To better get to know your community, meet the local artists who make up its tapestry of art and design. Each month, DESTINATION TAMPA BAY introduces readers to these talented and creative ambassadors in its monthly artist spotlight. This month, meet a woodturning artist hailing from Barbados who turned a lifelong passion into a full-time pursuit following retirement. The spotlight shines on John Mascoll.
JOHN MASCOLL, WOODTURNING ARTIST
John Mascoll has been drawn to the art of woodworking since he can remember. As far back as his early days growing up in Barbados, he has been intrigued by the ability to create great things from the materials around him. “I’ve had a passion for all things wood from a very young age (4 or 5). I was inspired by my father, a carpenter and boat builder, who would allow me to watch, and occasionally assist him, as he worked,” he says. “As I mimicked every move, cut and style of woodworking he performed with a variety of finely tuned hand tools, I became hooked.”
Ambrosia maple piece and red tinted Chinaberry bowl by John Mascoll
Mascoll left the Barbados in 1976 for the U.S. on a track and field athletic scholarship and studied Physics at Fisk University and Civil Engineering at Vanderbilt under their Dual-Degree Program. He graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Civil engineering and left his own athletic legacy becoming a two-time, NCAA Division III All-American in track and field for Decathlon and Long Jump. As Mascoll moved into his adult years, he educated himself more fully about woodturning tools and machinery available to him and says this is when he began to see wood as an art form as well as a source of calm.
Woodworking has always been my go-to place to unwind and reclaim my peace. I’ve also found it to be very therapeutic,” he says.
While the artist pursued his career as a structural design engineer in the nuclear power industry and later in construction project management, he continued to develop his woodworking talents during his free time. He recognizes that his style and types of wood projects has evolved over the years as he has honed his craft and reshaped his perspective over the years. “My earlier works explored the seemingly infinite variety of shapes and forms that allowed the natural beauty of the wood to be reflected aesthetically in the vessels I created,” he says. “In the late 1980s, I started creating wood turned art on the lathe, because I discovered it allowed me to create pieces that showed a connection between my inner passion and my world view, by exploring and embracing all aspects of woodturning without limiting the expressiveness of the work itself.”
Mascoll pursued American citizenship in 1986 and after living and working in Georgia, he relocated to the Tampa Bay area in 1993. Since retiring in 2014, he devotes much of his time to pursuing his woodturning creations and takes part in state and national shows. He has earned various awards over the years including several Best in Show titles. He and his wife Jannis enjoy living in the Safety Harbor community where his garage serves (as he puts it) “as both studio and sanctuary for all things wood.”
Curly eucalyptus and black walnut pieces by John Mascoll
When Mascoll begins working on a new piece, it all starts with inspiration. For this artist, the source for that next creative spark can hail from anywhere. “I am inspired by many things: family, nature’s revelations, places I’ve traveled, the workmanship of things made, memories and experiences of the past, and artists whose works I admire,” he says. Mascoll notes being heavily influenced by other notable wood artists including Nick Cook, David Elsworth, J. Paul Fennel, Larry Hasiak, John Jordan, Bob Kopec, and the late Rudy Olsonik. Other artists across different mediums have inspired him, as well, including William Kidd (ceramics), Ummarid Tony Eitharong (mixed media and watercolor), Salem Barker (sculpture) and Duncan McClellan (glass), the latter who has recently played a different role in a new chapter of Mascoll’s art story.
John Mascoll celebrates his work’s placement at a recent gallery show. (Photo courtesy of Florida CraftArt)
Earlier in 2022, Mascoll was one of nine local artists chosen to participate in Clearly Collaborative, a unique, joint art exhibition between FloridaCraftArt and Duncan McClellan Gallery. “I was pleasantly surprised and very honored by the selection,” Mascoll says. For the art collaboration, each artist selected takes part in an art residence learning directly from master glass artist Duncan McClellan. Final pieces from the collaboration will comprise an exhibit to open January 2023. (Click here to read more about the Clearly Collaborative multimedia art project.)
One key element in creating a new work is selecting the right wood, and Mascoll has his favorites. “I like working with native American woods, and some international exotics, so my decision is more focused on determining which shapes and forms would best complement a particular wood type,” he says. “For the most part, I allow the characteristics in the wood that are revealed under the bark to guide my decisions.”
While Mascoll is frequently taking part in art events, he uses his downtime to tackle home projects which are usually on hold during show season. This fall, the artist will have a busy show schedule with at least a half dozen events including: the 44th Annual Long’s Park Art Festival, Lancaster, PA (Sept. 2-4); St. Louis Art Fair, Clayton, MO (Sept 9-11); Armonk Art Festival, Armonk, NY (Oct. 1-2); Winter Park Autumn Art Festival (Oct. 8-9); Annual Philadelphia Museum Art Craft Show (Nov. 11-13); and Florida CraftArt Festival (Nov. 19-20).
Story written by Chris Kuhn exclusively for Destination Tampa Bay™ All photos courtesy of artist John Mascoll, unless otherwise noted for editorial purposes only-all rights reserved.
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