Richard Raffan (Australia) burr oak bowl 4x11cm. Signed
I met Ray when he came to my workshop in Topsham in Devon in 1973. We remained in regular contact as our careers developed, having long discussions on design, making, and marketing; this was long before the craft became the popular hobby it is today. Since 1982 I usually saw Ray and Liz when in Britain, relying on Ray to keep me up to date with all the woodturning gossip and the latest in woody fads and tools. And we met regularly at American and European woodturning symposiums.
To the Ray Key I knew a split was a defect and not something to be glorified. So I suspect Ray wouldn’t have had the little oak bowl that came my way for completion back on his lathe: far too much messing about for a less-than-perfect result and not much money. I opted to mess about using epoxy mixed with African Blackwood dust to fill the splits, mostly because of the weak rim, but also because there weren’t quite enough splits to create a sieve. I do like bowls to be useable. RR
Ray Key has been a ‘big name’ for so long that it’s easy to forget he was well known in the broader crafts community long before woodturning became the aspiring art form it is today. He is known particularly for his boxes and platters.
Ray was in the vanguard that in the late 1970s and early 1980s took the craft of woodturning out of hobby sheds and production workshops into galleries, at the same time setting new benchmarks for the design and quality of turned domestic woodware — which was the foundation of his woodturning business. The mastery of his craft came from the solid days spent at the lathe making a living.
Ray’s formidable body of work is firmly grounded in the traditions of creating functional bowls and platters and other items designed for daily use. His ability to churn out top quality work without compromising quality of either design or finish flowed on into his less functional pieces.
In the late 1970s Ray was one of only four turners listed by the British Crafts Council as a Craftsman of Quality. Ray’s simple tall open vessels were amongst the first pieces of serious decorative art to come off a lathe and into prestigious craft galleries.
After I met Ray in 1973 we maintained regular contact both face to face and by phone until I moved to Australia in 1982. Then it was snail mail until we had email. Usually we talked shop (marketing, techniques, teaching, marketing, more marketing) as we caught up with the latest craft and woodturning gossip. Always jovial, Ray was a fountain of knowledge regards turning techniques and the latest fads, and he was always willing to share what he knew, confident he’d always be a step ahead of plagiarists — as he always was, given his innate and particularly good eye for form. RR
The Ray Key Collaboration Auctionn