Temple Beth Israel of Pomona is thrilled to share exciting news of one of their long-time congregants, Hal Metlitzky. Hal and his wife Lilian have been members of Temple Beth Israel for almost 40 years and raised their children Elana, Russell, and Warren here. Along with an academic degree in Electrical Engineering, Hal is a renowned artist specializing in woodworking and woodturning. One of Hal’s woodturning pieces, “Cyclone,” will be added to the prestigious permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery.
Hal traces his woodworking beginnings to 1972 in South Africa where he was newly employed as an electrical engineer. As a recent graduate, Hal remembers that his “salary was not the highest in town.” He and his wife Lilian were expecting their first baby. As they needed a changing table for the baby, Hal merged his engineering background with his artistic ability. He fashioned a changing table with a rim, sliding doors, and a place on top for the baby’s bathtub. His next project was the crib. With no safety regulations in place at the time for cribs, Hal realized that the bars had to be made close together to ensure the baby’s head would not become wedged. After building a strong crib with adjustable heights, Hal ended up building other children’s furniture, and thus started his woodworking avocation.
At this time, Hal also took up woodturning which was not mainstreamed in South Africa. He says he was self-taught in the art of woodturning, even though he did not have all the tools and had little time with a new family and working full time as an engineer. After his retirement, Hal created what is now known as the “Metlitzky technique of stacking multiple thin layers of segmented rings and rotating them through set angles to produce a swirling effect.” This technique draws the viewer’s attention towards the center of the piece.
Hal is the recipient of many awards, including the People’s Choice Award of American Association of Woodturners “Merging” Juried Exhibition in 2015. His works have appeared in numerous art publications and books and his pieces have been featured in public art exhibits as well as in private collections. Hal looks forward to the Renwick’s 50th Anniversary when “Cyclone,” along with other pieces, becomes part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection.
Joan Gerard is contributing writer to Jlife magazine.