Wood Art You Can Use

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Backcountry skiing is an adventure for most, but for craftsman Ben Steiner of Steamboat Springs, Colo., it's all part of a day's work. Steiner straps on skis or snowshoes and heads for the wilderness, harvesting dead aspen and cottonwood logs from the massive 1997 blowdown. He carefully selects twisted, knotty stumps and logs, loads them onto a toboggan and pulls them out of the woods. Back in his shop, what was once "dead and down" is transformed into burnished and beautiful wood bowls and vases. "What I enjoy doing most is taking a rough chunk of log and turning it on a lathe to make it into something beautiful," Steiner says.

His elegant artwork stands in contrast to his profession as a locomotive engineer, driving 20,000-ton coal trains. "My dad was a cabinet maker," Steiner says. "Working in my shop is relaxing. It's a hobby that's expanding into way more."

Steiner stains his custom pieces to match the wood trim or stone in his clients' kitchen and dining areas. "Sometimes they want it to stand out, other times to blend in," he says. Steiner's pieces are as practical as they are beautiful: Each one is designed to withstand years of regular use.

Each item comes with a unique story about its origin. Prices range from $40 for a small vase to $1,200 for an extra-large bowl.

Contact Steiner at 970-879-0518, sheriben@springsips.com, or visit allaboutsteamboat.com/mercantile