Tradition has deep roots at St. Mary’s Dominican High School. Therefore, when Celeste Anding, Alumnae Director at the 154-year-old school began researching a commemorative gift for The Class of 1964, she came across a craft that spanned centuries.
Intent on finding a gift crafted by local artisans, Anding’s search led her to a Saturday craft show at Destrehan Plantation where she met Larry Pickering with the Bayou Woodturners. The group is Louisiana’s oldest and largest woodturning organization and a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners. It serves the Greater New Orleans region and has an estimated 100 plus members from the region, including Lafayette, Alabama and Mississippi.
The origin of woodturning dates to around 1300 BC when the Egyptians first developed a two-person lathe. This craft of woodworking creates wooden objects on a lathe. Woodturning differs from most other forms of woodworking in that the wood is moving while a stationary tool is used to cut and shape it. By turning wood one can make many intricate shapes and designs.
“Our primary mission is sharing woodturning knowledge and experience with not only our members, but also with interested visitors,” explained Pickering. “Our community outreach includes demonstrations with a guest turner and workshops. We are constantly learning new techniques and ideas from each other. Sharing our knowledge and teaching hands-on classes are part of our community outreach.
Anding noted, “It was such a natural collaboration between Dominican and the woodturners. At our first session I told the students that we look forward to them returning to their alma mater and helping future students continue this tradition.”
The Bayou Woodturners led three woodturning training sessions on Dominican’s campus where a group of seniors and juniors in the National Art Honor Society created and personalized wood boxes made from Spanish cedar for the Class of 1964. The boxes were engraved with the school’s Veritas shield. Each one featured a student’s design, burned into the wood. On the bottom of the boxes are the student’s initials.
Jennifer Frosch, Fine Arts Department faculty member at Dominican, said the woodworking project gave the seniors a chance to not only work with the alumnae association, but also to contemplate tradition. “The students enjoyed building community while working with the members from Bayou Woodturners. For our students, this was an opportunity to discover a new medium. None of these young ladies had worked with wood before, and neither had I!”
Frosch noted that making gifts “is such a personal experience. The students were aware these gifts were for the Class of 1964, celebrating their 50 year reunion. They can only imagine where and who they will be 50 years from now. This project touched upon all of Dominican’s pillars, especially community. Working together with each other, the Bayou Woodturners and the connection with the Class of 1964, the National Art Honor Society members built a stronger, greater sense of community, not limited to current Dominican students or faculty, and not limited to the Dominican world.”
When the 50th anniversary graduates were presented their wood boxes at the homecoming luncheon, included with the gifts was a note: “We present this gift to you, the Class of 1964. Hand to hand, generation to generation, the spirit of Dominican is carved into this handcrafted treasure box.”