Chadds Ford Historical Society

Revisiting History

Chadds Ford Days Spotlight: Brandywine Bowls

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Continuing our Chadds Ford Days spotlights, here is an interview with Paul Koch about his craft, lathe turned wooden bowls.  His craft brings out the natural beauty in local wood and turns it into art you can both use and appreciate.  Come find him this September 12th-13th!  

Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up, etc.?

I grew up in Sharon Hill, PA and have been a Delaware County resident nearly all of my life. I currently live in Chadds Ford and have been a resident since March 1998. I have a background in telecommunications and collaborative communications technologies. I have been a stay-at-home dad for the past ten years and turn bowls when time and my other responsibilities allow. I am or have been involved in a number of community activities and organizations, including the boards of the Civic Association of Chadds Ford and The Chadds Historical Society.

How did you end up in Chadds Ford Days, and how many years have you attended?

Having been a member of the Historical Society and the Society Board, I have been involved in Chadds Ford Days for a number of years as a volunteer working on restaurants, sponsors and as a Tavern keeper, etc.  2015 will be my 3rd year as a crafter at CF Days.

Spalted Horse Chestnut Bowl

Spalted Horse Chestnut Bowl

What is your craft and how did you get started in it?

I turn wooden bowls from local hardwoods on a lathe. I have always enjoyed working on a lathe, as far back as high school, which was many years ago, but every now and then I would make something for our home or for family. Four years ago, I was trying to come up with a unique Christmas gift for my daughter’s kindergarten teacher and her bus driver, so I made them each a bowl and it was well received. That same Christmas season, I took a bowl to a party where Pollyanna gifts were exchanged and traded….again the bowl I made was well received. The next year, the same activities were repeated and the feedback I got encouraged me to donate bowls to the Chadds Ford Elementary Art Show, and ultimately to pursue this path as a part time profession. Since that time, I have participated at Chadds Ford Days, Chadds Ford Elementary School’s Art Show, Unionville High School’s Art Gala, Art Shows at the Galer Winery, quarterly festivals at Terrain and I have an Etsy site as well, which is: In the 3 years that I have seriously pursued this activity, I have donated, gifted or sold almost 200 unique, one of a kind bowls.

Do you use any local goods in your craft?

Nearly all of the wood that I use for my work comes from properties, woods or roads of Chadds Ford or neighboring communities, including my own property, The Brandywine Battlefield, Sandy Hollow in Birmingham Township, Doe Run Farm and The Tyler Arboretum. The most distant source has been from my sister’s home outside of Annapolis. Other “not as local” sources include properties in Glenmoore, West Chester and King of Prussia.

What is it you want people to remember about your craft/how do you seek to inspire people?

Hickory Bowl

Hickory Bowl

Each bowl that I make is a one of a kind bowl. And each has its own story….where the wood came from, specific features (colors, wood imperfections, knots, etc.) that make them unique. When I start work on a piece of wood, I have a general idea of the shape and style of the end product. However, the wood itself dictates, to an extent, the look of the end product. I usually “turn” the bowls while the wood is wet (not kiln dried). Sometimes, freshly fallen trees are so “wet” that my arm gets soaked from all of the water being thrown from the piece of wood that is spinning several hundred times per minute. Once I finish turning the bowls, I set them aside (under a brown paper bag) to allow them to dry slowly prior to final sanding. Often, during this drying time, the bowls will twist and turn a bit as the wood reaches its stable state….making for even more unique shapes. My favorite project is making memories for families of favorite trees that have fallen. I have made a number of bowls for families and friends that have come from trees that had some special meaning and memories for members of the family (including one set of 13 bowls for a family, all from the same hickory tree from their property).

How do you seek to impact the community with your business?

Through donations to various community entities, I have helped raised funds for causes and organizations that do good work in the area. Beyond financial support of local organizations, I am hopeful that when people see the work I do, they are able to see the beauty that might be inside any piece of wood that may fall on their property or even those pieces they see at the side of the road.

What in particular can we look forward to seeing at your booth this Chadds Ford Days?

I will bring a collection of unique, one of a kind wooden bowls, all food safe, that can serve as fresh fruit or salad bowls, smaller nut or candy bowls or as decorative pieces, given their styles, coloring and grain patterns. These bowls are great as gifts (engagement, wedding, house warming) or as a gift to oneself. I currently have an inventory of 28 bowls turned using 11 different types of trees. Over the summer, I will be adding to that inventory and will be adding Osage Orange and Sassafras wood to the wood varieties I offer. The Sassafras wood is coming from a fallen tree on my property that at one point was on record as the 3rd largest Sassafras tree in the state of Pennsylvania. You will also find a very enthusiastic bowl maker who would love to chat about the bowls, the process of making them and even the potential to deliver on special orders from those attending.

Be sure to check out all the beautiful bowls at the link below and at Chadds Ford Days this September!

Photos Courtesy of Brandywine Bowls

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