Turning a bowl is his passion
Contributed photo, Don Jovag shows some of the Native American-inspired patterns in the turned wood bowls he creates in Sun City.

When he was a boy, Don Jovag learned about woodworking with his father, Henry.

"I have many fond memories of the time we spent together 'making sawdust,'" Don recalls today.

Don earned a teaching degree in industrial arts at Western Washington University, and became a wood shop teacher at Redmond High School. There, he became interested in turning bowls using a wood lathe.

That interest hasn't stopped. Don learned the art of making segmented bowls and platters. In retirement, it has become his passion, and with the Native American influences of the Southwest, it has become his art.

Jovag is co-chairing this Saturday's Sun City Vistoso Arts and Crafts Festival, and he's displaying some the segmented bowls he loves to make.

It's a love borne of challenge. In Redmond, he found the "end grain" was the toughest part of bowl turning, and was "especially frustrating for my students." He studied up on the subject. The problem of turning "end grain" could be eliminated by gluing small segments of wood "so you would only be turning 'face' grain.

"Each piece of wood had to be cut at an exact angle so you could glue it up to form a 'circle' of wood," Don writes. "Then each circle of wood was to be glued up with overlapping joints to provide enough strength to withstand the 'turning' forces that it would be subjected to on the wood lathe."

Don tried the method, and turned his first segment bowl nearly 40 years ago. He still has it.

Over the years, Don has refined his technique, and eased some of the difficulties faced by young woodworkers. Segmented bowls became a popular project in his classes.

After 30 years of teaching, Don and his wife Jeanne retired in 1995. They had built a 38-foot wood sailboat, which they sailed all over Puget Sound and into Canada. An avid cyclist, Don then opened a bicycle shop in Stanwood, Wash., sold that in 2004, and the Jovags moved to Sun City Vistoso. Of course, he joined the woodworking club.

Native American designs in rugs, pottery and paintings fascinated Don, and he realized "these same types of designs were a perfect fit for the segmented bowl techniques that I developed for my students." He uses the designs in salad bowls, decorative bowls and serving platters, all made of the finest hardwoods.

"Each bowl is a challenge, and I seem to learn something new on each one I turn," he said. On the bottom of each, Don burns in the original Norwegian spelling – Gjovaag – of his last name.

Don teaches woodworking machine use and safety classes at the Sun City Woodshop, and at the local Woodcraft store in Tucson.

The Sun City Vistoso Arts and Crafts Festival

Saturday, Oct. 3, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Social Hall of Sun City Vistoso, 1495 E. Rancho Vistoso Blvd., Oro Valley.

The website is vistosogiftshop.com

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