October 16, 2012

Our Neighbors: For Jim Harrison, life is a bowl of fun

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — For the past six years Jim Harrison has spent much of his time in his garage on Cardinal Hill Lane making wooden bowls, a hobby he enjoys very much.

He has been in woodworking for 35 years, not to sell, but for stress relief. He started out making toys and furniture.  

“The job I had at ACS was kind of stressful. I was manager of one of the business units and had a lot of contact with the clients.  All the people in my business unit reported to me or to the supervisor who reported to me. You’re always fighting a deadline, the accuracy had to be perfect, and you always had to make money at it.”

Harrison said after work he would go to his garage and play with his wooden crafts to get some of the stress reduced.

He makes bowls out of woods such as cherry, walnut, maple and persimmon.

“I have a number of people who will bring me a piece of wood and say, ‘Can you make a bowl out of this? This came out of a tree that I fell out of when I was 3 years old and broke my arm,’ or, ‘This tree was in mama’s back yard when I was born.’ I made a bowl for someone at work. She brought me a huge piece of oak. It was from a tree her mother and father courted under. It was for their 50th wedding anniversary. She wanted a bowl for them and one for each of the children.”

Harrison said he does not cut down trees to make bowls. He gets the wood from trees that have to come down because they are dying or from storm damage.

He taught himself how to make wooden bowls from the Internet. Some are one piece of wood and some are made out of pieces of many varieties of wood.

“The ones that I love doing are made out of many different pieces, sometimes three, four, five or six types of wood. The pieces of wood are cut on a 15 degree angle and glued together.

Since these segmented bowls are not made with waterproof glue, they are decorative and only dry foods and flowers can be put in them.

“I have never found a waterproof glue that is waterproof enough to suit me. You can put nuts, candy, use them for a centerpiece on a table.”

None of the bowls are painted. They are not stained, but there is a sealer on them which makes them shine. Some of the bowls look alike, but they have different characteristics and discolorations. Harrison also uses a lot of different designs. The bowls take a span of three days to make, but the actual work time is about 12 to 14 hours. He goes to about four craft shows a year.

Harrison also sells his bowl on consignment.

“People who can’t afford to buy them put them up in their shops on consignment, in Louisville, Hindman, Cincinnati. That’s about enough. I don’t want to get into a business. It’s fun. I like coming out here (garage), but if I want to go do something else, I don’t want to be tied to the shop. I come out here every morning and I’ll stay until 4, 5, or 6 o’clock every day. Sometimes, I just sit and enjoy the day. I do three or four pieces a week.”

Harrison and his fun bowls will be at the Sights and Sounds of Christmas at the London Community Center the weekend after Thanksgiving.

 Harrison, 65, went to grade school in East Bernstadt and graduated from London High School in 1965. He joined the U.S. Air Force and spent four years in service. He moved to Florida for 12 years and was in the dry-cleaning business. After moving back to London, he got a job with ACS and retired from there  three years ago. He is a member of the Mountain Heritage Artisans Guild and the London Rotary Club.

He has a wife, Judy, and they have two sons, Jamie and Jason.

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