Playing with wood blocks |

Playing with wood blocks

Cassie Pence
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyArtist Anne Shutan unleashes the inner souls of trees with her 6-foot-tall band saw.

EAGLE-VAIL – Artist Anne Shutan unleashes the inner souls of trees with her 6-foot-tall band saw. She manipulates pieces of wood into sexy, flowing sculptures, sanding every knot and knarl into attention.A band saw is a very large power tool with a blade that is long and flexible with teeth on one side. Shutan uses the tool like Picasso used his brush.”I draw better with wood and a saw than I do with a pencil,” Shutan said.She feeds a large beam of wood through the band saw, turning as the wood and the grain dictate, to create kinetic lines in the sculpture. “Sometimes the wood will say, ‘no, we’re not going that way.’ So you have to be open. You have to say, ‘OK,’ where are we going?” Shutan said.

At the end of the sculpting process, Shutan sands the wood. After 20 years of working with wood, she is still surprised at what rings, knots or knarls can emerge.”Most often it is a surprise. It is so different to what it looks like on the inside than the outside. Kind of like you and I,” Shutan said. “You really see what the tree is all about.”Shutan, whose work is on display at The Collaborative in Eagle-Vail, wasn’t always a wood worker. Like most young people, she needed a job. She wanted to learn to make furniture. She traveled around to various shops, but the “good ol’ backwards boys” answered all the same: a woman with no experience, no thanks.Shutan finally convinced a production furniture company of her desire to learn the trade. The first day on the job it was as if a light shone down upon her; she experienced an epiphany. It was her destiny to work with wood.She soon started her own company and in the process an interior designer introduced her to master wood worker Jan de Swart. Their connection was instant, and Swart said to her, “I have finally met someone to share my secrets with.”

“There was hardly a breath between us we were so close. It was a magical connection. He pulled me into the sculpture,” Shutan said.Shutan trained with Swart the last two years of his life, and his wife was convinced Shutan kept the master alive.”My life changed. I knew that you could create what you wanted to and do things with wood that you never thought could possibly be done,” Shutan said.Shutan’s work dances as if swaying in time to music. Take for instance her whimsical wooden beams or totems. Light hits different parts of the beams’ smooth contours, and even though the sculpture is still like a soldier, it projects motion.Music heavily influences Shutan, who plays the guitar. She listens to Ani DiFranco every day in her Boulder studio. Treble clef and note shapes appear in her art work, and sometimes her work takes on the shape of an abstract instrument, like a bass or violin.

Shutan still creates furniture on commission and is best known for her mahogany doors. Both sides are sculpted and exact opposites of each other. Some people get stuck outside the homes where her doors abide, she said, entranced by the workmanship.Doors are a metaphor for Shutan. Not only is it the first impression of a home, but Shutan sculpted a door for her master Swart during her first door exhibition.”At that show he said, ‘you don’t need me anymore,’ and about a week later he died,” Shutan said. For Swart, Shutan’s door was his exit from this world. After 20 years of woodworking, Shutan is finally making herself a door. But it is not her exit from the craft. The artist is still truly amazed at what she designs.”I haven’t made anything twice. It keeps it interesting. I like the freedom of not knowing what is next. It is a harder lesson in life to not know what’s coming next,” Shutan said.For more information on the artist, go online at, or call The Collaborative in Eagle-Vail at 949-4ART.Vail Colorado

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