Business: Woodman Wilderness
Location: Bemidji, Minnesota
My name is William Prickett and am in love with turning wood.Finding beauty within a log that others cannot see, turning a bowl,
or a vase out of it we’re it perhaps been burnt or left for decay is my passionate pleasure.I started wood turning in high school but then gave it a break till my late 20’s and then resumed the dance with my lathe full time in 2014.I am a full time turner, a full time nurse, a full time dad of 3 (2 which play hockey all year round), and a loving husband.
I would love to run a full time wood shop in the near future.
You can find me on Facebook or Instagram at Woodsman Wilderness, or www.woodsmanwilderness.com
Questions & Answers
Who are you exactly?
My name’s Bill Prickett. I am the owner-operator of a single small business wood shop called Woodman Wilderness.It started as a hobby, then it quickly grew in 2013 – 2014 to get a Tax ID number. I started as just a generic “Bill’s Custom Wood Turning.” I hired a couple of people, and we redid the business. We completely redid my photos, and we got “Woodsmen Wilderness.” It’s a long name, but I like it because that’s kind of the theme of my woodworking, which is working with wood.I’m out of Bemidji, Minnesota, and that’s kind of like the middle West of Minnesota, and it’s very, very rural. My town is between 3 and 15,000 people. In the summer with the tourist seasons, we peak closer to 20, but it is very small. We all know each other.I go to Walmart, and I get stopped about fifteen times with people I know, which drives my children crazy. But it’s that small community where, you know, everybody knows everybody.
How would you describe your artwork and yourself as an artist?
I’m passionate about woodturning. I started when I was in high school, I made a set of lamps, and I knew when I was older and set up enough financially, I would have a woodshop, and I would definitely have a wood lathe. In the beginning, before I had anything else, I had a Skillsaw and a wood lathe.I’m passionate about taking a raw piece of material, my material being wood, and turning it into something either beautiful or functional. I love functional art; bowls and vases are our big ones, personal duck calls, personalized pens, anything that can turn really. I love to turn.
What drew you to using epoxy resin?
YouTube brought epoxy to my eyesight and creativity. This one of kind things you can make with epoxy is the uniqueness of epoxy. I can take literally a spongy, yucky chunk of scrap wood that you can literally pull apart with your hands. I can stabilize a piece of wood, and with the combination of epoxy and that piece of wood, I could make something that’s sustainable for years and useful.YouTube brought some ideas to life. Then, with the woodturning skills that I had with woodworking. A whole new avenue opened up, and with the colors that epoxy gives, you can contrast with different woods. You can manipulate colors so that you get ripple effects. There are so many unlimited effects that you can do. It’s just; it’s one of a kind. Working with epoxy is fun. I mean, that’s what it is. It’s fun. It’s exciting. I love it.
Where do you find most of your inspiration or your ideas?
My inspiration comes from a million different places. I cannot pinpoint the spot because one day, I’m focused on elegant faces, and the next day I’m focused on functional bowls, but my inspiration comes from being in front of the lathe and getting to turn. That’s what I love. That’s what I want to do every day, day in, and day out.At the end of the day, all the work, all the time that you put in, you take your final picture, and you post on social media. I guess I’m going to have to tell you; I get my little high on all the likes and hearts that I get from my pictures. It is a sense of pride that “this is a good one.” I like it. I admit that I’m a little bit of…I don’t know what the right term, but when you get your likes and get your shares, it feeds into my little ego.
Once you get your idea for a piece, what is your typical step by step process to bring it to life?
That answer has also evolved several different times, very fresh and very new. I would just throw stuff together and pray for the best. Segmenting is when you cut very little pieces together. You form a ring, and then you stack that ring vertically, and you get a piece out of flat lumber. You get a vertical piece that you can work with.Before, when I would just throw everything together and pray that it worked, it failed many times. Before I get into the shop, I learned to come up with a written plan step-by-step, slow down, and take better measurements and really plan things out. And I’ve had much better success with that, especially in the epoxy world, like double-checking your forms and making sure that you don’t have a leak.Also, making sure it’s secure and making sure it’s level is another good practice. You don’t want to dump a bunch of epoxies out on the floor or out of the side. A plan, a good solid plan is important. Plan your work and work your plan. Different ideas of tasks such as bowls or vases or pens have different plans, but having a plan and sticking with that really from the beginning to end is a total 180.
