Late in 1969 at the age of twenty-six Richard abandoned a successful career in the London wine trade to go woodturning — about which he knew nothing. He was never a hobby turner. When he decided to turn wood for a living he reckoned that if he enjoyed the craft all he had to do was develop good technical skills, then with savvy marketing he’d earn a decent living by selling what he enjoyed making. And that that’s what he’s done since mid-1970, first in England and, since 1982, in Australia. Richard turned mostly scoops, boxes, and bowls (utilitarian and decorative) that sold to kitchen shops and craft galleries. He’s never had to consign work on sale-or-return.
Richard first taught in 1978 at Highland Craftpoint in Scotland advising embryo craft businesses. Then in the mid-1980s he became a regular presenter for Dale Nish at the Utah Symposiums which in turn led to hands-on workshops and demonstrating in North America. Demand for workshops took off in 1985 after his first book and video Turning Wood with Richard Raffan were published.
Although these days he seems to be better known for his books and videos than his bowls and boxes, teaching and writing have only ever been ancillary to Richard’s woodturning business. Teaching got him out of the workshop for a few weeks each year, and he’s led over 350 hands-on workshops, and done way more demonstrations, mostly in North America and Europe. He always wished teaching involved less traveling.
Despite the pressure to ‘be creative’, to embellish, carve, pierce, dismember and reassemble bowls and turnings, he continues to regard turning simple forms the greatest challenge, because simple is never as simple as simple looks.
During his demonstrations Richard concentrate on the nitty-gritty of technique because without good basic technical skills it’s impossible to work fluently — and a lack of fluency cannot be disguised by flashy wood or embellishment. You’ll see exactly what he is doing as he tells you how and why he’s doing it. And he will warn you of what can go wrong.