Max turns wood and heads at Tiverton Pannier Market
A new trader at Tiverton Pannier Market has been turning heads with his amazing collection of wooden creations.
Woodturner Max Hall, who has been wheelchair-bound since a workplace accident in 2010, can be found in the market’s south hall on Saturdays, surrounded by around 200 items he has sculpted.
There are scores of bowls and vases of all shapes and sizes, as well as drinking vessels, urns, ashtrays, mushrooms and much more.
He has recently started hand-carving miniature characters and ornaments too.
Max mainly works with ash and also uses oak, beech, cherry, yew, eucalyptus, lime and others.
Much of it comes from friends, neighbours and colleagues who have had trees fall in their garden or cut down due to disease or old age, while he also sources wood on Facebook.
Max, 58, describes his work as “art”.
“The thing I love is that when you cut into a piece of wood, you never know what’s going to be inside,” he said.
“It’s really interesting. There are so many different things you can do with different types of wood.
“Wood moves. That’s what keeps me going.”
Ash is Max’s favourite wood to work with.
“It’s good to shape and becomes incredibly smooth once finished,” he said. “There’s so much to it.”
Max owned a courier business in Southampton before moving to Devon in 2003 and working as a postman in Exeter.
He suffered a workplace accident in 2010 which left him with a life-changing spinal injury and partially paralysed down his right side.
Max was medically retired in 2013 and, after several years of inactivity and bouts of anxiety and depression, in 2018 he turned to the Men in Sheds project in Exeter for inspiration.
The scheme, led by Age UK, supports older men who are keen to get together and learn and share new skills.
“They had a lathe but I wasn’t able to use it for health and safety reasons, so I looked on YouTube for ‘how to turn a wood bowl’ and taught myself,” said Max.
He started making bowls and vases, mainly using pine and eucalyptus, which he gave to family and friends and sold on Facebook.
Things picked up in the summer of 2019, when Max added oak and beech as well as ash that had suffered from dieback.
“I looked for whatever wood I could find,” said Max, whose hobby goes by the name Maximum Turning.
“I bought a cheap lathe to start with and used it for a year, but it broke down as lockdown started and I went four months without doing any turning.”
Identified as extremely clinically vulnerable due to his asthma and COPD, Max had to shield during lockdown and hardly left his home in Exeter for 18 months.
He built a 10ft x 10ft shed at the bottom of his garden, complete with a new Charnwood 1420V lathe, a bandsaw and a workbench.
He turns the wood while sitting down due to his injury and can be found in his “workshop”, as he calls it, around four days a week.
Max stores his creations in his old shed and is supported all the way by his wife Jane, a skilled artist and crafter herself.
A former seamstress and classically-trained flute player, Jane paints some of Max’s items and makes greetings cards, decorations, wreaths, hair accessories, ornaments and more.
Max and Jane will be among the 50-plus traders attending the all-new Tiverton Farmers Market on Saturday 4 December (9am to 2pm).
You can meet them and see their eye-catching work in Creative Corner, to the west of the main building.