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Murphy creates unique bowls, lamps

FERRIDAY — When Jimmy Murphy of Ferriday finds a hunk of wood he imagines what beauty lies within.

Murphy was exposed to the art of woodturning five years ago by an inmate at Angola Prison where, until recently, Murphy worked as a corrections officer.

“I was interested,” Murphy said. “He had books, I started reading and became more interested.”

Murphy said that inmates can sell their prison hobby crafts at rodeos a few times a year. The inmates use the money to buy tobacco and snack products in prison.

Murphy decided to try his hand at woodturning after he absorbed as much education about the craft as he could.

“I bought a cheap, small lathe and started working,” Murphy said. “The more I did it the more I liked it. To some people this would be work, but to me it’s enjoyment.”

Murphy took his newfound passion to the next level by building a cozy shop behind his house. Then he bought a bigger, better lathe.

“It turned things up a notch,” Murphy said. “Like going from a jalopy to a Cadillac. I could immediately see the difference and my work improved.”

An insurance salesman dropped by Murphy’s house one day and paid him $75 for a bowl. While he is not motivated by money, Murphy said he will start selling his lamps, oil lamps, bowls, containers and rolling pins soon at festivals and arts events.

The pieces in Murphy’s home are stained and marbleized by nature, in what is called spalted wood.

“It’s a form of deterioration,” Murphy said. “That’s where you get all the color.”

The wood’s decay stops when Murphy brushes on the lacquer that leaves smooth, shiny wood behind.

“You never know what will be in the wood,” Murphy said. “Once the bark comes off, you start seeing color. Then you figure the design to capture the most color.”

Woodturning is enjoyable to Murphy and he wants to keep it that way, so he gives his wooden wonders away as gifts.

“This is still a hobby right now,” Murphy said. “I don’t want it to become a job. People talk to me about selling my work all the time, and I will, but I love to make people feel good. There is a look they get when I give them something I made. It’s a feeling that money can’t buy. I am really a tenderhearted person.”

For his sister’s birthday, Murphy turned a lamp out of a broken pecan limb that fell in her yard.

“I called her over, plugged it in and she lit up,” Murphy said.

Murphy has a relaxed approach to business and hasn’t come up with a name for his woodturning. He said he doesn’t want to get into turning custom orders.

“Everything you see is one of a kind,” Murphy said. “And everything is for sale, but I will not labor to fulfill an order.”

Murphy said one of the great things about woodturning is that his medium, wood, is generally free and often discarded on the side of the road.

“People are so excited about what I make that they bring me wood,” Murphy said. “It tells me that my work is appreciated. How do you put a dollar amount on that?”

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