Art Stalk: Vessel & spindle, living the life at Magpie WoodWorks |

Art Stalk: Vessel & spindle, living the life at Magpie WoodWorks

Camille Silverman
Free Press Columnist
John Jenkins' auction piece for The Art Center.
Submitted photo |

John Jenkins opened Magpie WoodWorks in 2000.

We all did crazy things at the turn of the century. I applied to The Art Institute of Chicago and John started a business out of his house in Orchard Mesa. It would be interesting to see what change of life things everyone did and how they panned out years later. But John Jenkins started Magpie WoodWorks and began making wooden fine arts vessels, bowls and what would become the stable income — fiber arts tools for weavers like his wife, Jude.

So began the journey of the woodworking artisan. He began participating in large festivals in Taos and Estes Park; this is where he met many of his buyers from other countries. They began ordering his hand-made wooden fibers tools at these large-scale festivals. An international fibers magazine, “Spin-off,” did an article on John in 2006. “Spin-off” is a magazine from Interweave Press out of Loveland, Colo. Now his business has customers worldwide and has gotten to the point where it is turning a profit.

So I called John Jenkins for a piece for The 2014 Art Center Auction because lately that is all I think about. My biggest hopes and my biggest fears are tethered to this event. The prognosis for acquiring a vessel was not good. John Jenkins said he did not have much time for his beautiful vessels as the worldwide weaving community was buying his elegant tools at a faster rate than he was making them. But a few days later he called and said he wanted to make something for auction. He missed turning his vessels on the lathe and needed a good excuse. Oh, I was lucky to supply him with that.

Now he makes and makes. He makes objects that have graceful utility with beautiful unique forms and curves. John throws away what he is not proud of; he does it easily. John makes one-of-a-kind pieces and has mastered the craft of the graceful multiple, which is an important practice in his tool making. He lives by the “less is more” aesthetic. He listens to KAFM; it’s how he discovers new music and graces his day with the non-generic. He draws inspiration from other wood turners like Boulder artist Cindy Drozda (Google her), holds three degrees (including a doctorate), hates the politics academia, but credits it for making his world bigger. Universities opened the world wider, especially in the sciences and the arts, he will give them that.

You can see more of John Jenkins’ work at

Camille Silverman holds a Masters of Fine Art from Cranbrook Art Academy located outside of Detroit, Mich. She attended Cranbrook as well as The School of the Chicago Art Institute. Silverman currently holds the position of curator and executive director at The Western Colorado Center for the Arts, aka The Art Center.

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