Dustin Coates – Master Woodturner

by Todd Smith on September 5, 2008

This week’s photography newsletter features a woodworker who has spent his entire adult life turning wood bowls. From high school age, where he was inspired, Dustin Coates has followed his passion for revealing the hidden beauty of wood on the lathe.

My father, who is also a wood lover and woodturner, came across Dustin’s studio when he visited my sister in Etna, NH (near Dartmouth University). For over a year my dad kept bugging me to come meet Dustin and photograph him in his shop.

We went together and were thoroughly enthralled by Dustin’s overflowing enthusiasm for everything wood. Five hours passed like they were only two, and lunch was not even a thought to me.

What was really inspiring to me was his wonderful creative mind. As Dustin put it, the thoughts just keep coming. And he shared them with us all day long.

His are not just superficial thoughts. His insights were revealing and poetic. Comparing his untidy shop to a burl made perfect sense when standing in the yard filled to the brim with semi-rotten wood and loads of junk. On the outside there was not much to see.

People drive up and see his sprawling mass of wood, expecting some high-end outfit suited to the name “Studio on the Hill.” Some turn away, in fact, he says.

But those who pass this little test discover wonderful designs in wood, all of which emerged, no doubt, from rotting logs like those out front.

Read more of Dustin’s story in the newsletter and see more photos in the Straight from the Camera section of my site.

Dustin Coates

The view as you drive up to Dustin Coates' Studio on the Hill

A burl outside Dustin Coates' studio

Dustin Coates turns a piece of wood

Dustin Coates' Lathe

My dad talks with Dustin Coates in a room filled with rough turned bowls.

A room of rough turned bowls at Dustin Coates' wood shop

A stack of bowls by Dustin Coates

A finished bowl by Dustin Coates

A bowl with bark by Dustin Coates

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