The artists that have had the most influence on my work and my concept of design and form are Michael Peterson, for his forms, textures, and finish alterations, Johannes Michelsen for his technique and the control of his tools, Christian Burchard for his form and processes, Rollie Munro for his unique sense of design and application, and Michael Lee of Honolulu with a true sense of form and balance.
My woodworking interests developed early in life when my parents built the family’s first home in Seattle in the mid 1950’s. During high school I worked in construction for a neighborhood contractor. It was during this time in a high school shop class that I developed my love of turning. After high school I entered a four-year apprenticeship program in Seattle and Honolulu to become a journeyman carpenter. At the age of 24 I was the superintendent in charge of my first large project, The American Forestry Pavilion Building at the 1974 World’s Fair in Spokane, Washington. During this time period I worked for a contractor that had a cabinet shop so I had access to a lathe. In 1981 I started my own construction business, building and remodeling some of the top restaurants in Seattle. In 1996 my mother gave me a large platter that I had turned in high school, which changed the course of my life. My interest in turning was renewed and I immediately bought a lathe and have since turned every chance I get. In 1999 I moved to Kailua Kona where I have designed and built a home and studio and am now turning full time.
In 2009 I opened my own art gallery, The Cliff Johns Gallery now in Kainaliu, Hawaii carrying works from the state’s best woodworkers. In 2011, I co-founded The Hawaii Collaboration. This is an annual event that involves artists of all media from around the world coming together to produce art that is sold to raise funds to bring an awareness of art into our communities.
I am so fortunate to have the many beautiful Hawaiian woods available to me here on the Big Island. The woods I use are procured from arborists, tree trimmers, and sites that are being cleared for development. Living in Hawaii has greatly changed my style of work. The wood that is available to work with in the islands has taught me so much in just exploring it, and the environment here has an even greater influence on what I produce.