Hardwood Artisan

PAYSON ARTS

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Artisan Dan Basinski is a man who will do just about anything not to work what he considers a "real job."

He has sold sailboats and catamarans.

He also used to race them.

He is an avid cyclist, both motorized and muscle-powered.

And, he is proud to be an owner of cooperative art gallery, Down the Street.

When Basinski looks at a plain rectangle of hardwood and sees the potential. He draws his three-dimensional design on the surface, then begins to carve.

For instance, he shapes the bowl a "nut passer" first. From its interior shape, he then decides what the balance and shape of the handle will be. He also decides where the base of the bowl part will sit and its shape.

He carves the rough shape using a chisel and mallet for small sections and an electric drill for larger chunks.

Next comes finer and finer grades of sandpaper to smooth the edges and insides of the bowl.

He uses a disk sander and sanding drums to further perfect the shape and smoothness of the piece.

A Japanese woodworking trick of immersion in water comes towards the end of the sanding process.

When Basinski is completely satisfied with the utensil, he soaks it in mineral oil, burnishes it with steel wool and buffs it with a clean, dry cloth.

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The cooking utensils Dan Basinski creates start out as a rectangle of wood. As he carves away each section of excess wood, his design emerges.

And that is how a rectangular block of wood, tooled by the hands of a craftsman becomes a useful shape that is pleasing to the eye, feels wonderful in the hand and is meant to be passed down from cook to cook.

Basinski has worked with wood for a couple of decades.

His grandfather lost his ring and middle finger in a woodworking accident and his father lost a pointer finger, so when Basinski decided he would build the house he and Linda would live in, he thought, "I had better learn how to use the tools, so I don't cut my fingers off."

He started with a beginning woodworking class when the couple still lived in the Valley.

When they began to build, he incorporated native wood into the spiral staircase of the house. He has made many of the rustic wooden tables that make the interior of their home so welcoming.

One day about five years ago, his wife, Linda Nannizzi, whom he calls "the culinary alchemist," broke a spoon she liked and asked Dan to make another one.

That first spoon had a basic straight handle.

He made a few others for gifts and his new avocation was launched.

The inspiration for the sales hook came from nature.

"I love the monsoon thunderstorms," he said. "If you look, it's a reach, but if you look the handles are lightning bolts."

When some people look at his spoons, they sometimes say "wow, that's a lot of work."

"Everybody has to do something," Basinski said. "I'm just fortunate to be able to do this."

RESUME

Name: Dan Basinski

Medium: Serving utensils crafted from exotic hardwoods.

The woods from the U.S.: Madrone, curly maple, walnut and cherry.

Exotic woods: Chakte vega, chakte kok, purple-heart, canary and maca.

Motto: I am not afraid to see what is over the next horizon; in fact, I am looking forward to it. Don't be afraid to hop on an opportunity when it comes by and don't be afraid to leave a situation when it is time.

Award most proud of: I was tickled to win second place in the Three-Dimensional Art category of the Payson Art League's Fall 2005 Show. It was my first juried show.

Advice to beginning artists: You never fail until you quit.

Why Star Valley? We weren't content in the city and had camped, hiked and fished in the Rim Country. In 1981, I was selling a catamaran. The man who answered the ad coincidentally owned property in Diamond Point. We purchased it and for the next six years came up, had bottle of wine on the property and said, "One of these days." We started building our log home and barn workshop in 1987.

Upcoming project: There are five pieces of wood waiting on my workbench.

Hobbies: I enjoy riding mountain and road bicycles and also riding my KLR 650 Kawasaki motorcycle. I am a motor referee for NORBA and USCF races.

Faves:

Food: Anything my wife Linda cooks. (She is also the quality control for Dan's spoons and is an artist in her own right -- she creates decorative and functional sculptures.)

Music: Techno, country, some classical and some jazz

Movie: "On Any Sunday"

Points of contact: Down the Street Art Gallery 703 W. Main St., Payson (928) 468-6129 and my studio, The Log Barn at Seldom Creek. (928) 978-2365.

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