Meet the Maker: Barry Young

This Alton woodturner’s Spinning Tree Co. pieces are as artful as they are utilitarian.

November 20, 2018 | | Made in the Hills

On a recent chilly October day, woodturner Barry Young saunters up a grassy path rising on the west side of his Alton property. The pretty stone-wall-lined walk ends at a nondescript waterproof tent filled with stacks of logs and chunks of maple, apple and other trees. These are Barry’s beloved raw materials waiting to be transformed into his Spinning Tree Co. pepper mills and lids for vintage glass bowls.

Barry Young works on a pepper mill at a lathe in his Alton workshop. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Barry Young works on a pepper mill at a lathe in his Alton workshop. Photo by Pete Paterson.

“I’ve got enough here for two lifetimes,” he says in a soft Scottish lilt. “This shed is full of wood waiting to be discovered.”

Finding mostly discarded, unwanted wood is a key part of the passion Barry feels for his craft. Some he finds on roadsides or inherits when friends are cleaning up. Barry, 62, has been at it since his teens back in Scotland (he moved here in 1982 with his wife Rhonda) – despite failing woodworking class back home. “I couldn’t make a joint. Everyone got it but me!”

Now he’s mastered the art of uncovering smooth, organic shapes that follow the undulations of exposed tree rings or the irregular lines of, say, a dark line of spalting.

“I don’t know what this one will look like yet,” he says, turning a piece of sawdust-covered wood in the small workshop back down in his yard. When his three children – Krystal, Kelvin and Kyle – were young, this shed was where they laced up before hitting the backyard ice rink Barry made every winter. Now it’s filled with shelves and nooks holding tools, a growing pile of shavings on the floor and a fine layer of sawdust everywhere. He admits the lathe buzzing away as we speak is his 12th, if anyone’s counting. “I’ve bent, broken and destroyed so many,” he laughs.

Over a cup of tea inside the couple’s cozy home, Barry pulls out his most recent pieces. The lidded bowls in particular are a genius way to give new life to glass pieces languishing in thrift shops, transforming them into cookie jars, kitchen canisters or jewellery keepers. “They’re fun to make,” he says.

He sells his work at local shops including Snowberry Botanicals in Erin (his daughter Krystal happens to be the owner), Heatherlea Farm Shoppe in Caledon and Dragonfly Arts on Broadway in Orangeville. He’ll also be at the Holiday Treasures show at the Museum of Dufferin from November 24 to December 9. If you don’t see him there, keep your eyes peeled for a gentle soul pulled over on the side of a country road.

“You’ll find me at the bottom of a gully, trying to reach a piece of wood,” he says.

Barry Young’s lidded bowls transform vintage glass pieces into containers for bathroom necessities such as cotton balls or kitchen goodies such as cookies. They start at $75. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Barry Young’s lidded bowls transform vintage glass pieces into containers for bathroom necessities such as cotton balls or kitchen goodies such as cookies. They start at $75. Photo by Pete Paterson.

No two of Barry’s line of pepper mills are alike. They start at $95. Photo by Pete Paterson.

No two of Barry’s line of pepper mills are alike. They start at $95. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Sources

  • Dragonfly Arts on Broadway, 189 Broadway, Orangeville.  519-941-5249.  dragonflyarts.ca
  • Heatherlea Farm Shoppe, 17049 Winston Churchill Blvd, Caledon.  519-927-5902.  heatherlea.ca
  • Holiday Treasures (Nov. 24 to Dec. 9, 2018), Museum of Dufferin, Hwy 89 and Airport Rd.  1-877-941-7787.  dufferinmuseum.com
  • Snowberry Botanicals, 88 Main St, Erin.  519-833-7447.  snowberrybotanicals.com

About the Author More by Tralee Pearce

Tralee Pearce is an associate editor of In The Hills Magazine.

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