About the Artist

ELMER ADAMS
June 6, 1934 – September 14, 2010

Elmer Adams
Elmer Adams

Elmer Adams was a man of many talents with the drive to set forth on an endeavor very few would dream possible. Having retired to the Big Island of Hawaii from sailing and a prosperous development business in the Pacific Northwest, Elmer had no idea a new chapter would open for him in woodturning. It all began when his wife, Judy, asked if he could replicate a beautiful turned wooden vase they had spotted during a visit to the Volcano Art Center Gallery in 1991. Elmer advised her that he would need a lathe – thinking that would be the end of it – but she surprised him and okayed it. Soon he was turning – selling his work through galleries, and winning numerous awards (too numerous to list). In 1999, when a gallery owner asked if he could make larger pieces, encouraging Elmer by saying he could sell them if Elmer could make them, that was all he needed to challenge himself further.

Working on a GRAND scale, Elmer Adams created impressive works of art by turning ordinary logs into extraordinary, hollow-formed, Mediterranean style vases. His work, standing with heights as tall as forty-four inches and diameters as large as twenty-two inches, has that “WOW” factor. It isn’t a scale one is accustomed to seeing in wood art, but when you do, you know it took skill and mastery to achieve it.

Elmer developed a remarkable process for hollowing out the large vessels. He designed a custom built lathe, made to handle the weight and large sizes of the logs being used. He devised a series of 2”x 3” steel beams filled with sand with a hollowing tool, no bigger than a pencil, attached to the end. With lengths up to 11 feet and weighing up to 170 lbs the beams enabled him to deftly glide the tool across the interior of the piece – producing truckloads of shavings, while being at a safe distance from the mass of spinning wood. At 6’6” tall, Elmer created the art form that fit his scale.

Elmer’s knowledge and skill shows in all he did. He was a Master Woodturner, a founding member of the Big Island Woodturners Club (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners) and was an excellent demonstrator and teacher. He often demonstrated woodturning to a packed audience during the Big Island Woodturners Annual Exhibit (held in Hilo each March). Listening to Elmer talk about turning – the tools, the sharpening, the form, and the wood – you’d become mesmerized by his enthusiasm and knowledge. Elmer enjoyed sharing the story of the tree each piece came from. Using beautiful Hawaiian grown woods like Koa, Milo, Cook Pine, Sugi and Himalayan Magnolia. Elmer’s pieces display the beauty of nature’s grain patterns and colors in the classical forms of Mediterranean Vase, the Hawaiian Calabash, and the Southwest Native American pottery. They are true collectors’ items. In 2011, Elmer was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hawaii Forest Industry Association.

One of Elmer’s joys in life came through the creative process. As he used to say, "I know that perfection can never be reached, but the paths on the way are where the rewards are found."

Elmer Adams
Elmer Adams