Steiner extends life of a tree | SteamboatToday.com
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Steiner extends life of a tree

Autumn Phillips
° Opening reception for an exhibit of work by Ben Steiner and Susan Thompson ° 5 to 7 p.m. today ° TEI Modern Contemporary Gallery in the Torian Plum Plaza. ° The gallery is open from noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. ° 879-2240

Maybe you remember the loud crash or the storm that brought a huge cottonwood behind Backdoor Sports to the ground. If you don’t remember it, Ben Steiner does. He showed up on the scene after getting a call from a friend who was cleaning up afterward, and he took a piece of the tree home.

That piece of wood, a foot-tall stump from the downed cottonwood, has been on the floor in his woodshop since then. For months, he has tripped over it and stubbed toes on it. Every day, he passes it, and if he doesn’t look at it directly, he sees it out of the corner of his eye. Every day, his subconscious examines that piece of wood. His mind carves it and shapes it.

° Opening reception for an exhibit of work by Ben Steiner and Susan Thompson ° 5 to 7 p.m. today ° TEI Modern Contemporary Gallery in the Torian Plum Plaza. ° The gallery is open from noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. ° 879-2240

The day will come, probably soon, when he will pick it up, dust it off and put it on his lathe. It won’t take long to scrape away the bark and carve away the part of the log that no longer is necessary for the next chapter of its existence.

By the time he is finished, that piece of cottonwood, which would have been left to rot if he hadn’t picked it up, will become a beautiful bowl.

“The wood dictates what (a bowl) looks like,” Steiner said. He looks at the grains and the knots and lets them steer his knife.

Everything Steiner makes is meant to be used. It is art in appearance, but it also is functionally finished with food-safe oils and ready for the well-appointed dinner table.

All of his woodworking — bowls, vases and furniture — is made from recycled or naturally downed wood.

“A tree has a life cycle, and that life has an end,” Steiner said. “I also like the idea that I’m using local woods. Aspens have a short life in the life of trees, and they are plentiful, and Cottonwoods are these great shade trees, but they are not used for anything.”

Steiner gets calls from construction workers who are felling aspen groves on a new home site or from workers who are cleaning up trees that have died in town. He wanders through the woods and finds trees that have fallen.

“I love spending time in the woods,” he said. “There is such a beauty there, and I like to express my creativity through it.”


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