Art Liestman produces incredible wood turning designs:
"My interest in woodworking began during my graduate student years. As an avid music listener and musician, I was inspired to try my hand at making some percussion instruments“ both copies of  ˜real' instruments and some that were experimental."

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Art Liestman

I am originally from Shawnee, Kansas. I moved to British Columbia in 1981 after completing my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois to pursue my academic career as a faculty member at Simon Fraser University. I am currently a Professor in the School of Computing Science at SFU which means that my day job involves undergraduate and graduate teaching, research, and administrative tasks. My research is in theoretical computing science, focusing on the interaction between network structure and communication problems.

My interest in woodworking began during my graduate student years. As an avid music listener and musician, I was inspired to try my hand at making some percussion instruments – both copies of ‘real' instruments and some that were experimental. A complication was that I had to do this in the living room of my apartment with very few hand tools. After moving to British Columbia, I continued to explore music and musical instruments and eventually was able to establish a shop in my home.

"Green Wave".
big leaf maple and ebony

Several years later, I joined a local woodworking club (the Pacific Woodworkers Guild) and began to participate in their annual 2x4 contest. The idea of the contest is to make something using only an 8' long 2x4 (of any variety of wood), glue, and finishing products. The constraints of this contest force the participants to think creatively. My entries have generally been musical instruments. One year, I decided to make a programmable automated xylophone. To complete the instrument, I realized that it would be helpful to have some turned parts. After consulting with my brother (who makes bagpipes), I obtained my first lathe and learned just enough about turning to make the parts. The instrument ("Hunka hunka churnin' wood") was a big hit, winning the contest that year and generating a surprising amount of media coverage.

Soon, I did some more turning and eventually began to see myself primarily as a woodturner, rather than a woodworker.

"Cold Snap". It's made of big leaf maple burl and ebony

I learned more about turning, concentrating on bowls and small functional items. I began to consider the possibility of making more artistic work after seeing an inspiring demonstration by Frank Sudol. An Educational Opportunity Grant from the AAW allowed me to study with Jacques Vesery. That was a pivotal experience, beginning the search for my own voice and continuing to affect my work today.

The need for more exposure to woodturners from outside our area was a major motivation for founding the Greater Vancouver Woodturners Guild (an AAW chapter) in 1999. Our club has been highly successful and I have benefited greatly from the exposure to our visiting woodturners.

"Out of the Box" big leaf maple

I am currently exploring various surface enhancements on hollow forms and other turned objects. Most of these enhancements involve subdividing the surface into regions. A major focus is my series of puzzling illusion pieces that appear to be jigsaw puzzles. Another series, inspired by the paintings of Mondrian and Klee, has surfaces broken into regions that are individually colored first with alcohol-based dyes and then sprayed with thinned black acrylic ink. The Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" provided a substitution code that allows me to encode messages on the surface of my '"dancing men" pieces. A series called "burning fields" features surfaces subdivided into irregular and highly textured regions. A recent development is the "vox" - a box that appears to be a hollow vessel when it is closed.

"I Am Slow But Expensive". It is made of big leaf maple burl

I turn on a Stubby 750 using a variety of tools. For hollowing, I am an advocate of the constrained handle systems. I do all of my hollowing with a Jamieson handle and various cutters including those made by Jamieson and by Kelton. I use many different tools for carving including rotary and reciprocating carvers, high-speed dental type tools, and pyrography tools. For coloring, I use acrylics and various dyes.

You can see more of my work at and at various galleries including del Mano (Los Angeles), Northwest Fine Woodworking (Seattle), Crafthouse (Vancouver), Gallery Xylos (Calgary), the Guild Shop (Toronto), and (cyberspace).