Nelsonwood is the second in my Sunday series featuring American Artisans. There are so many exceptionally talented craftspeople across the country who share my love of all things handmade, and this is my chance to introduce them to you. These artisans are creating beautiful and useful products that elevate the experience of everyday cooking and eating, and they’re using skills and techniques that might otherwise be lost in our era of throwaway mass production. Their work makes me happy, and I hope it does the same for you. Each feature will be paired with a giveaway to give you the chance to experience their work for yourselves. I’ll be doing these features every other Sunday for the foreseeable future, so be sure to check back, and enjoy!
Meet Bryan Nelson, the master wood turner from Nelsonwood in Arlington, Texas. Every one of Bryan’s handmade wooden bowls is unique, and the endless variety of colors and patterns is just spectacular. He’s worked with hundreds of exotic species of wood from all over the world including Black Forest Cherry, Bloodwood, Tasmanian Eucalyptus, Asian Pear, Russian Olive, Plum, and Pistachio (are you getting hungry yet?) but his special passion is for rescuing locally grown wood in his native Texas where he re-purposes discarded wood into beautiful pieces of useful art. Nelson signs, dates, and numbers each one of his handcrafted bowls, and this week he’s giving away a $100 certificate to his shop where you can choose one of his special pieces for yourself! Check out the details at the bottom of the post.
I love to cook and serve with wood because it has such a solid, warm, organic feel. Wooden utensils, boards, and bowls last forever, and eventually become seasoned, just like a well-used cast iron skillet. Salad just tastes better in a big wooden bowl, and all you have to do is wipe it out when you’re done. I never put my bowls away, when I’m not making salad, they hold piles of fruit and veggies on the counter. I love the look.
You’ll gain a whole new appreciation for the beauty and variety of wood by scrolling through Bryan’s portfolio, HERE. Every type of wood has a unique color and grain pattern, and sometimes the most interesting qualities in wood are the result of natural injury or damage. Woodworkers like Bryan look for these irregularities to showcase in their work. Burls, like the one below, are like ugly warty growths on a tree. Inside the burl, however, the wood can be quite stunningly patterned. Spalting (pictured in the top and bottom photos in this post) is another example of beautiful patterning in wood caused by fungus or rot. There are no stains or coloring used in Bryan’s work, and for his food safe bowls and platters he uses a wood cream polish to bring out the natural beauty in each piece.
While Bryan buys some of his wood from importers, and keeps a stash of exotic species from all over the world in his studio, his favorite way to source his raw material is in the local woods, or even in his neighbor’s firewood pile. It’s not the pedigree of the wood that is important, it’s what’s inside that counts :) He says his large salad bowls “usually start out as a green piece of log that I’m saving from the dump or fire pit. They are trees the owners don’t want, they’re storm damaged or have just reached the end of their life span. Either way I’m always looking for trees to bring back to life”
Bryan is self taught, and got his start in a junior high woodworking class. (He still has the first bowl he ever made!) So many of the artisans I’ve talked to got their first exposure to their craft in home economics or shops classes. It’s interesting because lots of schools today are doing away with those classes, and isn’t it sad to think of how many potential artists aren’t getting their early start because of budget cuts?
I hope you enjoy browsing through Bryan’s work as much as I do (hint: a hand made wooden bowl makes a perfect wedding gift.) Here’s a link to his ETSY SHOP. I know his large salad bowls aren’t cheap, but they’re investment quality, and will truly last a lifetime when taken care of properly, so I consider them a remarkable value.
Bryan is kindly giving away a $100 gift certificate to his shop to one lucky winner. These bowls are exquisite and I wish you luck!
To enter, simply sign up on my email list HERE…
If you are already on the mailing list, you’re good to go.
(Giveaway ends Friday february 20th.)
***The winner of the Nelsonwood giveaway is Dan Liegel — congratulations Dan! ***
NOTE: my mailing list will not be shared with anyone, and is only used to send out notifications of new posts, and our weekly newsletter. From time to time I will be including subscriber only recipes and perks. You can unsubscribe at any time. I have not been compensated in any way by the artisans in this series.