John Mascoll stands amidst piles of wood shavings and sawdust in the garage of the home he shares with his wife and two sons.
He is surrounded by the tools of his trade. In tight quarters stand two large lathe machines for turning wood, an exhaust system for controlling dust particles in the air, stacks of gouges, hook tools, shock absorbers, gloves and piles of wood logs, mostly from local citrus and palm trees.
From these trees, along with the box elder from Georgia and the maple from North Carolina, Mascoll fashions sleek, award-winning vessels of all sizes and colors. Each piece is hollowed out, leaving only a narrow opening topped with an ornamental cover and a small, wooden decorative finial.
Mascoll, 60, begins designing each vessel as he turns it on the lathe, forming a mental image of the finished piece as he works. A completed vase or bowl is so light it can be held in the palm of the hand.
"My greatest satisfaction comes from taking what looks like an ordinary piece of wood and exposing the natural beauty," he said.
One box elder bowl he recently completed has an elegant design in soft red centered on the front.
Other chunks of wood bear discolorations that he also displays artistically on a bowl or taller vessel.
The finished products inevitably catch judges' eyes at exhibitions. Mascoll won best in show at the St. Petersburg Mainsail art show in April, and best in show at the Mayfaire by the Lake show in Lakeland in May.
What makes Mascoll's wood-turning distinctive? One judge recently gave the artist an answer:
"What sets my pieces off is the elegance and form," Mascoll said he was told. "I also use a good selection of woods with different colors."
Born and raised in Barbados, Mascoll moved to the United States in 1976 to attend Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, from which he earned a degree in structural engineering in 1979.
He earned a subsequent degree in physics from Fisk University, also in Tennessee.
An engineer by trade, the artist first learned about wood from his father, a retired shipwright who built wood boats in Barbados.
"He is a major part of my artist's statement," said Mascoll of his father, Egbert Mascoll, 85, who taught him to work for perfection.
"From him I learned the proper use of hand tools," he said, "and to correct mistakes right away before the error causes more problems."
The use of two lathes, one of which Mascoll designed himself, has greatly enhanced his art, he said. The lathe enables him to turn the various woods into forms and shapes more efficiently and to shape the finials and covers affixed to each piece.
The wooden vessels in progress hang from the rafters for several months so that any remaining moisture in the wood will dry.
When dry, Mascoll will turn them again on the lathe before applying a high-quality lacquer finish with an ultraviolet inhibitor. This finish keeps the color of the wood from changing over time.
His vessels, designed for ornamental rather than practical use, are one of a kind. The sleek, polished objects are sold at shows and fairs throughout the year.
Mascoll sometimes exhibits his works out of state, and he usually makes the rounds of Florida art shows, including those in Palm Harbor, Bonita Springs, Naples, Vero Beach, Winter Park, and Art Festival Beth-El in St. Petersburg. Mascoll has won awards at all of them.
Prices for smaller pieces range from $150 to $300, and for larger ones from $3,000 to $4,000. A larger piece might be about 24 inches high and 12 inches in diameter. Mascoll's smaller pieces come in a range of sizes.
Mascoll, who works for a local company providing services to veterans, said his dream is to retire and do wood turning full-time. It is a passion, he said.
"I've been in wood all my life," he said, "but I started this type of woodwork in 1989 and I got hooked."
Times Correspondent Elaine Markowitz can be reached at [email protected] com.