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About Birchleaf Turning

About the  Artist – John Unruh

John Unruh and his four sisters were raised in a household full of art and music. His creativity was stimulated and nourished by his father, an opthalmologist, a life-long oil-on-canvas artist and his mother, a skilled seamstress of clothing, quilting and needlework designs. He had a long business career working with hundreds of businesses to develop their marketing and advertising campaigns. This led to a multi-year residency in Slovakia where he taught MBA students in several countries while also teaching 15 years several thousand students in over a 100 countries for the University of Liverpool’s online MBA programme.  Returning to Fairbanks, he and his wife built their home on 17 acres/6.8 hectares about 25 miles/40kms in the beautiful woods of the Tanana Valley.

This beautiful area is a major source of inspiration for his designs and he and his wife, Alica work together to provide mutual critique and support.


One of his primary goals in woodturning is to reveal the beauty of the Interior’s Birch trees (sp. Betula neoalaskana).  There are millions of Birch trees in the forests of Interior Alaska and each one reveals its beauty as it’s turned on his lathe to make yet another beautiful bowl, platter or commemorative piece.  Occasionally, he uses White Spruce, Chokecherry, Balsam Poplar or rarely, Diamond Willow.  Wood is a natural product so he will enhance the shading, minor fault lines and density differences to expand its artistic value.


Art Galleries

See our hand made Alaskan Wooden Bowls and Artwork at these Galleries and Gift Shops

Two Street Gallery

535 Second Avenue, Suite 102
Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks Arts Association
Bear Gallery

Alaska Centennial Center
for the Arts
Pioneer Park, 2300 Airport Way,
Fairbanks, Alaska

Turnagain Gallery

29859 Seward Hwy,
Anchorage, Alaska

Our Process

Turning Wood into Functional Art

Our Process 

People often ask me how I find wood and if it’s from a sustainable forest.  We live in a heavily forested region of Alaska and this includes our own property of just over 17 acres/6.92 hectares.  I never cut down a healthy living tree, so I literally check our land and surround region looking for trees that are in process of dying or have blown down.  Our forests are extremely important to us and the moose, fox, ravens, woodpeckers and many other small creatures that live with us.  As I select the wood, I have to be sure it is solid.  I then rough turn it on the lathe and put it in a drying box for several weeks or even two or three months.  Only when it is dry do I put it on the lathe for finishing.

From Forest to Functional Art

Our Products

About our Products

I strive to make each piece a work of functional art.  A salad bowl, party bowl or smaller bowl such as a candy or nut dish make fine containers for food items but I also want it to be distinctive.  No two pieces are the same.  The wood has different shading so it accepts stains and food-safe oils differently.  I do the very best I can to make your piece attractive, unique and, of course, functional.