Published on Feb 12, 2021

Gilles McInnis: Sculpting Wood in Motion

  By Natalie Sicard

Shaping the trunk of a tree or one of its limbs to create a vase, a fruit platter, bowls, mortars, tea boxes and small pieces of furniture, is one of Gilles McInnis’ passions. Artisan woodworker, specializing in contemporary woodturning. “Woodturning is sculpting wood in motion.” The process results with these raw materials, sometimes still wearing their bark, magnificently transformed into these lean, modern lines.

A Trade Involving All the Sense

“Working with green wood, still loaded with sap, constitutes a truly delightful field of art. The scent of cherry wood, my preferred essence, fills my workshop, and the noise coming from the tool I’m using is sweet to my ears, like a purring sound,” explains the artisan. He works with freshly cut wood (recuperated trunks, selective cut surpluses, etc.), as he fine-tunes his passion for trees. “I’m rediscovering all our different indigenous wood essences, sugar maples, Manitoba maples, staghorn sumacs, apple trees, or yet again varieties such as Virginia ironwoods and honey locusts which I choose for their hardness, to make mortars, for example.”

Although the woodturning trade goes back several centuries, he has reclaimed the art for himself to create utility objects combining the authenticity of the craft and a modern design. He turns in end grain fashion, specific to modern woodturning. The mandrels keep the piece in place, and as it rotates, he hollows out the end grain of the wood to create such objects as vases or bowls. “We repeat these age-old gestures as we reinvent the ways and means of this art form.” The artist’s approach allows him to refine the shape, letting the type of wood he’s selected guide him. “Because when he’s done, the tree itself will offer the piece its final signature since it will continue to transform as it dries, even after it’s finished.”

Originally from Gaspésie, and having first trained in industrial design, Gilles McInnis entered the field of visual arts and as one thing led to another, he focused his talent on scenography and museology. Among others, he worked for the Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke where he’s established himself for more than twenty years now. When he discovered Jordi Bonet’s wood sculptures inside a church, it awoke in him a need to step away from his commercial practice to go back to creating, researching, experimenting with his most loved material, wood. He creates pieces in limited editions, but also made-to-measure furniture with a very stylized, organic look able to truly revitalize our surroundings.

To visit his website and boutique online, it’s here:

His address book in Sherbrooke

  • The Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke   is really worth your while. Here, for more than 15 years, he set the stage to enhance the different exhibits; “For their pedagogical approach retracing more than 140 years of evolution.” The museum is tied to the Séminaire de Sherbrooke’s history, which at the time, like other classical education schools, maintained collections of educational material specimens. Founded in 1879, since 2002 the museum has established itself in the Julius-Kayser factory where they used to make silk stockings. The building overlooks the Magog River, making it a very attractive public place.

  • Ça beigne! A most original foodie destination specializing in confecting artisanal doughnuts, always with natural, local products. The concept was brought back from Portland, Maine to Sherbrooke by the shop’s owners. A first for Quebec!

  • Madame Dupont & Cie Every week you’ll find new traditional or vegetarian meals, with or without gluten, added to their take-out menu.

  • Located in the heart of the city, the Marché de la gare de Sherbrooke is a not-to-be-missed destination to fill your baskets with Townships products. Their indoor space houses four specialty food businesses all year round: organic meat, fine cheeses, sausages and artisanal charcuteries.

  • Bloma fleuriste. Also found in the heart of downtown Sherbrooke, here you’ll discover a vast selection of flowers, plants, terrariums, vases and home decor items with a contemporary, creative look. We should emphasize that the founder was trained in visual arts before launching her floristry business.

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