Buren Bloomer

Buren Bloomer, Bowl Maker, Woodworker and Retired School Teacher and Coal Miner, Dryden, Virginia:

I was a miner for fifteen years. I’ve been making handmade bowls for 14 years. My brother made a few and I kept buying them from him for Christmas presents, birthday presents… things like that. Then I retired and didn’t have anything to do so I started making them myself. All hand-hewn, I go out and get my own wood. I don’t buy any wood. I just go out and find it, any kind of wood. 

I just find a log and cut me off a piece, you know, a couple of feet long. I turn it up and cut a couple of blocks out of it. Cut it with a chain saw. I make everything with a chain saw. I cut it and make a block and I more or less imagine what I wanna make and I draw sort of a pattern on it and start cutting. Then I start sanding. Everything is done with the chain saw except the sanding. Then I put a food safe, food finish on it, salad bowl finish. From start to finish I have 18 to 18 1/2 hours in each bowl. 

I grew up at the head of this valley, Powell Valley. My dad owned a recreation center, a roller rink, skating rink, a lake, and swimming, picnicking, horseshoe pitching things like that. That’s where I grew up. I worked there since I was 9 years old. I was a lifeguard during the summer, mowed grass, whatever. I was busy all the time. Worked in the skating rink in the winter.

I went to school at Norton (VA). We drove to school across the mountain to Norton. I got my degree at LMU and my Master’s at Berea (KY).

I went from teaching to coal mining. I like hard work and working with my hands. I was raising kids and needed the money.

There was a lot more money in mining than teaching. Mining is a hard job. It really is. I worked underground. I worked in strip jobs and the prep plant. I’ve worked them all. I enjoyed underground the most. It’s a different world. I was a roof bolter. I’ve been covered up two or three times. It is scary. You have to be real careful. Things happen. There is always danger in anything you go after in them mines. I’ll tell you it’s rough. 

Anything can happen at any time. Everybody has to watch everybody. Everybody knew what everybody else was supposed to be doing. It’s a brotherhood. We all looked out for each other.