We need things that function, want things that are beautiful, and love things that are unique, especially when they are blends of old and new. Dan Gloege, artisan woodcrafter behind Of The Forest, a small Eden Prairie-based business, is busy envisioning and creating just such items, large and small. “I am always trying to reinvent the wheel,” Gloege says. “If you look on the internet, there are 1,001 choices for soap dishes. I try to throw a twist in that makes it different from what everyone else is doing.”
And soap dishes only scratch the surface. Of The Forest Gifts, the business’s Etsy site, offers everything from drink coasters to outdoor benches crafted from wood, metal and stone according to Gloege’s original designs.
Gloege began his career in woodworking in 2000 when he took an entry-level job making furniture. Once he had the basics down, his creative energy really started flowing and soon the shop’s owner was coming to him for help on custom design projects. In 2005, Dan and his wife, Ali, turned their garage into a workshop and have been churning out the magic ever since.
One magic moment that shaped the business occurred when they came upon wood they were able to salvage from the renovation of a home built in the 1800s. “They were going to burn it,” Ali says. “You can’t tell Dan that you are burning wood.”
“You can’t reproduce this aging,” Dan explains. “There are multiple coats of paint that are peeling and so many different colors of wood. It was free, but there is a lot of labor of getting it from that to [the finished product]. People love the old stuff, to be a part of giving it new life, and there is the green side of maximizing material and throwing as little away as possible.”
Dan builds everything with an eye for utility and appeal, but also durability and craftsmanship. “Old world techniques are really fascinating,” he says. “They didn’t have modern wood glues and screws; they did everything with saws, chisels and hammers and Japanese joinery is mind-boggling. It is time-consuming, but the old ways are the best ways.”
“He is the king of quality,” Ali says, “and my side is to keep that a little bit in check to keep the price under control. We will never beat IKEA or Target, but we want to be reasonable, so people will look at what we have, see the difference and say, ‘That is worth the extra dollars.’”
Dan has a few favorite projects including the baby gate he made using 17 types of wood, and the banquette he custom designed for a client’s unusually angled kitchen corner. The rustic trash bin (made from wood reclaimed from that 1800s house) he designed to keep their dog from digging in the garbage is one of their Etsy best sellers. “People love them,” Ali says. “They keep selling out.”
One of their high-end favorites currently on the Etsy site is Dan’s outdoor Timeless Bench. “I will guarantee it for my lifetime,” he says. A true Minnesota product, the seat is a slab of northern white cedar secured into two slabs of Morton gneiss (a type of granite) by copper tenons. Not only will this bench stand up to the test of time, “they get more beautiful as they age,” Dan says. “The wood will go from yellow to silver, moss will grow on the stone, the bright shiny copper is going to go green and aqua.”
Whether old wood is being reworked into something new, or new elements are combined to create a classic heirloom-worthy treasure, every Of The Forest piece that results offers unique and beautiful function. //