Remembering Rude Rude Osolnik (March 4, 1915-November 18, 2001), was born in Dawson, New Mexico, and lived in Berea, Kentucky, where for forty years he taught in the Industrial Arts Department at Berea College. He received an undergraduate degree and an MFA from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. He gave workshops and demonstrated wood turning throughout the United States, including Alaska, as well as in New Zealand. In addition to being a teacher and wood artist, he was also known for his production work, which included creating wooden alphabet letters for Childcraft, makers of educational toys, and making thousands of his signature candlesticks for major department stores during the 1950s and 60s. In 1950 he received a National Award for Contemporary Design from the International Wood Manufacturers. Between 1961 and 1987 he repeatedly served on the Board of Directors of the Southern Highlands Handicraft Guild, which honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. He was a Founder, Lifetime Member, and Fellow of the Kentucky Guild of Artisans and Craftsmen and a Fellow of the American Craft Council. In 1992 he received the Kentucky Governor's Award for Lifetime Achievements in the Arts.
Selected Collections: Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe; Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Gatlinburg, TN; Fine Arts Museum of the South, Mobile, AL; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, AL; J. B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Sciences and Industry, Chicago; Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC; Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, Asheville, NC; Wood Turning Center, Philadelphia . Selected Exhibitions: The Fine Art of Wood at the Millennium, Detroit Institute of Arts, 2000; Living with Form, The Horn Collection of Contemporary Craft, Arkansas Arts Center, Decorative Arts Center, Little Rock, 2000; Turning Wood into Art: Masterworks from the Arthur and Jane Mason Collection, The Mint Museum of Craft and Design, Charlotte, NC, 2000;Out of the Woods: Turned Wood by American Craftsmen, Mobile Museum of Art (formerly Fine Arts Museum of the South), Mobile, 1992; Turner's Challenge I-lll,Craft Alliance, St. Louis, 1987-1989; International Turned Objects Show, Port of History Museum, Philadelphia, 1988; The Art of Turned Wood Bowls, The Jacobson Collection, Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, 1985; Woodturning: Vision and Concept, Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Gatlinburg, TN, 1985; Turned Object Show, Bucks County Community College, Newtown, PA, 1981; Craft Multiples, Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC, 1965; Wood Turning in North America Since 1930, 2001, Wood Turning Center and Yale University Art Gallery.
Through Rude's own words, we are put in touch with his art and humanity. "My woodworking is a labor of love. It gives me a feeling of being in church, or in God's presence, when taking a piece of wood and making something out of it. I feel a deep appreciation to be able to use and discover the beauty God has given us in our trees-we must protect and replenish our forests for our future generations. I am at peace with the world when working with wood. It offers me a chance to relax because all of my movements must be fluid in order to perform the task. I design as I work, balancing ornament against a plain surface with and unerring sense of proportion and a perfect balance between material, purpose, and contour. " We know of his many achievements and honors. But we also remember the man. In his early years, Rude sold his work on foot, going from fair to fair, selling directly to the people. He believed that it was more important to crafts into the homes of ordinary folks than into homes of collectors. This effort helped to engender a regard for form, design and beauty in admirers from a range of socio-economic backgrounds as well as the Appalachian students that he trained. He undertook this endeavor at a time when there was not much support for either traditional crafts or lathe turning. We know that his efforts opened doors for many of us. His concern for the personal connection was epitomized in an annual ritual that he undertook with his wife, Daphne: every Christmas they made hand-made gifts. One year they planned to give a bouquet of Daphne's flowers and Rude designed miniature vases from off-cuts of bowl blanks. The success of the gifts prompted Rude and Daphne to display them in the Berea College Gift Shop and they sold immediately. These modest twig pots made from exotic off-cuts and fence rails-the rare and the common-became a stable part of their business and were a metaphor for the Osolniks embracing all of mankind. Rude was highly skilled and could use tools efficiently. Evidence of his hands and his thinking is in collections throughout the world. Yet his legacy is also his heart and his spirit, conveyed to everyone who touched him. Thank you, Rude, for having been there.---Albert LeCoff
Rude and I shared many wonderful experiences since we first met in 1977. In fact, I don't know a single person who knew Rude who did not share in the wonder of the experience-surely because all of who he was affected all of who we are, even if those moments for most might have been brief. And what do we say to the youngsters in our field, or to anyone who missed the opportunity to share just a wee bit of personal space with this wonderful man? Honesty and integrity first come to mind, in life and in one's work, for that is surely something we can pass on to the next generation. A solid work ethic that evolved from many long, wonderful hours-years-spent doing what he did best. It was what he believed in, what he had to do, shat he learned to love to do - to keep the fires burning, especially the internal fires. The lathe was something Rude was good at, but his relationships with people were what provided the passion that kept him going. I am very proud to have been a part of this man's life. --David Ellsworth With the passing of Rude Osolnik, the Southern Highland Craft Guild lost and important leader, patron, valuable member and friend. Rude joined the Southern Highland Craft Guild in 1955. He quickly