Keith Ruble started making hand-hewn wooden bowls over 40 years ago, picking up the practice from master bowl hewer Bill Day at the Indiana State Fair. Keith cultivated his mastery of the craft as a “stress reliever” during his long-standing career as superintendent of parks in Vigo County. After long days of forestry work, Keith says, “I could make a bowl in the evening and just totally relax my body. And that is the kind of thing that everybody has to have in their life, you know?”
Today, Keith produces dozens of creative designs, including bowls in the shape of farm animals, hearts, and the state of Indiana. Starting with a thick slice of uncured greenwood, which must come from local forests in order to be soft and fresh enough for shaping, he uses a chainsaw to shape a rough interior. He will later distinguish his style by accentuating the hand-hewn quality of his bowls. With a hand adz, Keith hews excess wood out of the bowl’s interior, each chop leaving behind small chip marks. Rather than sand out these marks, Keith leaves them in place to create a distinctive rippling texture that serves as evidence of the hewing process. The uniformity of these ripples and the thinness of the resulting bowls are testaments to Keith’s extraordinary mastery of the craft. Apprenticeships are a unique opportunity for Keith to share his skill through extensive practice and long-term mentorship.