2021 Turning to the Future


Turning to the Future is sponsored by the American Association of Woodturners (AAW) to encourage and support students and instructors in reaching for and attaining the highest levels of skill in the use of the lathe. The contest is open to eligible students in North America.

There are two divisions, High School and Post-Secondary, with two categories each: Functional and Open. Five finalists in each division category will be chosen to have their work displayed at the 2021 AWFS®Fair in Las Vegas, Nevada. Work will be evaluated on craftsmanship, aesthetic appeal, creativity and/or utility, and process documentation. Application period opens March 1, 2021. Deadline for submissions is May 3, 2021. There is no entry fee.

A Grand Prize (TBA), First Prize ($500) and Second Prize ($250) will be awarded in the High School and Post-secondary divisions. One People’s Choice prize ($250) will be awarded.

Your instructor must complete the online School Registration form by May 3rd for your application to be considered.

We recommend reviewing the application questions listed below and thinking about them as you develop your project. Process images and descriptions are encouraged.

2021 Schedule

  • March 1: Application period opens
  • May 3: Application and Release Form Deadline (Students) and School Registration Form and Instructor Form Deadline (Instructors)
  • May 17: Finalists notified
  • June 4: Deadline for coordinating shipping arrangements to Las Vegas Convention Center
  • July 18: Day to personally deliver work to Las Vegas Convention Center
  • July 20: Final on-site judging
  • July 20-23: AWFS®Fair; All finalists’ projects on display




  • All high school students 16 years old and over
  • Full-time, degree, diploma or certificate-seeking post-secondary students in an accredited woodworking, woodturning, art, or design program. Post-secondary schools include colleges and universities as well as trade, design, and art schools.
  • Part-time, degree or certificate seeking students who are transitioning into a career in woodworking or design.
  • Students in specialty schools or programs, or under apprenticeships may be accepted on a case-by-case basis.
  • All students, including those who have graduated, must have the support of their instructor and school where the work was completed.
  • Students who make their living (or substantial income) from woodworking careers are not eligible.



  • Entries are restricted to two (2) per student.
  • Project must have been created between May 2019 and April 2021.
  • All forms of turning are eligible, including but not limited to:  traditional, multi-axis, segmented, and rose engine/ornamental. All work must be created at least significantly in part on the lathe.
  • Work must be no larger than 20” in diameter and 40” in height.
  • Project construction must be complete at the time of entry. The project may be lacking the finish coating, but student must specify in entry questions what finishing
  • processes will be used. If selected as a finalist, the project must be completely finished before sending to the AWFS®Fair.
  • Students must disclose if they have used manufactured parts or if they have involved any other persons or companies in their process.
  • A student may submit a maximum of two (2) projects, but must complete a separate submission for each project.



The competition is divided between High School and Post-Secondary levels. The entry categories are as follows:

  • Functional - work created for use
  • Open - creative, decorative, or conceptual pieces not meant for use



Judging is done by a professional woodturner in consultation with the AAW curator.

Judging Criteria:

  1. Design innovation on original pieces; or quality of execution of a known style or variation.
  2. Craftsmanship: quality of turning and construction, material choice and use, detailing, sanding quality, finishing quality.
  3. Functionality (if object is meant to be used)
  4. Appropriateness of the technique and design to the purpose of the object
  5. Aesthetics, scale, proportion, balance, rhythm, emphasis and unity.

**Additional credit will be given during final judging if you include step-by-step documentation of your project in your application.



High school and post-secondary school entries are judged and awarded separately.

  • First Place (Per Division) $500
  • Second Place (Per Division) $200
  • Grand Prize (Per Division) To be announced
  • People’s Choice (One prize only) $250
  • Judges reserve the right to skip an award level in any category if they so choose.

All finalists will receive a certificate of merit and a one-year AAW digital membership.


Entry Instructions

Review entry steps below now to prepare for your entry. Registration period is March 1-May 3, 2021.

  1. Schools/instructors must complete the online School Registration between March 14 and May 3, 2021
  2. Students must answer the online questions listed below. Do NOT include your name, your school’s name, your location, or any other information that may identify you, your teacher, or your woodworking program when answering the online questions. (NOTE: We recommend typing your answers in Microsoft Word first, then copying and pasting your answers into the online form.)

Form Questions

  1. What is your inspiration for this piece? (If the piece is a reproduction, explain whether your intent was to make a precise reproduction or if you have intentionally changed some details.)  
  2. What are your project goals?  Did you use a unique process, design element, or construction method?  
  3. Did you experience any design, turning, or construction challenges? How did you solve them?  
  4. What type of wood(s) or material(s)did you use? Why? What type of finish did you use? (or intend to use if finish coat is not yet applied at time of entry)  
  5. Did you use of any special equipment, design software, jigs, or hardware? Were any of these new to you?  
  6. List any manufactured parts that were used, if any, or if and how any other persons or companies were involved in the process. This must be disclosed.

Upload Photos

  1. Upload up to four (4) photos of the completed project. Two are required. Upload these photos as JPEG files. Note: Preliminary judging is heavily reliant on the photos. It is to your advantage to submit the best quality possible: they should be in focus and show your project clearly. We recommend at least two different views.  (Some students hire a professional photographer or employ the services of their advisor or the photography department at their school for this task.)  
  2. Construction Photos/Documentation: Upload at least one (1) additional image showing the project during turning, or project plans, drawings, or working sketches. (Judges will not score based on the quality of construction documentation, but will use them as reference). If submitting photos, crop or remove people from the images to the best of your ability.
  3. (Optional) If you have created a step-by-step document, please upload it as a PDF.



AWFS will pre-register all participating students ad instructors who wish to attend at no charge. Guests of students who would like to see the competition display area will need to pay for show registration ($30 in advance, $50 on-site.)

There is not a travel or lodging stipend for Turning to the Future. If your school offers support, please let us know and we will send them an official notice.



Tib Shaw, [email protected], 651-484-9094

Joyce Kunz, Ray of Light (Photo: Tib Shaw)


Justin Fiaschetti, Tornado Bowl (Photo: Alan Harp)


Noah Robitschek, Wooden Windows (Photo: Tib Shaw)


Alex Ellis, Walnut Cathedral (Photo: Tib Shaw)