Michael Foster

Springfield, Vermont, USA

I am a woodturning artist with a passionate interest in the sciences and math. All of my work has spent time on a lathe, but I use many other tools and techniques in order to achieve the form I desire to express. Whether reading about the latest advances in the sciences or observing the nature that surrounds me, I am always intrigued when I find that some mathematical concept underpins the beauty of what I observe. Math always seems to creep into my work, sometimes subtly. I feel that the order that math brings to my work adds to the beauty of the final product. Recently I have been inspired by the beautiful complex forms that mathematicians describe and challenge myself to recreate them using the lathe as a primary tool.

45 x 19 x 8 cm
Curly Red Maple, Stainless steel, Black leather dye, Oil finish

I am intrigued by minimal surfaces and the fantastic forms that are possible with them. Brent Collins work has been an inspiration for me among others like Charles Perry and Bathsheba Grossman. I found the Scherk-Collins Sculpture Generator program and used it to come up with the design for this piece. I was so intrigued by the form and by its curves that I had to see if I could bring it to life.

This is a Scherk minimal surface with 3 perforations warped 360 degrees into the form of a torus and twisted 270 degrees. This amount of twist generates a minimal surface confined within a toroid that is a non-orientable surface.

Inverted Dragons Blood
16 x 15 x 15 cm
Red Maple, Acrylics, India Ink, Permanent dye, Oil Finish

This piece was inspired by the outstanding photography of Beth Moon. Her platinum print of the Dragons Blood Tree showcased the limb architecture under the canopy and I immediately thought, fractals. The Dragons Blood tree is a rare tree that only grows on the island of Socotra. It is an unusual tree by any counts, but one of its unique features is its blood red sap which inspired the name. I contemplated how I might use the tree for inspiration for my work and came up with the idea of turning a box. In a small scale such as this, I was afraid that the fractal pattern of the limbs would get second stage and not be seen if I turned the box as a tree. I chose to turn it upside down and showcase the limbs, hence the title.

4 Hungry Chicks
9 x 10 x 10 cm
Black Ash Burl, Oil finish, Acrylic stand

While exploring minimal surfaces that mathematicians have described I stumbled upon the form known as Shoen's hybrid triply periodic minimal surface. I found the form interesting, but what really made it intriguing to me is that I realized that I could sculpt the piece almost totally on the lathe. I am a woodturner, and to be able to complete a form like this with just the lathe was irresistible. This was turned on 3 axes with 6 separate fixings. The completed piece reminded me of bird chicks begging for food and I just could not resist the title.