Member X; Peter Simmons Reclaiming Poplar Forest

Peter Simmons, a jolly fellow with a warm accent, spends days transforming wood at Vector Space. A relatively new member at two and a half years, Peter’s roots take him back to Watford, England. Now, at home in cozy little Lynchburg, Vector Space is proud to say that Simmons regularly visits to kick up a little dust, reshape some wood, and walk through the door with material that has a story tucked under his arm.

During an unsuspecting walk on the trails surrounding Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, Peter and his wife Brenda Simmons wandered right into a new leaf of opportunity for his woodworking. Chatting it up with historians on the Jeffersonian premises, he realized there was an extraordinary opportunity at hand, one that matched his philanthropic heart and his craft. The opportunity to use wood with more to say than your average yardstick! Teaming with specialists at the site Peter made a plan to breathe new life into former beams once used to hold up parts of the old estate. Beams became bowls! Individually crafted with the artist's hands no two bowls are just the same and none of the unique pieces spend much time away from Poplar Forest. The material may take a trip to Vector Space for a treatment on the lathe, but each bowl is then donated back to this world heritage site where it sprouts new energy for the museum, displayed with other significant works and for sale on site. Proceeds from the Museum Shop directly support educational programs, exhibits and property restoration efforts. Peter has donated a multitude of pieces back to Poplar Forest since his journey with woodworking began with friend, mentor, and fellow regular at Vector Space, Des Black.

Peter began learning with Des in September of last year. Since that time Peter has become accustomed to using wood that is found, reclaimed or discarded and he has been absolutely prolific in his woodworking endeavors, having finished an estimated eighty pieces since last year! Perhaps even more astonishingly Peter has sold only two! When I realized this he must have seen my gaping mouth, because he graciously went on to explain that he prefers to donate his pieces to organizations or gift them to friends and family. To explain this incredible amount of work Peter modestly remarks “I just like working with materials and keeping my brain active.”

I have my own suspicions that Peter’s professional life as a print instructor was quite a big job that left some large shoes to fill when retirement time came. Peter spent many of his career years training technicians to use printers…not just any printers, printers the size of the Vector Space woodshop itself! So, It is with great excitement that Vector Space gets to be a budding on looker nestled in the understory of Peter’s body of work. We can’t wait to see what he continues to do with his grand energy, creative prowess, and philanthropic heart. Thanks for taking us along, Peter.

Peter also enjoys collaborating with his wife Brenda, a painter, spending time with his children, and volunteering around the world for disaster relief with the Red Cross.