established himself as an active member, participating in financial and marketing matters in the young and rapidly growing organization. Rude would eventually serve multiple terms on the Guild's board of trustees and for several he served as president. His financial planning work was crucial and his marketing advice resulted in the annual Craftmen's Fairs in the 1950s and 1960s. Rude was largely responsible for taking the fairs into the modern era. He was the force behind much of the early planning, assisting members who did not normally do retail fairs (this was a time when such events were relatively unknown) and he helped to develop the combination of educational activities that continue to distinguish these fairs. At every event, Rude and his wife Daphne would have a booth filled with his signature candlesticks, bowls, and his ever-popular weed pots made from chestnut fence posts. The Guild members never realized there was a superstar among them. He always worked harder and longer than anyone else and was the antithesis of the craft superstar. It was only later, when the Guild presented his 1990 retrospective exhibition, that the membership realized Rude had created an important body of work over the preceding 50 years. That exhibition also allowed the Guild to share in the many accolades given to Rude by a host of organizations, individuals, and the state of Kentucky. By far, however, the most poignant feelings were those expressed by his fellow turners and friends who donated funds for the catalogue. This outpouring of support truly illustrated how highly Rude was regarded nationally. Rude remained vitally active in the Guild until very recently. He will be greatly missed. --Andrew Glasgow
Andrew H. Glasgow is the Executive Director of Programs and Collections or the Southern Highland Craft Guild. I had already seen Rude demonstrate as various conferences - dapper in his bolo tie, comfortable ands efficient in his patter to the throng around him -but visiting someone at their home is the real window to their soul. In July of 1994, when Rude was already in his late 70s, I traveled with Albert to visit him at his home in Berea, Kentucky. Rude provided a running commentary on what we were seeing and answered our constant queries like a kind uncle. The Caddy climbed Poverty Ridge, the last winding road up the mountain to his place above Berea where the summer woods insulated this stage of his life from the surrounding world. The one-story house and shop formed an L-shaped entryway, punctuated with a summer cottage garden. Here I photographed him in a comfortable old chair. The house he built with his late wife, Daphne, was full of his work and hundreds of handmade Appalachian objects collected over a lifetime. He told us some of the stories of the makers and early travels to find them and we could have spent many pleasant days just recording all the tales. Rude's shop was equally full of machinery and tools. Similarly, the yard stored his life-long stockpiles of wood. He found a little piece and quickly turned me a small log with holes to hold the two folk craft bottle stoppers I had bought in town. This visit is now a cherished memory, and a reminder to all of us to visit each other before it's too late. --Tina C. LeCoff
Rude Osolnik Even back in the 70¹s and 80¹s Rude was a legendary character. But he never once acted that way. Considering his years at Berea College, The Highland Crafts Guild, and his countless wood turning classes - there is no accounting for the thousands of people whose lives are richer because of him. I¹d say that anytime today when wood lovers gather near a lathe - a part of Rude is there. The teachers of today¹s teachers were all influenced by him in some good way.
I've been fortunate to know a lot af amazing people, but never one who loved life or people any more than Rude. After all these years I still dearly miss him. His love of life and people, his humor and honesty were deservedly legendary. Many of my favorite memories with Rude weren¹t even in his shop - they were out on the road with him in Kentucky and Tennessee looking up the dogondest characters, many of them craftspeople of all sorts living back in the woods. There seemed no end to the hidden treasures he knew and loved - weavers, basket makers, loggers, turners, moonshiners, woodcarvers.....
One story that shows Rude¹s outlook on life happened one summer day in the 80's. I had the privilege of introducing Ken Sager and Rude. Ken is the grand old man of turning in New Zealand - an equally well aged character himself. They decided to mount a huge slab of redwood burl outboard on one of Rude¹s giant lathes to make a table top. Once mounted they gave it a tentative spin, but it was so tall one corner was striking a roof joist! Any sensible person would chainsaw a foot or two off of the piece - not Rude - he chain sawed the offending joist instead. The table turned out beautiful. He loved people in the same way - especially ones with a few rough edges of their own. He was a people builder, not a people criticizer - he left your rough corners alone.
In all my years I have never known anyone to be a more intent listener. Those blue eyes would fix on you, and his mouth would even move to your words - he wanted to drink in everything you had to say. Rude: Giving to a fault, a laugh to infect a whole room, twinkly eyes of an elf, a soul of integrity, a warm heart that wrapped you up, deeply respectful, passionate about people and life.
You left one hell of a mark on the world Rude. Del Stubbs, 2006
Rude and Daphne Osolnik
I attended the first craft show in 1948 at the age of 8 and this was when my eyes were opened to different media of craft. In those early years the most memorable people I met were Rude and Daphne. Through the years my respect and admiration for them never changed. Rude had many accomplishments and received many awards in his lifetime. I feel this would not have been possible without Daphne. For her support and commitment to Rude gave him the freedom to travel, teach and demonstrate. They were a team and she was the glue that kept them bonded. I have many good memories of Rude and Daphne and other craft people, but they stand above them all. They were dear friends and I miss them.