Betty Scarpino: CWA 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

Betty Scarpino of Indianapolis, Indiana, has been chosen as the 2015 winner of the Collectors of Wood Art Lifetime Achievement Award.
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Scarpino will be honored at CWA's annual dinner gathering during the SOFA (Sculptured Objects Functional Art) Expo in Chicago, Friday, November 6, 2015.

She was chosen as the 15th winner of the award by the CWA Board of Directors for more than 30 years of contributions to the wood art field as an artist, teacher, editor, writer and strong advocate/role model for women in the field.

"I'm surprised and humbled," she said. "It means a lot because it is recognition from your peers."

Scarpino has always had an influential presence in the wood art world. As an artist, her emphasis was on sculptural lines and form over material in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That approach was often cause for debate as the field transitioned away from its round-and-brown, bowl-oriented beginnings.

She became a sought-after demonstrator as the field grew. As a woman, she was not always welcomed in a male-dominated world. But she soon gained respect when those with a macho attitude found she knew more about woodworking/woodturning than they did and was an expert at using all the tools and machines in the shop.

That tool and technique knowledge came from a degree in industrial arts from the University of Missouri and a job after graduation as wood shop supervisor at the university's craft studio.

Her sculptural work also caused a shift in the buying habits of wood art collectors. "Betty's work in the early 1990s really stood out from the norm because of her use of sculptural elements (emphasis on line, form and texture). She made your eye move around the work rather than focus on the wood itself," said Ray Leier, who operates Los Angeles-based del Mano Gallery, the dominant gallery in the wood art field for 37 years before becoming an internet-only enterprise in 2012. "We were attracting a different buyer for her work, especially at national shows. People who liked sculptural forms in glass, ceramics or bronze began to purchase her work. That led to those clients and others looking at artists who were doing different things with wood."

Her profile has also risen to new heights over the past seven years as editor of the American Association of Woodturners (AAW) American Woodturner magazine and authoritative voice answering questions in a clear, concise manner on numerous internet websites, especially the World of Woodturners.

Her six years as editor of the American Woodturner (2009-2014) was especially challenging. Escalating production costs and print publications switching to an internet only digital format made the AAW board of directors take a hard look at the magazine.

There was also a constant battle over balance of content among technically-oriented, how-to articles, feature stories on the various directions of artists in the wood field, and reports focusing on issues ranging from tackling safety to philosophical discussions.

Jean LeGwin of Wilmington N.C was the head of AAW publications committee during Scarpino's editorship. "Because Betty is both a working artist and an excellent editor, she brought a very special mix of experience and qualities to her work that few can match," said LeGwin. "Her extensive knowledge of the woodturning community earned during her long career gave her a special perspective in handling pressure coming from different directions and dramatically improved the excellence of the journal."

Since stepping down as editor, Scarpino returned to working in her shop and has been in demand as demonstrator and panelist at numerous symposiums. She was also the only artist from North America in an invitational woodcarving competition in China in October, 2014.

by Dave Long

Click here for Betty Scarpino's portfolio page