Hilary’s gift for fine woodcraft
A decision 25 years ago to create a lamp for the top of a piano set Hilary Hale on a path that was to see woodturning happily dominate her life.
“I enjoyed making that lamp so much that I just kept going, and now woodturning is my business,” says Hilary. “I taught myself how to woodturn and took several short courses and seminars along the way.”
The business and lifestyle that developed from that first encounter with woodturning mean that Hilary can be found covered in shavings next to a spinning piece of wood in the studio of her house in Summercove near Kinsale. That’s if she’s not out travelling near and far collecting storm- felled trees or meeting customers at craft fairs up and down the country.
She usually works with locally grown, storm-felled timber. “All the timber I use has met its fate before I get to it; I’d never cut down a tree for my work. I get the timber from all sorts of sources — from building sites, estates where trees have fallen.”
She works with a variety of timbers. It could be ash, oak, robinia, beech, yew, apple, or elm, and turning this raw material into beautifully finished pieces is a long process.
Hilary says: “I first turn bowls into rough shapes and leave them to air dry for anything up to two years. I then return the pieces to the lathe for refinement and finishing.”
She produces a variety of hand-crafted pieces ranging from keyrings, cord pulls, cutlery, and bottle stoppers to dramat i c statement pieces like her hollow vessels and massive bowls.
Hilary’s pieces can be seen at her gallery in Rincurran Hall, Summercove.
This very pleasant spot on the spectacular stretch between Kinsale town and Charles Fort is particularly busy during the summer months when tourists and local visitors drop into the gallery to admire and to purchase her work — and to see firsthand how the work is created.
She also exhibits in Cork at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery Shop on the grounds of University College Cork and at The Lavit Gallery on Fr Mathew St.
Hilary says there is a supportive community of artists and craftspeople in Kinsale. She has made some of her pieces out of materials provided by other local artists, and if she thinks that a piece requested by a customer would be better created in a medium other than wood, she would refer that person to other artists and craftspeople in the area.
That collaborative spirit among the Kinsale artistic community will be in evidence also in November.
“We’re running an exhibition for Kinsale Lifeboat at my house in Rincurran Hall. My work and that of a few other, mostly local artists will be on sale in support of the work of the lifeboat,” says Hilary.
Hilary’s gallery is open from 11am to 5pm most days, but ring first in case she’s out collecting a tree.
Her work can be seen on her website.
Hilary Hale with a selection of wood-turned bowls, lamps, and cheeseboards. Picture: Larry Cummins