Ray Key BEM
Woodturner’s contribution and skills recognised
in Queen’s Birthday Honours List
A lifetime’s contribution to the craft of woodturning has been recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours Lists.
Ray Key has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to woodturning, a craft he has been involved with for almost 50 years.
He became an apprentice pattern maker in 1958 and woodturning was one element of his training. He bought his first lathe in 1965 and in 1973 he became a full time woodturner.
Ray said: ‘I’ve always loved the beauty of wood – its warmth and tactility. I like to read the wood and bring out the best in it. My quest is to produce objects of beauty and elegant simplicity. I am a great believer in the object as a whole; not a disjointed assemblage of different ones. 'Keep it simple stupid', 'let the wood speak for itself' and 'if in doubt leave it out' are my design bywords. I’m happy this ancient craft is now accepted as an art form.’
His passion for woodturning has led Ray to promote and champion this craft to international audiences. He was involved in setting up the first international seminar for woodturners in 1980, and has been a prime mover in developing knowledge and respect for woodturning in the UK and overseas.
In 1987 Ray became the founding Chairman of the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain (AWGB). In 1997 he was made a life member of the AWGB and in 1988 he was appointed President. When the AWGB was established there were around 300 woodturners in the UK, in 2015 there are around 3,500. He is the only non-American to hold Honorary Life Membership of the Association of American Woodturners and in 2002 he was made a Freeman by Presentation by the Worshipful Company of Turners.
Ray, who lives in Evesham in Worcestershire, said: ‘Crafts have been overlooked for so long but it’s starting to change. I hope more craftspeople get more recognition for their involvement and input in craft. A lot of people put in a lot of time, not for personal gain, but for the betterment of their craft.’
Ray was nominated for his award by the Heritage Crafts Association (HCA). This was the eighth successive and successful nomination by the HCA.
Robin Wood, chair of the HCA, said: ‘This is great recognition for the skills and expertise of traditional craftspeople and a boost for the heritage crafts sector. Interest in heritage crafts is growing and these honours show the important role and value that heritage crafts bring not only to people’s lives, but highlight the huge contribution traditional crafts make to the economy, being equivalent to the petrochemical industry.’