What were some of the biggest roadblocks that you faced while learning to work with epoxy resin?
I’ve made a lot of mistakes with resin. When I first started forms, not having them watertight. As a turner, I like everything out of a pressure pot. That means; basically, I put compressed air into a sealed container, and it pushes everything down. So it’s super tight so that there are no bubbles, there are no gaps between the wood and the (set) epoxy.If you don’t have it watertight and put it in there, you have to buy a whole new pressure pot because all of your epoxy sticks are at the bottom. It hardens like concrete, and you can’t get that out, even with the release agent. That was a roadblock, learning my forms, learning my “what not to do’s.”Also, some stuff, for my woodturning business financially, there’s the stuff that you have to wait and save a little bit. I don’t have a magic goose in the backyard, laying a bunch of gold eggs. My lathe is thousands of dollars.My pressure pots are expensive, and sometimes the drawback is, I want to do this. I really want to get there and I wanted more so to do this artwork style, and I had to wait for a few paychecks and save and then get it. So that was a roadblock (maybe more of a want block). “I want this, and I want it now, attitude, I had to wait, but now I’m rolling. I got everything that I need. There are a few more wants, but I won’t tell them the misses yet”.
What piece are you most proud of to date?
I am most proud of a segmented base. The segmented base, I was just making to donate it to our local hockey arena because my children are involved in hockey. By the time I finished, it was a two-foot-tall by 12 inches around, beautiful wooden oak vase. It was segmented. It had 303 pieces in total.Someone said, “Hey, you should enter that into the local fair.” I ended up putting it into the fair, and I got a “Grande Reserve.” Over the entire fair, I was awarded second place. I was beaten by a thousand-pound pig, but, you know…. Minnesota and food. If I had, got first place, I would have gone down to Minneapolis.That piece wasn’t my favorite at first; it evolved to be my favorite and my most prized possession. It’s the only piece that I haven’t sold that I’ve made. I’ve given stuff away, I haven’t sold everything, but it’s the piece that I’m going to hang keep. I’ve never gotten a ribbon for anything outside of this situation, and this is a big, purple ribbon that says, “Grande Reserve.” It’s not a big blue one, but I’m still very proud of it.I also entered it in woodworking and fine arts, and I got first place in both in both categories at the same fair. That is my most prized piece of art I have created. Maybe that is because I won, and overall, got second place. I’m very proud of that. Our country fair is pretty big as well.
Would you say that that piece is a good representation of your artistry?
Yes, I’ve evolved somewhat, and I’ve branched out, but that is the core of what I love, turning. I really like segmenting, and, and referring back to a couple of questions about my planning, segmenting, it’s really slowed me down.I have learned to take my time, get the little things done correctly in turning. As I evolved into epoxy and segmenting, it’s literally slowed me down personally and in the shop. I take my time more, and that’s helped me become a better artist.
What are your favorite types of pieces to make?
By far, my favorite thing to work with is a borough in turning. A borough is an ugly knot on the side of a tree. At some point at the beginning of that tree’s life, it was nicked by a deer antler, a piece of machinery, or maybe a bullet. Sometimes they are caused by a bad windstorm. It grows a circular growth on the side of the tree, and to the naked eye, it’s very ugly. It’s unnatural on that tree. It sticks out like a sore thumb and many times eventually kills the tree, especially in a Birch Tree.A borough is my favorite work. Once it’s dried, processed, and ready, it has the most unique grain on earth of wood. It’s chaotic. It’s going all different directions with no rhyme or reason.That is my favorite piece to work with by far. The world knows that woodworkers would like that. Of course, because of supply and demand, they’re not on every tree. If you go out and find it, you can charge a lot of money for set boroughs. I paid big money for these boroughs, and they’re so unique. That’s my favorite thing to work with.Then you throw that uniqueness with the uniqueness of epoxy, and WOW, that’s what happens. The uniqueness is one of a kind; nobody on earth will match that piece. You can get close, you can the same form, same shape, same color, but you will not get the same result. That’s why I really like it. That’s a great combo, the borough the epoxy mix, and then add some planning into the process.
What was your most elaborate or most complex piece to complete?
