Skip to main content

Steamboat Magazine


12/01/2002 01:00AM ● By Anonymous

Winter 2002:


From natural beauty to beautiful craftsmanship at the hands of an engineer     The 4 million trees that were flattened in the Routt Divide Blowdown of 1997 provide local craftsman Ben Steiner with almost infinite resources. So do city maintenance crews every time they fell an old, decaying cottonwood along Butcherknife Creek, which happens to be practically in Ben’s backyard.  ##image1-right-Ben Steiner creates art from fallen trees. Photo courtesy of Tim Murphy.#     “Dead and down” may sound like a depressing term, but when Ben hears those words, he immediately perceives their potential as a nesource of materials to be turned, sanded and polished in his wood shop. What once was a twisted, knotty, dried-up tree trunk turns into a beautifully finished yet practical wooden bowl under Ben’s weathered hands.    “What I enjoy doing most is taking a rough chunk of log and turning it on a lathe and making it into something beautiful,” Ben says.      Ben’s profession as a locomotive engineer led to his avocation as a carpenter, which in turn led him to discover the fine art of creating wooden bowls, vases and potpourri containers. For 32 years, Ben has been working for the railroad, often being called out in the middle of the night to \ move coal quickly and efficiently from Routt County mines to distant destinations.     Crafting fine artwork is quite a contrast from driving a train carrying 20,000 tons of coal. “My dad was a cabinet maker,” Ben says. “Working in my shop is relaxing. It’s a hobby that’s growing into way more.”     The bowls are in such demand that Ben has started a fledgling business, selling his work at Home on the Range in Torian Plum Plaza. Each bowl comes with a little story about the origin of the wood, making them popular with visitors as well as locals. Each piece is signed.  Ben’s wooden artwork sells for anywhere from $40 for a small vase to $1,200 for an extra-large bowl.Strings picks up the tent stakes, hopes to move in summer 2003    Lawrence of Arabia it is not, but the Strings in the Mountains’ music festival is literally picking up its tent and moving on.   After five years of searching, the increasingly popular program has found a new home. Strings’ organizers finalized a deal to move to a 7-acre site across the street from the tennis bubble and the ski area remote parking lot. If Steamboat Springs’ temperamental spring weather cooperates so contractors can get an early start on the project, Strings may be in its nelocation for the summer 2003 concert season.    At first, Strings plans to use its existing tent – outfitted with nehigh-tech fabric – to hold performances. The administrative offices and ticket booth will also be relocated to the nesite, where Strings hopes one day to build a 500-seat permanent facility.      Since its inception in 1988, Strings’ resounding success has posed challenges for festival organizers. Its first concert was in the nodefunct Steamboat Athletic Club, and attendance so far exceeded expectations that people were literally hanging off the roof beams to hear the music.    That year, the festival consisted of eight performances, which attracted a total of 1,500 people. In 2002, Strings’ programming consisted of 85 performances, reaching an audience of 30,000 people. From its core of chamber music, Strings has expanded to include its “Different Tempo” series, which features everything from jazz to country, holiday galas, youth programs, family concerts, free outdoor music and lectures.    Its classical music program features internationally recognized artists, including winners of the Tchaikovsky, Van Cliburn and Naumburg competitions, to name a few.       Grammy nominees, renowned soloists and concertmasters from America’s top symphonies also perform at Strings.     Strings has been in its current home in Torian Plaza at the base of the ski mountain since 1992. “Torian has provided a terrific location for us,” says Strings CEO Kay Clagett. “It has allowed us to groand to develop. Now, we’re really excited about the future. The neland allows us to buildto our potential.”Cosmopolitan sophistication and ancient imagery juxtaposed in harmony    Bold canvas, colorful strokes and contemporary style are the hallmarks of mixed media artist Eileen Braziel, whose work is distinctly “unSteamboat,” in the best sense of the word.   What other local artist would use a swatch of fake fur as her canvas? Or be inspired by  dreams to create work with as much integrity as that of Paul Klee? Or incorporate cryptic  imagery in her art?   “My present work is working from my dreams, my recent studies in mythology and nature,” she says.   The results defy her esoteric approach, creating a worldly ambiance wherever it hangs, but perhaps most especially at Café Diva, which seems especially suited to her style. “They samy artwork at the Chieftain (on Lincoln Avenue) before they even opened the restaurant, and they approached me,” she recalls. “People call me a lot with contemporary ideas.”  Ironically, ancient times and rural heritage have much to do with Eileen’s 21st-century style. She wrote her master’s thesis on Southwestern pueblo underground ritual, gaining knowledge which she applies to her dreams today.    Her mother’s talent in the old-fashioned art of quilting is also evident in Eileen’s work, much of which is segmented or sewn. “My mother is a quilter, always putting things together to create.”    In a continuation of the contrasts so evident in her work, Eileen is also influenced by her father, a chemist, “always reducing things to create. Since my art reflects uniting opposites, and dreams will encourage this, I have juxtaposed a chalkboard with physics equations, erased and revealed, as well as mixed media sewn together. I will sometimes purposely tear or burn areas in the canvas and seit together to shomending.”   Seeking yet more neinspiration from ancient sources, Eileen and her family are  establishing a second home in Santa Fe, where Eileen is working in a contemporary gallery and shoher art in a loft studio.