The Moulthrop family has given us three generations of master woodturners.
Ed Moulthrop, who died in 2003, was a patriarch of contemporary crafts as well as his family. A pioneer in his field, the Princeton-trained architect had to design and make his own tools and build a special lathe in order to pursue his vision and feats of scale. Ed’s son Philip, 64, and Philip’s son Matt, 34, have built upon Ed’s foundation and mentoring.
“Moulthrop: A Southern Legacy,” at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art through December 18, tells the tale with 100 vessels, platters and other objects. It is fitting that Carr McCuiston, owner of the Signature Shop & Gallery, curated the show. Her predecessor, Signature founder Blanche Reeves, was the one who discovered and championed Ed Moulthrop’s wood-turned vessels, and the gallery still represents the family: an exhibition of their work opens there today, November 4.
Each has introduced new ways of working, but, as I’ve written in the AJC, “The differences among the Moulthrops are subtle, in part because they all operate on such a high level, in part because they use a similar repertoire of shapes and forms, and because they share the conviction that the shape is the servant of the wood.
“Oh, the wood. The Moulthrops use mostly Southern species already felled, often the ones dismissed as ‘junk trees.’ Like Michelangelo finding the figure in a chunk of marble, they have developed a sense of the possibilities of grain, patterns and colors — coffee, tawny gold, lipstick red, yellow-green — hidden in these unassuming logs. The ash leaf maple, also known as box elder, for example, provides stunning compositions of red drips and fine meandering black lines and dots. These and many of the other most beautiful patterns are the result of spalting, a fungal infection that causes decay. There’s a metaphorical lesson here.
“It is telling that all three Moulthrops started in other professions, working in wood as a hobby, before succumbing to its siren call. More than a career, woodturning is their vocation. The spiritual implication of the word is intentional: it’s evident in the grace of the shapes and in the wonder evoked by the beauty and infinite variety of nature. How wonderful that these artists have made it their mission to share it with us.”