Ed Moulthrop – New Georgia Encyclopedia

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Ed Moulthrop was a self-taught woodturner based in Atlanta and considered a master craftsman. His lathe bowls are characterized by their large size, usually spherical or oval shape, and highly polished transparent finish. Woodturning is the process of turning wood on a lathe (a machine that rotates an object on a fixed axis) and shaping it by pulling a tool.

Edward Moulthrop was born in Rochester, New York in 1916 and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He became interested in wood lathes in his teens and sold magazines to earn money to buy his first lathe. He received his bachelor’s degree from Western Reserve University in Ohio in 1939 and his graduate degree in architecture from Princeton University in New Jersey in 1941. After he finished school, he taught architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and then worked as an architect. Although wood turning remained a strong interest of Moulthrop, during his time as an architect it was merely a side activity. In the early 1970s, he put aside his architectural career and became a full-time woodturner.

The Molethrop wooden bowl reaches 40 inches in diameter and 4 feet tall. These large sizes required the development of special lathes and long-handled tools suitable for turning wood on such a scale. Moulthrop also developed a method to strengthen wood and create a plastic-like finish. The wood was rotated to create a rough shape, which was then soaked in polyethylene glycol for six weeks to three months. This chemical fixes the color of the wood and replaces natural moisture, stabilizing the material and preventing it from shrinking and cracking. Next, the finished vessel is rotated to form the finished shape and coated with resin.

Like famous wood turners Ruud Osolnik and Melvin Lindquist, Moulthrop frequently used wood that previous turners would have considered defective. He frequently used wood that was diseased, struck by lightning, or streaked or discolored by fungal growth. This natural variation in the wood has resulted in bowls with interesting patterns and colors. He sought to find shapes and finishes that revealed the wood’s “myriad intricacies, its subtle and exotic range of colors, its etched-like growth ring patterns.” Also, Mr. Moulthrop’s method of treating wood allowed him to use wood that might otherwise have been too brittle.

Moulthrop’s work is displayed in the collections of many major museums in New York City, including the Museum of Arts and Design, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art Institute of Chicago. Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Detroit Institute of Arts. Eight of his works are in the Georgia State Art Collection.

Moulthrop passed away in November 2003 after a long illness.

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