Barnesville Woodturner Niall Mathieson took numerous ribbons at the recent Georgia National Fair in Perry, as he has for the last several years.
Three of the winning large pieces are done from “ambrosia maple,” which Mathieson said is his favorite wood to work with. The 71-year-old former furniture maker took up woodturning of large pieces just four and a half years ago.
“Ambrosia maple just has such wonderful color, all because of a beetle,” he said. Random marks of the beetle’s presence can be seen as grayish abstractions against the dominant lighter color; the entire top of the piece is burl from the foot of the tree, he said. He never has trouble finding large tree trunks to work from – friends who are taking down or losing big trees call and say, “I have a piece of wood with your name on it,” Mathieson notes. The huge pieces get moved around “by my only employee, Freddy the Forklift.”
The big lathe he works on is a smaller lathe extended and modified by Mathieson’s own design. In addition to Freddy, Mathieson has the companionship and adoration of his two rescue retrievers, Carmen and Maggie, as he works. A native of England, Mathieson and his wife Jeannine Underwood have lived in Barnesville for 25 years. His work will be part of the November-December wood art exhibit.