It would go back to segmented pieces. A completed table just left my shop last week. It was the biggest piece that I’ve turned just yet. I turned a 36-inch diameter base for a pedestal table for a gentleman building a table for his daughter.The pedestal itself was segmented. The workpiece’s integrity is important because it is a table, and it’s going to be functional, and you must consider safety. Also, there is an aspect of elegance, requiring a lot of planning, a lot of testing, measuring twice and cutting once, twice, three, four, eight times.
What project did you learn the most from?
There’s not a single project. I’ve learned and continue to learn from almost every time I start that lathe. One of the most memorable lessons happened when I turned my lathe on, and a piece of wood hit me in the face. As woodturners, we have these face shields. I don’t always have my face shield on; this time, I did, and I have had it on every time since when I turn the lathe on. That was an eyeopener. Thank God I can still open my eyes only because I was wearing my safety gear.Again, I learn each time I do a project. Sometimes I fail, and we grow from our failures. They (projects) don’t all come out as Grande Reserve prizes. So, I learn and grow from every piece that I do, and I continue doing these things. The most memorable one (project) was building a lamp or a vase; when I started, the log broke in half, and it was thrown into my face. Um, and it just reminded me why safety’s first.
How has everything you have learned changed your style as an artist?
My style has changed dramatically. Now I know what sells to keep my business afloat. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s my favorite thing to do (creating art with epoxy). I like to do vases and lamps; that form is what I like to do. However, bowls, spoons, pens, game calls are my “bread and butter” for my business. Don’t get me wrong, I like turning those too, but from where I started to where I am now, I’m definitely in a more elegant,higher-end high-end basis that I like. That’s what I like to do.When I first started, I turned anything I could get my hands on for whatever, just to turn. Now I’m, I am completely selective with the wood that I let into my shop. That also applies to my most popular pieces or my “bread and butter” pieces. Before, I used whatever wood I can get my hands on. Now I have learned that not every wood is great for your customer.I’m very choosy about what I turn and finish and put out the door. I’ve come from turning everything to be very choosy in my woods. Burroughs, as I said earlier, are my go-to (wood), but not all consumers can afford Burroughs. Since this is the case, I get very good Walnut, and I would say it is my number one wood and high standing and sought woodworking and woodturning. I use a lot of Walnut and good straight maple for woodturning.
When you find yourself facing more setbacks than anticipated? What is your motivation to continue working?
Oh yes, the dreaded wall, as some call it. Sometimes (when having a hard time) I take the piece, I put it away, and I walk away from it. Then, I turn something I can get lost in. If I have a deadline, sometimes I work too fast, and I make too many mistakes. I literally have to put it down and do something that I enjoy. I have to throw on some Dave Matthews (music) and get lost in the piece and clear my brain.Some pieces work “against you,” not with you. At times everything is not “Go, Go Happy” working with the lathe. You get chips, cracks, and bubbles. Sometimes you get frustrated if you have a big order come in, or the holidays are coming up. This sometimes happens when everyone is supposed to have their orders before November or Thanksgiving, and I start getting orders the week before Christmas. Sometimes I put the piece down, and I don’t work on any orders. Instead, I get lost in my art.Although I am going against what I said, sometimes not having a plan, letting the wood and epoxy just go with you, clears your brain. Outside of creating, there are financial setbacks., Sometimes, things break, and it’s frustrating. Then, you have to wait for resources to get it fixed. There are always setbacks, but when the wood or epoxy starts “talking back to you,”; I like to set it down and do something else to clear my brain. That seems to be a very good reset to come back, and when I do, I usually have better results.
As an artist, what would you say is a dream project for you?
In my dream project, the actual project itself would not matter. The result is the aspect I consider in my dream project. I would love to be on the “Woodturning World Association” magazine cover. I’ve had a couple of pieces and articles published, but I would like to be on the magazine cover. There are few woodworking magazines, but the “Woodturning World Association would be my ultimate dream project.Another dream is now, or in the future, I would like to create a piece that no one else ever done to date. I haven’t figured details out yet. I am still working on that dream. I come up with unique pieces, don’t get me wrong, everything I create is unique and one of a kind. However, I use vase forms, and I follow many (vase) forms from ancient Greece. At some point, I would like to develop something that is my one of a kind unique “Bill Prickett” piece that is only created by me.