New Oak Hill exhibit features woodturnings by Berry alum

Alana George, Campus Carrier Asst. Arts & Living Editor

“Bowled Over” features cypress wood from Christopher’s wife’s garden. Photos by Alana George | Campus Carrier

Saturday marked the opening day of From Tree to Treasure: Woodturnings by Al Christopher, a new exhibit at the Martha Berry Museum.

According to the press release from Oak Hill, Christopher began turning wood after he retired from a long career in custom millwork and construction. His knowledge of wood behavior and his exposure to domestic and exotic species encouraged Christopher to be adventurous with his creations.

The exhibit has Christopher’s pieces with accompanying plaques describing each one, along with some educational materials about how Christopher actually goes about turning the wood.

Each piece acts as a teacher or a lesson for Christopher due to the possibilities and surprises that come with working with natural materials, according to the press release. This opportunity for continued learning is one of Christopher’s greatest motivations for woodturning.

how much wood would a woodchuck chuck
“Berry Projects” features Alumni Work Week projects.

One piece, entitled “Berry Projects,” is a bowl made of box elder wood that showcases three different Alumni Work Week projects that Christopher himself worked on, including the “Outhouse o’ Dreams,” a restroom building on Lavender Mountain. Another piece is a basketball made entirely out of poplar wood. Christopher also made what he calls an “applebet,” which consists of 26 apples carved from wood types representing each letter of the alphabet.


Rachel McLucas is the curator of Oak Hill and the Martha Berry Museum. One piece that inspires her is called “Bowled Over,” and it was a piece that Christopher’s wife indirectly worked on; the cypress wood used in the piece came from her flowerbed.

For the majority of these pieces, McLucas said Christopher did not greatly alter the wood itself; for the most part, he was able to preserve the original color and grain of the wood types he used.

“He used what he had to create something beautiful,” McLucas said.

McLucas also noted direct ties between Christopher’s woodturnings and his work on the new Christopher Browning Pavilion at Oak Hill, named after his wife.

“Eagle Attacking”, “Eagle Sitting” and “Eagle Soaring”.

“The pavilion showcases Al’s skills that he gained in his career,” McLucas said. “He has a long history of working in construction and millwork, and he employed all of that knowledge in constructing different architectural components of the pavilion.”


But perhaps the most unique feature of this exhibit, according to McLucas, is that every single piece has a story behind it. This is what McLucas loves about the exhibit, and the reason why she loves all of the pieces equally.

“I find a new favorite every day,” McLucas said. “Each of them has something special to offer.”

This exhibit will be in the museum until May 25, and Berry students always get free admission to the museum. For the general public, admission is $8 for adults, $7 for senior citizens and $5 for students.

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