AN EVESHAM woodturner was recognised for almost 50 years of devotion to the craft when he was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Ray Key’s lifetime contribution and skills to the woodturning industry were recognised with the prestigious award on Saturday (June 13) after he was nominated by the Heritage Crafts Association (HCA).
Mr Key became an apprentice pattern maker in 1958 and woodturning was one element of his training which led him to buy his first lathe in 1965, and in 1973 he became a full time professional woodturner.
Mr Key’s passion and dedication to the service has led him to promote and champion the craft to international audiences, leading to the involvement of setting up the first international seminar for woodturners in 1980, and has been a prime mover in developing knowledge and respect for woodturning in the UK and overseas.
In 1987 Mr Key became the founding Chairman of the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain (AWGB) and was made a life member of the AWGB In 1997, then appointed President one year later.
When the AWGB was established there were only around 300 woodturners in the UK but currently that number has swelled to around 3,500.
Mr Key is the only non-American to hold Honorary Life Membership of the Association of American Woodturners and in 2002 he was made a Freeman by Presentation by the Worshipful Company of Turners.
Mr Key said: “I’ve always loved the beauty of wood. Its warmth and tactility. I like to read the wood and bring out the best in it.
“My quest is to produce objects of beauty and elegant simplicity as I am a great believer in the object as a whole, not just a disjointed assemblage of different ones. I’m happy this ancient craft is now accepted as an art form.
“Crafts have been overlooked for so long but it’s starting to change. I hope craftspeople get more recognition for their involvement as a lot of people put in the time, not for personal gain, but for the betterment of their craft.”
Robin Wood, Chairman of the HCA, said: “This is great recognition for the skills and expertise of traditional craftspeople and a boost for the heritage crafts sector.
“Interest in heritage crafts is growing and these honours show the important role and value that heritage crafts bring not only to people’s lives, but highlight the huge contribution traditional crafts make to the economy, being equivalent to the petrochemical industry.”
Visit www.heritagecrafts.org.uk for more information.