This weekend has seen both great joy and great sadness. For a few years I have been liaising frequently with a gentleman called Mark Baker; one of the great ambassadors of the wood-turning world, who sadly passed away two days ago after a brave struggle against cancer over the last 2 years. Mark was editor of the magazine that I write for and it was his intervention that got me into professional writing. He had followed my posts in a couple of forums and in particular, in an American web-site which I occasionally wrote for and I recall the day, a few years ago, when he phoned me out of the blue and encouraged me to write professionally.
I had serious concerns about that, not least of all because I was still quite new to the field of woodturning and felt that I was hardly in a position to write ( and therefore, to be read) with any sense of authority, but Mark felt differently! Mark saw a style in both my practical work and in my writing, that he wanted in the magazine.
I had first met Mark when he was providing a professional demonstration at the woodturning club that I attend in Mid Wales. As the club treasurer, it was my task to meet our demonstrators, to discuss their fees for the day and to settle their bill. When I introduced myself to him, Mark felt that he had seen my name somewhere, so when he got back home, he checked me out and confirmed that he had seen my work in a forum run by the publishers that he worked for. Following his demo, he kept an eye on my work and when he felt ready, he phoned me and got me on board.
The particular piece of work that caught Mark’s eye was a sculptural bowl with lots of scorching, so I was invited to write a brief account of how the bowl was made. That was followed, a month later, by an account of a virtual interview in which I responded to a series of questions about my life as a woodturner.
In more recent months I have been working on a special project which Mark was very enthusiastic about, when I first mentioned it to him. That project was to design and make a square (near cubic) box in which all six sides would be turned at some point, and the whole thing would be made in the style of the work of the Troika pottery works in Cornwall.
I cannot be sure, but I suspect that Mark never got to see the finished article, ready for publication. However, I do know that his assistant at the publishing house sent the photographs of the finished piece to him, when I first submitted my article for editing, so at least I know that he saw the finished article.
Coincidentally, the article was published exactly at the time of Mark’s passing and I will always be reminded of him when I re-read it in the future.