As summer’s green gives way to an autumnal palette, most of us focus on the leaves. But artists like Benjamin Leatham are all about the beauty of the trees.
The art of woodturning may be more than 2,500 years old, but its appeal has never been greater as people look for ways to incorporate nature into everyday life. That’s exactly what Leatham, owner of Cannon River Bowl & Spoon in Cannon Falls, wants.
After spending decades in the restaurant business and woodworking on the side, Leatham, 47, finally pursued his craft full time, working with classically trained architectural millworkers in Washington, D.C. As his career grew, he amassed pieces of wood — an occupational hazard — casting aside anything deemed “imperfect.” Also an avid cook, at one point he needed a wok tool, so he tapped his supply of remnants and made one. Soon he was making and selling an array of kitchen tools, from spoons and rolling pins to spatulas and toaster tongs. He eventually added bowls to his repertoire.
Three years ago, Leatham moved to Minnesota, where woodturning has deep roots. The American Association of Woodturners is based in St. Paul and operates a gallery in the city’s Landmark Center. It has more than 16,000 members worldwide, about 350 from Minnesota.
His business has continued to boom here, and Leatham says he’s a long way from where he started. A spoon that once took him three hours to craft now takes 45 minutes. He works all winter so he can enjoy Minnesota summers and make the rounds of art shows, selling his wares across the region.
“I’m grateful I choose to do this and make a living doing it,” Leatham says.
Cannon River Bowl & Spoon, cannonriverbowl.com