About Robin Costelle (blah blah blah) Behind the Art with Robin Costelle Written by Bob Rotche It seems to me that the term that would best describe Robin Costelle is “Renaissance Man”. We know him as a top notch woodturner but he is also a musician, photographer, cook, avid outdoorsman and devoted family man, not to mention his day job as an electrician working with communications infrastructure.
Robin lives in a log cabin on a small farm outside Fern Creek, Kentucky, the town in which he was born and raised. He and his wife, Connie, have three children. Their oldest are twins, a son and daughter, and a younger daughter. He tells me that some of his favorite activities are family outings including hiking and traveling but also family time at home playing Scrabble or cards and the occasional bonfire.
Robin started woodturning in 2004. He bought a small Delta lathe to do spindles for his front porch. He notes that, “Several years later, after doing bunches of bowls and vessels, my wife finally got me to start on the spindles and finish the porch.” Robin’s turning education started with a local woodworking expert named Marvin Ewing. From there, he continued to learn, like most of us, through online forums, DVD’s, and demos. When asked about who has influenced his development as an artist, he tells me, “I think my first inspirations came after buying a book about the segmented work of Ray Allen. It is a wonderful 'how to' book - a bible for segmenters, and lead me to my segmenting passion. Ed Koenig and Keith Burns influenced my move into hollow forms and Cindy Drozda into elegant finials and design.” He also makes it very clear that he derives inspiration from non-woodworkers as well. “Much of my inspiration has come from other artists, working with many different media - wood, glass, clay, basketmaking, and even gourds.”
His shop is a 30 x 30 foot log structure beside his house which he shares with the family cars and off season storage. Robin tells me that he hasn’t chosen to focus on any particular area of woodturning as he enjoys the freedom of working on whatever strikes him at the moment. “I have so many ideas that I usually don't know which way to go next. I want to try more mixed media pieces, especially with pottery and wood. I can use pottery for it's range of colors and workability, along with the traditional warmth and feel of wood.”
“I have plans for many more fairly complex segmented works, but all that takes time to draw out, engineer, construct, and complete, and I sometimes put those on the back burner in order to actually get my turning fix in. I love just going to the shop and making shavings. Sometimes going out to rough a bowl or vessel and just see what the wood is going to look like, gives me a perfect amount of pleasure. But when I finish an intricate piece and start taking photographs- that's when I really get the feel of satisfaction from my work. I love the 'Wow' factor of a special sculptural or artistic piece.” In addition he finds time to make gorgeous dulcimers, flutes, some furniture and, of course, porch spindles.
Robin values the fact that he doesn’t need to do this to make a living. “I do just what I want to do, when I want to do it and it's that freedom that turns me on. To be able to quit a project, start another, or maybe finally finish one that's been sitting patiently for some time is a talent I've been working on since childhood (some people call me 'lazy' or 'easily distracted'). And then there's always the good fishing days and hikes with the family that impede the completion of many pieces. Woodturning, for me, is just a hobby, and I know where it sits on the scale of importance in my life.”
Though it’s hard to believe, Robin doesn’t have his work in any galleries. He does, however, sell to private collectors on occasion. One of the things Robin likes best about woodturning is teaching. He is committed to helping new turners develop their skills and gives demonstrations around Kentucky and neighboring states. When asked what advice he has for new turners, he tells me, “The one thing I stress to any turner in my demos is practice. Learn the technique and get in front of the lathe and practice. By repetition the hands will learn what the mind wants and it will become automatic. It's like learning to play the banjo. I also stress the fact that you never stop learning the craft and varying your approach. What I do today is how I do it now- tomorrow it may be slightly or completely different.”