Notes From An Appraiser June 2016
Bob Stocksdale, an American Wood Turner

In an earlier column, I wrote about a charitable contribution appraisal regarding contemporary lathe turned wood bowls by Bob Stocksdale, in preparation for tax documents for a federal tax deduction. The research for this contemporary wood craft report was made easier by the respect shown for Stocksdale by the artists, dealers, collectors and scholars that I contacted. The information requested, the opinions asked, the prices paid; so much was given openly.

One should ask, why an appraiser of Asian Art is qualified to appraise contemporary American Craft? As the appraiser of record for IRS documentation, I needed to address that question. Under heading Appraiser Qualifications I wrote:

…The professional and personal relationship of client and appraiser dates to late 1970’s with a shared common interest and knowledge of Japanese textiles. With help and guidance by professional wood turners …, connections through threads to authorities in the Contemporary Craft movement …, and the constant continuing education mandated by the American Society of Appraisers, this appraiser is competent to appraise contemporary wood turned bowls, the subject of this report. It is with confidence this appraiser has prepared this charitable contribution report.

I turned to a well-known artist, Jack Lenor Larsen, for an expert opinion as the previous President of The American Craft Council. In my discussion of the artist, I quote his reply to me …Bob Stockdale’s long and productive career resulted in an extraordinary body of fine work. … Of international wood turners, he is among the best.

David Ellsworth, a wood turner of comparable merit to Stocksdale, and teacher, answered specific questions as to characteristics of quality of a lathe turned wood bowl.

“The mark of a “good” bowl, and its subsequent dollar value, involves design …execution … the intent of the maker (craft/art/sculpture/etc.)… the maker’s overall reputation including number and quality of permanent museum collections they are in, and history of sales.”

I quoted him when concluding a value of a Stocksdale bowl, BLACK WALNUT, turned in 1958 and included in the Brussels World’s Fair. He had kept this bowl as an example of his finest work.

My scope of work included contacting former dealers of Stocksdale’s work.
Kevin Wallace, a dealer, wrote:
As an Elder Statesman in the Contemporary Studio Woodturning Movement [Stocksdale] was highly collected for historical reasons – no collection of artistic woodturning was considered complete without at least one Stocksdale.…,[he] had a number of loyal collectors who purchased dozens of works in various sizes, shapes and woods There are certain woods that are considered more desirable, some because they are difficult to work… some because they were exotic woods and true rarities. There were certain forms that were more desirable, such a;s a particular elliptical shape he was known for and particularly dramatic works.

Another authority contacted was independent curator and scholar Signe Mayfield, formerly curator of the Palo Alto Cultural Center. She had authored two books on Stocksdale, conducted a Smithsonian Oral interview. Mayfield wrote…. Bob Stocksdale was a great master and a pivotal figure, who influenced generations in the field of woodturning. …His lathe-turned bowls in rare woods as a whole form a compendium of endangered woods.

The secondary market for Stocksdale bowls is auction. That variable made concluding values on the top 1% of the over 3000 bowls he made, quite tricky. Auctions are unpredictable. I used comparable sales from other wood turners, writing value conclusions with those sold in today’s market that were similar in size, shape, and quality of execution among others.

When given the opportunity, look at Bob Stocksdale’s bowls. The Oakland Museum has about 20 examples and the deYoung Museum has around six or more. I was honored to handle such works of art.