POPLARVILLE – As a child, Laura Ousset learned to use and enjoy carpentry tools and how to sew clothing and household items.
A college degree in mathematics and a 28-year career in data processing at Xavier University of New Orleans didn’t include art. Retirement and a move to McNeill meant finding something to do, leading Ousset to a second career as an artist.
Her woodturning and quilting work – Bits and Pieces – are on display at Pearl River Community College’s Moody Hall Gallery through Feb. 13.
“I’ve been having a wonderful time,” Ousset said. “I highly recommend retirement.”
Shortly after moving from New Orleans in 1998, she joined the Picayune Piecemakers quilting guild.
“I’ve always been interested in quilt making but I’d never done any,” she said. “I signed up for a class.”
A couple of years later, she and her husband began woodturning lessons with Tom Dunn, a professional turner in New Orleans, and joined the Bayou Woodturners.
“I’ve been doing that ever since,” she said. “I particularly like doing segmented pieces. The planning process, the ability to create color and contrast in any shape I want and the precision required to produce good results are very appealing to me.”
The exhibit features segmented pieces, including an open vase made of 321 pieces, along with solid pieces, some colored with aniline dyes.
“I work hard on the finishing stage so that the piece feels as good as it looks,” Ousset said. “I like people to pick up my work and discover the texture and heft of a piece.”
Woodturning requires investment in a lathe, table saw or chop saw and various other tools.
According to family lore, Ousset has been using tools since she was a toddler.
“My dad used to tell me one of my first adventures was sitting on the end of his workbench,” she said. “I took the drill and drilled a hole and put a three-inch bolt in his workbench. I’m not sure he wanted a bolt in his workbench, but there it was.”
Her exhibit includes a number of quilted wall hangings and table runners demonstrating several techniques.
“The interplay of shapes and colors and the textural addition of the quilting itself is the part that I find exciting,” Ousset said.
Although not represented in the exhibit, Ousset also plays bass guitar with the Henleyfield Pickers and Jordan River Band.
The Moody Hall Gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays on the first floor of the building.
“I love her stuff,” said PRCC art instructor Charleen Null. “It’s gorgeous and well-done. You don’t find a lot of women doing woodturning.”
Woodturning and quilting both involve changing the shape of an artistic medium, linking two art forms that at first glance seem disconnected.
“Although I didn’t see the similarity at first, it would seem that I just enjoy cutting things up and putting them back together,” Ousset said.
Laura Osset with some of the woodturning pieces on display in Moody Hall.