BY MELANIE WADE –
A local wood artist has been honored with the reception of his artistic boxes being sold at the Crystal Bridges Museum Store, a coveted fete not known by too many artists. Crystal Bridges is hailed as one of the best collections of artistic talents in the state, so being able to sell your merchandise among artists of this caliber is quite an accomplishment.
Lucas Turner grew up in Mena, being born on “Hospital Hill,” he said with a smile. He, and his brother, Eric, developed a love of working with wood at an early age. “We were always around my grandpa during the summers and he got tired of us being under his feet so he showed us how to use the band saw and lathe, the first two tools we used.”
He said as a child, he “probably had the average dreams of a kid, but I was always interested in the mechanical aspect of things… how things work, typical boy stuff.” Coming from an era of “you didn’t buy something new, you fixed it,” taught him an appreciation for things. “I still do that today,” he said.
When Turner was around 11 years old, he created his first keepsake box. “They had the arts and crafts show at Boyd Stadium, and there was a guy there that had all these boxes and I wanted to make one. I ran straight to my grandparents’ house and made my first one. He had made his from logs, but all I had was a block of wood so I made a box,” Turner said with pride. He began making various projects including shelves, signage, gun racks, and making wooden ducks with his grandmother that she would then paint.
Turner admits that when he began his own family, he was unable to devote as much time as he would like to his passion and began working other jobs. “When I had children, I got more into building off-road trucks and then around five or six years ago, I started picking back up on it [woodworking].”
Since then, he has turned his love of wood into an artistic presentation, following years of practice and experimentation. In fact, his boxes just really can’t be labeled as ‘boxes,’ even if you say ‘jewelry box’ or ‘trinket box.’ Turner’s wooden boxes are truly works of art. Working with the grain of the log he has picked, Turner turns, draws, and cuts both small and large pieces and adds special elements like curves and hidden drawers. However, possibly the most special feature of his works are his design element that he came up with – an electric process that creates a ‘lightening’ image on the wood, which he then fills with color, like blue or red. “I had seen the electrified look on the internet and I didn’t think much of it and then one day it clicked.” After that, his experiments began and his boxes gained a very unique look. He has recently begun implementing glow in the dark paints in his lightning effect. He said he, “started combining a bunch of mediums to create what I have. I use not only things in the woodworking world, I use things they would use in concrete, automotive paint, and electricity. I take a whole bunch of past experiences and put it into my enjoyment of woodworking and creating something new.”
And what he has is quite special… special enough to be accepted to sell at Crystal Bridges Museum Store. “It was a big thing… I didn’t know about them until dad told me. Me and my wife went and saw it, but they had some really neat things up there like old pictures of George Washington. It was really exciting because people from all over the world visit Crystal Bridges… it’s quite honoring, really.”
Turner builds his line of boxes under the name Knotty Woods, which is certainly appropriate for the amazing pieces he turns out in his shop. Turner said he has the ability to also make custom pieces. “It’s specific to how they want it… boxes, tables, stepstools, shelves, bookshelves, picture frames,” Turner said.
And, all of that is on his ‘spare time’ as he works full time at Hampton Aviation in sheet metal and maintenance. He said his wife helps with his designs. “She helps me see how other people will see it.” He also still works with his brother on projects on occasion.
His works were most recently displayed at the local Lum and Abner Festival. Turner said it feels great to be able to display and sell his art in his hometown. If you would like to see more on Turner and his projects, check out his Facebook page, Knotty Woods.