All of his life Vernon Leibrant has been involved with wood. Vernon says, "My dad said I was hatched on a stump by a woodpecker." He had very red hair. Eighth in a family of eleven, he and his brothers helped their father with cutting firewood for cash income, building their home when he was twelve, and working in the family sawmill from age eight. He started working away from home at age 18 at a big sawmill, and through 30 years at the mill, developed the skills and strength with wood and machinery to create large bowls.
In The Workshop Book Scott Landis says, "Vernon Leibrant is a natural tinkerer and a self-tutored turner. He began making wooden tops in the late 1940's on a little Sears and Roebuck lathe in his father's shop. (One of his early accomplishments was a top that could spin for nine minutes on a pull.) A one-time logger and sawmiller, Leibrant lives at the foot of the Cascade Mountains in northwest Washington State, surrounded by country roads that bear the names of his family relations."
He began turning on his father's small lathe at 14 years of age, working alone with local green wood. Here were no books or teachers. He taught himself how to turn by turning salt and pepper shakers, about 100 pairs. He was always turning something through the years. In 1977, he quit working in the woods and started growing wood; apple trees, ten acres, the first commercial apple orchard in Whatcom county in 40 years.
In 1984 he got a large maple burl. He wanted to turn it all in one piece so he had to build his own lathe. He went shopping in the woods at an old abandoned shingle mill and brought home chunks of steel, wheels, and rails. Soon he had a lathe of which Scott Landis says, "with a higher ceiling and a hole in the floor, he probably could turn the world." He turned the maple into a thick walled, solid, enduring bowl. With urging from family and friends, he entered it in an art museum competition. It was juried in, and Vernon was now public. A Seattle gallery advised him to try selling it at the gallery. Much to his surprise it sold. This was the beginning.
In the late 1980's, as interest in woodturning grew, the American Association of Woodturners was formed. Vernon joined in the camaraderie and education available in turning clubs and symposiums. He began teaching woodturning in the United States and Canada in 1990.
Vernon is married with grown children and grandchildren. His wife Karen helps with finishing the bowls, and does the bookwork and sales.
In 1995, the orchard and first house he built in 1970 were sold, so he built a new house with furniture and cabinetry to fill it. Flatwork, he calls it, but his first love is turning. He makes mostly bowls and platters. The platters, up to 50 inches wide, are wall hangings that look much like pictures with their interesting wood grain. His work is sold in galleries nationwide and at his shop, which is always open. So if you want to visit, just call.Back to top