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Studio Cruise '09 - Paying it forward: Woodworker to exhibit unique furniture

"We have sawdust in our veins," says Duane Shoup, the son and grandson of carpenters. Shoup will show off his unique way of making furniture during the Studio Cruise '09 Oct. 16-18. His studio is south of Shevlin. Pioneer Photo/Patt Rall

A visit to the Wildwood Rustic furniture studio and workshop of Duane Shoup in Shevlin is a special feature of Studio Cruise '09.

A new participant in this year's juried Studio Cruise 2009, Shoup welcomes visitors to his shop as a change of pace for him and an adventure for his visitors.

From Bemidji, take U.S. Highway 2 west through Shevlin, left on Clearweater County Road 110, south for 6.9 miles to 29175 243rd Ave.

Shoup said he believes in paying it forward and loves to share what he has learned from years of woodworking with youngsters, teens, young fathers, people entering middle age and retirees looking for a new avocation.

Shoup started to make furniture in the mid-1970s before coming to settle in northern Minnesota. He read an article in Mother Earth News magazine about bentwood chairs. Someone gave him instructions, and he made a few. He sold them, and that was the beginning of his love of furniture making.

"We used to come up to vacation here," Shoup said. "My dad loved to fish. We had friends who had a place here. In your late 20s, you reach a point in life where you wonder what you want to be, where you want to go. So I started snooping around and found this piece of property."

He said his vision was to buy a piece of land, saw some of the timber off the land and build himself a house.

Part of Shoup's story involves "mentoring by older men, subsistence farmers who lived a simple life: farming, fishing, they were jack of all trades," he said. "You see a lot of them around here. They were self sufficient."

The son and grandson of a carpenter, - "we have sawdust in our veins" - Shoup relied upon local farmers and appreciated how they were so willing to help him build his dream home. Although he had worked in construction and on some houses in Illinois, in Shevlin, he started with a hole in the ground. The basement is made from field stone and cement. It took him almost four years to complete his cabin by coming in the summer to work a bit and then return home to his job. Eventually, he finished his cabin, workshop and some outbuildings to complete his little "town."

"This furniture stuff is self taught; I studied a lot, read a lot and looked at what other people were doing," he said. "I never started this thinking that I am an artist."

But people telling him "This is art."

Shoup is years ahead of the green movement as he is putting value to wood and making furniture from cast-offs - pieces too small to be of use to builders, harvested and dead trees cast aside to be burned, thrown into landfills or chewed up to make mulch. He is processing it and incorporating it into a piece of furniture that will live forever.

"Solid wood is like a living breathing thing," he said. "In the winter time, my table curves up a little bit, and now it is straight. All woodworkers know that we have to learn how to deal with those things. It's part of the game."

Shoup said a custom piece of furniture he starts from scratch can be anything he wants. He incorporates sculpted elements into his designs and then takes the pieces to craft shows for people to see and feel and custom order to fit themselves.

In April, when Shoup went to the American Crafts Council show at the River Center in St. Paul, he was pleased to see that no other furniture maker there had work like his. He is making a high end product - a straight-forward, elegant, more contemporary look that he has named "Rustic Modern."

"I work a long day, and I work in native woods from around here - white and red oak, maple and ash," he said. "The walnut and cherry come from Indiana. When you are putting Mother Nature in it, nothing is exactly the same, so a piece that is made for someone is basically a one of a kind."

Shoup said people are looking for tangible items, things that will last for generations and that is good for them.

Samples of his work are inside the house, on the porch and in the shop.

"Part of my philosophy is that good things come to you because you put out good vibes," he said. "If I am helpful to people, if I share what I know ... I'm trying to inspire them. I'm having fun teaching people the things I know. I am kind of like a guru when they come here. It's fun. For a preview of his work, look at