Artist Interview: Barbara Dill

Posted by Jenni Kirby - October 06 2020


Discover Barbara Dill


Woodturner, Barbara Dill is an inspiration. Not only has she taken on the traditionally male dominated world of woodturning, but she has also become something of a celebrity in that discipline.


A retired psychiatric nurse, Dill discovered wood working as a way to decompress from her highly stressful professional life. “I started carving wood through Henrico Adult Education course,” she says. “I just fell in love with touching wood and carving it with a mallet and chisel. I would come home from work and carve in my living room and create piles of chips on the floor.”


Dill left her last nursing job in November of 1989 and was inspired to learn woodturning as a way to expand her creative options. She went Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the summer of 1990 to learn how. “I took a weeklong course, came home and brought a big ol’ lathe because I loved it,” she says. She enjoyed multi-axis turning as a method to create things but soon became frustrated with it’s limitations. She looked for a way to do more and revolutionized the craft. “I figured out a systematic way to explore multi-axis spindle turning so you can create forms that have not been discovered yet,” she says. This method is how Dill gets the incredible shapes of pieces like the candlesticks she sells in her gallery space at CAC.


Though Dill’s discovery has been well received by woodturners who want to know how to do it, for whatever reason, some in the field have been a tad resistant to acknowledging it. Dill remains unflustered. She has written a book about her technique, traveled all over the world teaching it and now has plans to create virtual classes. She says, “If they don’t want you to sit at their table, make your own table.”