Travel is back on! To book me for an in-person or remote talk or turning demo, see the information below. I am doing both in-person talks and demos, and remote talks and demos. Plan accordingly: I book 2-3 years out for in-person, and can usually do remote within a month or two of the request.
Spalted wood talk – for woodworkers (1.5-2 hrs): a general introduction to historic spalting, modern science, DIY, and tips and tricks for woodworking/woodturning
Spalted wood talk – for mycology groups (1.5-2 hrs): a general introduction to historic spalting, modern science, fungal biology, and how to find spalting fungi in the wild. Textile dyeing discussion comparing and contrasting spalting fungi to more commonly used dye fungi
Dyeing and Painting with spalting fungi demo (1.5 hours to day long workshop, depending): This demo can be made as long or short as your club has time for and covers where and how to find the fungi / pigments in the wild, how to harvest and extract them, and how to reapply them to various substrates, including glass, textiles, wood, etc.
Turning spalted wood demo (1.5 hours to day long workshop, depending): turning spalted wood takes patience and a unique tooling approach if you want to avoid stabilizers and sanding. This demo can be made as long or short as your club has time for, and covers tools, grinds, stabilizers, sanding, and how to turn spalted wood safely regardless of punky level, without the need for stabilizers or sanding
Wood Identification (1.5 hrs to 2 day workshop, depending): Learning to ID wood can be a fun challenge. Basic macro ID (appropriate for club demos and short talks) and more in-depth micro ID (better for day long and weekends) takes participants through very basic wood anatomy, and teaches key ID elements like latewood arrangement, parenchyma groupings, rays, etc.
Turning figured wood (1.5-2hrs): one part wood anatomy, one part turning, this talk and demo combination cover the different types of figure in wood, what causes said figure, and the best tips and tricks for turning highly figured wood without tearout
Coloring with Fungi (1.5hrs – 1 day workshop, depending): appropriate across wood, textiles, and glass, learn how to extract pigments from spalting fungi and reapply them to turnings, furniture, yarns/clothes, and other objects. Depending on time, this can be a talk on the mechanics, or a hands-on workshop where participants make their own pigments and then dye items they have brought in
Working with spalted wood is a completely different ball game than working with sound wood. It requires different machining techniques and a whole lot of patience and anatomical understanding. Especially in the field of woodturning, I do not woodturn like you might expect. I have been working almost exclusively with spalted wood for over fifteen years. During that time I have developed skills and tool grinds that work best for me and the type of wood I use. Because of the way I turn, I seldom if ever experience blow ups or torn grain. But because of the way I turn, I have been ridiculed as well. If you are considering having me for a turning demo, please be prepared to come with an open mind to alternative turning techniques.
For talks in provinces / states within which I currently reside, I can bring spalted wood for demo purposes. Upon request, I can also bring typical spalting cultures and / or the items necessary to show inoculation and culturing techniques. Due to laws regarding the transportation of wet wood across state / provincial / country lines, I cannot bring such items with me if I am traveling outside of my geographic region. However, most of these items can easily be purchased locally by the group, and I am happy to work with the resources available.
Handouts, including information on fungal toxicity and culture techniques, can also be provided upon request. Photocopies are the responsibility of the host club.
Due to the time commitment required for such presentations, I do generally ask for my travel / lodging / food expenses to be covered, as well as an honorarium to be provided. Honorariums are based upon the type of presentation / demo required and the length of the presentation, but are generally in the $250 range for a typical evening meeting. Full day demos run between $750-$1000 for up to eight hours. Cost difference depends on the ratio of lecture to woodworking involved, and distance to travel.
Costs breakdowns are as follows:
- Remote talk: $250
- Remote demo (1.5-2hrs): $500
- In-person talk or demo (1.5-2hrs): $500 plus travel costs
- In-person workshop: variable, please email
- Symposiums (weekend or multi-day events): $1500
Below is a media quality photo and introduction you can use to introduce me or promote a workshop or presentation at your facility.
Biography of Dr. Sara C. Robinson
I’m a professor of wood anatomy at Oregon State University. I’m also an artist. My interests lay in wood aesthetics and the concept of parergonal aesthetics. I like pretty colors and aggressive sports – and I play a lot of roller derby.
I work within the field of art science as a bio artist. Unlike many artists who utilize scientific techniques to develop their art, I strive to maintain a balance of both fields in my work. I strive to not be ‘just’ an artist or ‘just’ a scientist, but to blur the line between the two disciplines. Neither science nor art can exist without the other, and it is important to communicate that to viewers.
I primarily utilize fungi in my work, often with wood as a medium. Two intertwining processes drive me – a return to natural ornamentation techniques and the promotion of parergonal aesthetics. Wood, as a traditionally functional material, holds a unique place within human emotions. The use of fungi and natural decay processes not only creates ornament (instead of dyes and stains), but challenges perceptions of functionality. Decay fungi are generally disdained, but wood is held in high regard. The meeting of both can create emotional conflict and challenges the viewer to reevaluate their position on functional wood and natural ornamentation processes.
My current work involves the development of colored pigments on wood by mold fungi. As molds are some of the most reviled fungi in the world, their use in functional art is controversial and challenges our core assumptions on toxicity, functionality, and understanding of the natural world.