Introduction taken from Beneath the Bark, Twenty-Five Years of Woodturning, 2004. Written by Dale L. Nish and Kip Christensen
In 1975 the book Creative Woodturning by Dale L. Nish was published by Brigham Young University Press and soon became the most popular book on woodturning in America. It received excellent reviews by several woodworking magazines, including Fine Woodworking. The book sold extensively in the USA as well as England, Australia, and New Zealand and was later translated and published in German. The photography and writing of Creative Woodturning was done by Dale Nish, but a good share of the technique photographs were of E. N. Pearson doing the turning. He was a retired industrial arts teacher who loved woodturning and worked at his son Byrd’s shop everyday, unless he was fishing. He was in his mid-seventies when the pictures were taken, still competent and enthusiastic.
As a result of tis book, Dale was asked to demonstrate and lecture at various venues, primarily in the United States. One of the early venues was at a symposium organized by Albert LeCoff and his twin brother Alan and held at the George School of industrial Arts in Pennsylvania, where Palmer Sharpless was a teacher and supervisor. These symposiums were held at six-month intervals, culminating in the tenth and final symposium in 1981. These early symposiums consisted of anyone interested in woodturning, with the demonstrators drawn from the more experienced turners and few professionals involved. Dale Nish and E. N. Pearson were invited to demonstrate at the Fourth Woodturning Symposium held in 1978. Both were very impressed by the experience, and the ideas encountered were to be a life-changing experience for Dale Nish. He could see the potential for the involvement of experienced or professional woodworkers in broadening the instructional base for the woodworking program at Brigham Young University.
In the fall of 1979 Dale organize the first Woodturning Symposium to be held in Utah. It was called Symposium West ’79. Demonstrators included Albert LeCoff, Frank E. Cummings III, David Ellsworth, Dale Nish, and Bob Stocksdale. Guest lecturers on wood materials were Byrd Pearson and Scott Wineland. The format allowed participants to select demonstrations of their choice, with demonstrations lasting one hour and forty-five minutes to two hours. This set the basic format for future symposiums.
A local woodworker, Byrd Pearson, provided enthusiastic as well as financial support to the symposium idea. As a lumber dealer, cabinetmaker, gunstock maker, and collector, Byrd had a lifelong love of wood, and as a former industrial arts teacher he could see the value of educational symposiums. Although Byrd’s father, E. N. Pearson, passed away in August 1979, his influence and support was carried on through Byrd.
During the 1980s and early ‘90s, Dale traveled extensively and demonstrated in England, Ireland, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Alaska, and many of the lower forty-eight states. He was in contact with many excellent turners in these countries, who were subsequently brought over as demonstrators at the symposium. The list includes Allan Batty, Stuart Batty, Jimmy Clewes, Melvyn Firmager, Bill Jones, Ray Key, Stuart Mortimer, Martin Pidgen, Gary Rance, Phil Irons, Keith Rowley, Dave Regester, and Chris Stott from England; Bob Neill from Wales; Petter Herud and Johannes Reiber form Norway; Soren Berger, Shane Hewitt, Graeme Priddle, Ken Sager, and Gail Montgomerie form New Zealand; Terry Martin, Guilio Marcologn, Richard Raffan, Stephen Hughes, and Vic Wood from Australia; Hans Weissflog form Germany; Barry Biesanz from Costa Rica; Michael Hosaluk, Frank Sudol, Art Liestman, and Jason Marlow from Canada; Joe O’Neill, Liam O’Neill, Tony Rea, and Ciaran Forbes from Ireland; Jean Francois Escoulen and Alain Mailland from France; Eli Avisera from Israel; Michael O’Donnel from Scotland; Grant Marshall and Mike Kaplan from South Africa; and Nikos Siragas from Greece. This list includes more than forty of the world’s best turners from fourteen countries outside the United States.
There are also many well-known American turners with solid international reputations who Dale and Kip have invited to preset at the Utah Symposium. Among others, this list includes Nick Cook, David Ellsworth, Todd Hoyer, John Jordan, Ron Kent, Bonnie Klein, Alan Lacer, Mark Lindquist, Mel Lindquist, Mike Mahoney, Rude Osolnik, Alan Stirt, Bob Stocksdale, and Del Stubbs.
Dale also made an effort to identify young turners whom he felt had the potential, temperament, and skill to become future demonstrators. He encouraged them to attend the symposium, waived the registration, and provided housing. Often he would purchase a piece or two of their work, providing encouragement and a few dollars for the time spent with them. Many of today’s best-known turners first demonstrated at the Utah Symposium, where they had an opportunity to display their talents, turning skills, and work.
Initially the workshops and symposiums were held at various times between April and November. By 1985 the symposium had grown to the point that it was beginning to interfere significantly with the regular semester classes at BYU. As a result, the 1985 symposium, which was initially planned for fall semester, was pushed into the early summer of 1986, when fewer students were on campus and the facilities were available without disrupting so many classes. Since then the symposium has been held in May or June of each year.
Dale Nish coordinated the symposium from 1979 through 1998. Upon his retirement Kip Christensen became the symposium director. Kip had been a student at BYU and teaching assistant to Dale during the first four symposia from 1979 through 1982. In 1988 Kip returned to BYU as a new faculty member and continued his involvement with the symposium. As the [former] director, Kip […] continued and built on the tradition established by Dale. The format, which had proven successful in past years, was kept largely intact with the exceptions of minor changes and additions and some adjustments to accommodate increased attendance. In recent years registration at the symposium has been between 450 and 500 participants, which [was] at capacity of [former] facilities.