the Art Park. “The police chief didn’t like that my bus was parked in his favorite shooting place. In the end we agreed I could stay if I got Arizona plates on my truck, a little orange pickup with a pumpkin bolted on top” Peters sold the bus and bought a small travel trailer and parked it behind a friend’s chicken coop, “much to the chagrin of the chickens,” he laughs.

Peters’ home and workshop are in Cottonwood. He makes his yearly pilgrimages in reverse now, visiting Washington and the Pacific Northwest each summer to reconnect with family and friends, and collect more wood to turn. The “Wood That I Would” show will also feature a heritage wood from Peter’s family history. His grandfather developed a strand of English Walnut, “Schaeffer Walnut”, adapted to survive in Washington, to develop as a cash crop. “But nut crops never took off like they did in California.” The show will also feature artwork made from a weeping willow that Peters used to play under as a child.

“Wood That I Would” will open on Saturday, March 7th, to coincide with the ever popular Jerome ART walk. Opening night will feature live music by Clarkdale musician Roger Curry, refreshments, camaraderie and a chance to meet the artist, an interesting and unusual fellow. “Wood That I Would” runs through April 1st, 2009.