Oral history interview with Rude Osolnik, 2001 May 1
Osolnik, Rude, 1915-2001
Douglas, Mary F., 1956-
American Association of Woodturners
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America
Place of publication, production, or execution:
Transcript: 38 pages.
Originally recorded on 3 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 5 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hrs., 29 min.
An interview of Rude Osolnik conducted 2001 May 1, by Mary Douglas, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Osolnik's home, Berea, Kentucky.
Osolnik explains that he was born in New Mexico but moved to Illinois where he grew up. He speaks about his decision to not become a coal miner like his father; learning wood turning from Jack Rohner; engaging in production turning; majoring in industrial arts at Bradley University, in Peoria, Illinois; teaching at Berea College; working in the Westervelt Shop; using Oliver and Powermatic lathes; making candlesticks, twig pots, and new items for the craft fair market; assembling booths at craft fairs; working with his wife Daphne; their five children; edge bowls; purchasing his property, now a parcel of approximately three hundred acres of land called "Poverty Ridge"; finding and working with wood from their land; appreciating and exploiting spalted pieces; laminating Mahogany; preparing tools and wood for turning; working with Zebrawood, Macasar Ebony, and Pink Ivory; turned pieces proportions; and teaching classes and workshops. Osolnik discusses his caretaker Zenobia Parks; selling his goods at Fireside Industries and America House; founding the American Association of Woodturners; working with the Kentucky Guild; the Southern Highland Craft Guild and developing the Berea Crafts Festival; the failure of the craft fair at Charlotte, N.C.; visiting with the prime minister of Belize, a consultation sponsored by the World Church Service to advise on that country's furniture production and export market; the role of the crafts movement in higher education; the Wallace Nutting collection at Berea; "Osolnik Originals"; a book project (Rude Osolnik: A Life Turning Wood. Louisville, KY: Crescent Hill Books, 1997); and signing his pieces. Osolnik also mentions in passing the DeMano Gallery, California; Great American Gallery, Georgia; Martha Connell; the Mint Museum; "Craft Multiples," an exhibition at the Renwick Gallery; Mark Lindquist; Jack Fifield; American Craft Council; Benchmark Galleries; I Love My Stuff Gallery; Eleanor Roosevelt; Queen Elizabeth; O. J. Mattil; Gary Barker; Walter Hyleck; Bernard Leach; Bob Stockdale; Dale Nish; Ray Key; Berea Craft Enterprises; travel to Scandinavia; and Richard and Lila Bellando.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Rude Osolnik, 2001 May 1. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for this interview was provided by the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America. Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
Rude Osolnik (1915-2001) was a woodturner from Berea, Kentucky. Mary Douglas (1956- ) a curator at the Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte, N.C.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001