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Local artist showcases the beauty of nature

POSTED: February 24, 2011 1:03 p.m.
/For The Times

Artist Butch Reagan created this bowl, "Boxwood," which is currently on display as part of an exhibit at the Swan Coach House in Atlanta.

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Butch Reagan of Dawsonville began turning wood bowls just two years ago, and already his work is in the spotlight at the Swan Coach House Gallery in Atlanta.

"An Artist Revealed: Introducing Butch Reagan" will be at the gallery through Saturday. The show features Reagan's bark-rimmed bowls, turned from a variety of tree remnants or stumps.

Reagan said his desire to create the bowls comes from "just liking wood, I guess."

Born and raised in Dawsonville, Reagan still lives on the family farm where he has lived since birth.

He worked in a Dawsonville lumber yard until it closed in 2009.

"When I worked at the wood yard, I had a boy that came in there that would turn bowls, and I'd save him pretty wood," Reagan said. "That's where I got introduced to it. I got to see what he was making out of it."

After the wood yard shut down, Reagan said he began turning just as a hobby, "just trying to learn how to do it, really."

His work was noticed by Atlanta art collector Andy Currie, when Currie was visiting Reagan to return a table to his home.

"I was showing him the house and the floor, you know, some of the work I'd done in there," said Reagan, adding that Currie began "asking all the right questions" about his bowls.

Then, after Currie brought the bowls to Marianne Lambert, the gallery's curator, she immediately offered Reagan a solo show.

Reagan's work is mostly already sold out at the gallery, with only about three bowls left for purchase, but all the pieces will remain on display until the exhibit ends.

"It's been a good deal," he said. "It's been fun."

He said he enjoys the surprise element of wood turning.

"You don't know what they're going to look like until you get done with them," he said.

For many of his bowls, Reagan begins with a section of a tree.

"You just take a stick and cut it, like a piece of fire wood, and then split it half in two, you know, right down the center of it," he said. "Then you get a bowl out of each side of it."

The bark rims add a rough element to the clean lines of Reagan's bowls, and contrast with their smooth surfaces. Roots form irregular edges, and holes created by ants or worms add natural beauty.

"(One bowl has) got a lot of holes in it because, actually, the ants had bored up through the trees, and that's what made them holes in there," he said.

"And it actually made a beautiful bowl, you know. It looked better with the holes in it than if it hadn't had them."

Irregular surfaces and colors are just part of the process, he said.

"A lot of times you just let the wood dictate what it wants. You're trying to make a good contour, a good curve, but then the wood actually (determines) what it's going to look like," he said.

The process of wood turning takes patience, according to Reagan.

"You do it in different stages. You've got to rough them out, and then let them dry, then come back and cut them back down, sand them and spray them," he said.

He puts roughed-out bowls in his pump house, which allows them to dry slowly without cracking.

His wood comes from various sources, whether he finds pieces out in the woods or a friend brings it to him.

Since he works his garden in the summer, Reagan said he does most of his wood-turning in the winter, "when I can't get out and do nothing else. I'll still do a few (in the summer) but it just won't be every day like in the wintertime."



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