Kevin Hicks calls himself a dumpster diver for wood. But in truth, he is a visionary, a maker and a discoverer who turns urban trees into useful and beautiful things.
Hicks is a woodturner and the owner of Big Ash Bowls, a South Jordan-based one-man shop that makes artisan wooden bowls, serving utensils, and French rolling pins.
The wood comes from discarded urban trees—some felled by nature—and some to make room for a sprawling population. Several arborist friends are quick to alert Hicks to wood that needs to be recycled, repurposed and reused before it’s otherwise hauled to the dump or burned.
His favorite woods are normally apple and ash, but a particularly gorgeous silver maple and catalpa burl have recently captured his attention. “Since I deal with urban lumber, I take what I can get and make it work,” Hicks says.
Patience might be a woodturner’s greatest asset, as the process to create each work of word art is a slow one. “All my bowls are twice-turned. I turn the basic shape and seal the entire bowl with Anchorseal, then wait [for it to dry]. Six to 12 months later it’s ready to re-turn and finish.”
To speed up the process of drying bowls, he also uses a basic homemade kiln—dropping the time needed down to 30 days from green to dry. He estimates that his shop is filled with somewhere between 600 and 700 bowls drying at any given time.
Hicks was introduced to woodturning in 2008 while he was recovering from a kidney transplant and made it his full-time profession about three and a half years ago. “It was an extremely low point in my life and my dad gave me his used lathe, a Vicmarc VL300,” Hicks recalls. “Throwing myself into making shavings and terrible bowls saved my life. If it wasn’t for that lathe, I wouldn’t be here today.”
With darker days behind him and constant demand for his work, Hicks reflects, “It’s about taking something that was dead or discarded and making something beautiful and useful out of it. Bowls and trees are a lot like people, oftentimes the ugliest and oldest are the most beautiful if you spend some time and really get to know them.”
Big Ash Bowl designs are available during the warmer months at the Downtown Farmers Market in Salt Lake City, and Park Silly Market in Park City. He also showed at several juried art shows including Park City Arts Festival, Bellevue Arts Festival, Breckenridge Arts Festival, and Tempe Arts Festival this year.
Items can also be purchased year round at bigashbowls.bigcartel.com.
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