Once Bauermeister is finished creating the pattern, he will paint or stain the piece and then sand it. Once it's finished, people will stand back to admire its beauty and wonder how he created it.
It's not how you might think. Bauermeister's table-top pieces, like this one, and his "tall vessels" are not solid blocks of wood that have been shaped on a lathe. That wouldn't allow the end result he wants.
Rather, most of Bauermeister's pieces are made from solid wood that he cuts into layers and then glues together. They are then shaped and carved in a way that the appearance of the layers disappears.
"If I would start with a solid block of wood, it would be impossible for it to be dried and cured, so then it would crack," Bauermeister explained. "Here, I'm starting with wood that has already been dried."
He uses a variety of turning techniques, "some conventional and some that I've come up with myself that involve very low lathe speeds combined with power tools to do the cutting," he told the Collectors of Wood Art Newsletter back in May 2006.
"I also use a lot of different tools to carve pieces off the lathe, some traditional and some power."
Once the pieces are shaped and carved, Bauermeister adds color with paint or stain - for at least one piece he used colored pencils. After the color is added, he may sand off a portion to create a new pattern or texture.
Bauermeister divides his woodwork into several categories. There are the table top pieces like the vase design mentioned earlier; tall vessels, which are also vase-like but can stand 5, 6, even 8 feet tall; sculptural pieces; and wall hangings.
He uses a variety of woods - cherry, walnut, oak, maple, linden, pine . . .
Primarily it's all local wood, not tropical, which Bauermeister tries to buy from places that harvest the wood in sustainable process.
"That means the trees came down for other reasons than just to sell the wood," he explains.
Show in Hermann
You can see more of Bauermeister's work on his Web site, www.michaelbauermeister.com, or you can visit The Kunstlerhaus art gallery at 207 E. First St. in Hermann.
Bauermeister is one of two artists being featured this month in the special exhibits gallery. Plein air painter Julie Wiegand, Berger, is the other.
A reception for the artists will be held Sunday, March 15, from 4-7 p.m. The event is free and will feature live music by Greg Krone, fiddler, and Wayne Roy, guitarist. Refreshments will be served.
Bauermeister - who has his work featured in 15 to 20 galleries mainly on the East and West Coasts; has work in several museum collections including the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery and the Boston Museum of Art; who has been featured in books and magazines about wood art including American Craft magazine; who is curating a wood sculpture show (opening March 6) for the Craft Alliance Gallery in University City; who was recently selected to create 10-foot-tall carved entry panels for the Regional Arts Commission in St. Louis; and who had four pieces handpicked to be in the 2008 film, "Nights in Rodanthe," starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere - hasn't pursued much local exposure until recently.
Bauermeister recently finished a showing of his work at MannWell's Coffee Alley in Downtown Washington, and a couple of years ago he had a show at East Central College.
"Many years ago, I did a show at Laumeier Sculpture Park (in Sunset Hills), but it didn't go over well, so I gave up on the local market," Bauermeister said.
His work was far more well received on the coasts, where a single piece can now easily sell for thousands of dollars.
At that price point, Bauermeister doesn't expect to sell many pieces at the show in Hermann, but he likes sharing his artwork with his local community.
From Furniture to Art
Bauermeister grew up in St. Louis and studied art, first at St. Louis Community College at Meramec (one year) and then the Minneapolis College of Art and Design before finishing his degree at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1979.
"Minneapolis focused more on conceptual art, and I just wanted to make stuff - I've always just loved making stuff - so that's why I moved to Kansas City," said Bauermeister. "The professor of the sculpture department always had us making stuff.
"I worked in steel, fiberglass, plastic and then I settled on wood after about a year," he said. "I started with wood sculptures, but I also made furniture, because people need furniture."
After graduation, Bauermeister turned to making custom furniture and cabinets as a way to make money. He set up a shop in Kansas City and later moved to Augusta (with wife Gloria Attoun, whom he had known in high school and who also had gone to college in Kansas City) to be closer to home.
Bauermeister had been making furniture and cabinets for about 15 years when he started "playing around" one day making some wood bowls.
"I came up with a way to make them that allowed them to be more free form," he explained. "There were plenty of artists who make them on a lathe, but I came up with a different way."
Bauermeister took his free form wood bowls to the American Craft Council Show and people loved them.
"I did more and more wood bowls because making them was just so much fun!," said Bauermeister, noting eventually he did less and less of the furniture or cabinets.
Then one day, one of Bauermeister's sons, who was probably about 7 at the time, suggested to his dad, "Make one as tall as I am."
"So I did. I started making these taller vase forms, and that's probably what I'm best known for today," said Bauermeister.
Some of his methods for creating these pieces, including extensive use of the band saw and the lamination process which is often his starting point, come from his background as furniture builder.
These days Bauermeister creates both commissioned and noncommissioned pieces. Some times galleries may suggest a certain type of piece to him, but many times he can create whatever he wants.
"I like to play around with new ideas," he said.
On his Web site, Bauermeister notes, "Wood has become my voice and my language . . . the real effort is in figuring out what to make next. Sometimes the wood itself makes a suggestion. Sometimes I work just to keep my hands occupied. And sometimes it all comes together into a kind of wooden poem."