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Local artist finds his niche in retirement

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BEMIDJI — Retired and looking for a new hobby, Darrell Magnussen turned to an interest he had for sometime but never took very seriously — woodworking.

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He and his wife, Margo, spent four winters in Texas and he was fascinated by the men who were turning out segmented bowls. He then set out to learn what they had to teach.

When he returned to Bemidji, old friends such as Leland Hayes and John Rubash were there to mentor the fledgling artisan, who added his own touches to the creation of wooden segmented bowls and urns.

World travelers, Magnussen and Margo are always looking for the unusual in woods and minerals to be used in his art. For example, while walking a beach in Latvia, they found amber, natural to that part of the world, and took home pieces later imbedded in a bowl.

"This is Tino wood from in Chile," Magnussen said in describing a piece he found online. "It is found in volcanic ash and notable for the black mineral striations in the reddish-brown body, and very expensive."

Another bowl was turned from a piece of Box Elder, thought of a "junk wood," but turn into the body of the wood, and you will find a white background with red flames. Look for that particular bowl during the Studio Cruise.

Then there are the simple bowls turned from Black Ash burl; just waiting to be filled with potpourri or some delicious nut morsels.

Magnussen, who has been retired going on 35 years, went on to describe just how the individual pieces of a segmented bowl are made.

"For a 16 sided bowl, for example, you need 16 individual pieces and each one would have to be a 11.24 degree cut on an angle on each side of the piece so that you end up with a 360 degree circle when you are done (assembling the individual pieces)," Magnussen said. "If you are off one quarter of one degree, when you put them together you will have a four inch gap when you put them together."

"My Inspiration in Wood" started as a hobby which has evolved into a thriving business on Etsy, a website used by crafters and artists to display and sell their art. Darrell creates each piece and Margo is the business person who packs and sends the pieces all over the United States. He noted once they put "shipping included" on their website, the orders really started to pick up.

This past summer, Magnussen won first premium at the Beltrami County Fair for his bowl with Thunderbird designs with an open segmented rim. The bowl is constructed of 277 individual pieces of walnut and black cherry; the largest number of pieces he has used to date, he said.

Another type of vessel Magnussen is making are cremation urns for animals and humans. The smallest urns are for infants and with a little bit of alteration, this type of urn can be used for a pet’s remains with his name and paw print on the cover.

This year’s Studio Cruise will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 18-19 and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 20. As in past years, the tour is separated by location into the orange, red and purple tours.

The Magnussen studio is on the purple tour, which also includes fabric artist Mary Therese, sculptor Wanda Riese Odegard, wood turners Kathy and David Towley and artist Paula Swenson.

Color brochures with detailed cruise map and instructions are available at the Visitor’s Center downtown by Paul and Babe and at Watermark Gallery (formerly Bemidji Community Arts Center).

The three-day event is free and open to the public, and there are early shopping opportunities as there are also retail merchants and galleries on the different routes.

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