January 10, 2017
If you are staying at Caribou Highlands, it is easy to discover one of the north shore’s unsung resources: local art. While many know of this resource, it is not mentioned nearly as much as the slopes, lake, and thick forests.
While taking a break from the slopes, stop by Last Chance Fabricating for an inside look at the region’s art. It is only a few minute’s drive down the mountain, in the Lutsen lowlands.
“This area has some of the best artists in the country living and working here,” said Tom Christiansen, owner of Last Chance Fabricating. “We’re kind of a hidden gem. People can come here and see works that are being sold in Scottsdale and Santa Fe and New York City.”
At Last Chance Fabrication, you can get a good sense of this art scene in a short time. Besides Tom’s sculptures, the shop features the work of about 35 local artists, which you can admire and, of course, buy. The quality of the work is what you would expect from talented people with a full-time commitment to their craft.
“What we like to do is feature original works that are of a consistently high quality nature and are made by professional artists,” said Tom. “We don’t have any works from people that are just doing it as a hobby. They are all professionals.”
The gallery doesn’t just feature a variety of artists, but also contains a variety of art types.
“We have two dimensional works, paintings, acrylic oils, pastels, and prints,” said Tom. “We sell almost exclusively originals. We have jewelry, glass works, and pottery, as well as my sculptures.”
The art here is worth seeing because these artists are probably a lot like Tom. They added a healthy dose of perspiration to their inspiration and followed their dreams, while possibly facing objections from family and friends.
“I don’t think anyone goes into being an artist of any kind, especially a sculptor without having some kind of strange calling for it,” said Tom.
Tom found his calling early. Since 1994, he has been making and selling bronze cast sculptures in Lutsen. But, he was making sculptures a few decades before this.
“I’ve been doing it since 1964,” said Tom. “It was my avocation, but I couldn’t afford to do sculptures full-time. But, my whole working life has been building toward being able to make my living being a sculptor.”
The method Tom uses to make his works has also been around for a long time.
Lost-wax casting is a 6000 year old method that begins with a sculpture made of wax. The wax is then put in a refractory material and melted out. This leaves you with a mold with a hole that is later filled with 2000 degrees molten bronze. If you come at the right time you can watch Tom pour the hot metal.
“In the summertime, every Saturday, we do a public pour at 4 o’clock,” said Tom.
You can visit the gallery at other times depending on the season. It is best to check the website. During the winter the gallery is mostly by appointment. You can always call 218-663-7008 to find out when you can come and watch Tom do what he loves to do best.
Tom’s inspiration tends to come from his view of humanity.
“I’m usually trying to express my feelings of what the human condition is about,” said Tom. “So, my things tend to be funny because I think humans are kind of funny, irrational, and goofy. I like to take life kind of not too seriously.”
Tom has to temper these feelings on some projects. With commissioned works, he has to consider what the customer wants. Sometimes serious works are more appropriate, like his sculptures for the Duluth Police Department, honoring the work of officers.
But, these commissioned works still show his talent and they are found up and down the north shore. Tom is particularly proud of a 17 foot spun aluminum tower that is outside the Grand Marais public library.
These sculptures can be seen by talented artists living their lives in the small towns along the north shore. Some of these may then used their talents to send their works to Tom’s gallery and to people and shops across the country and maybe the world.
Last Chance Fabricating
17 Railroad Drive, Lutsen, Minnesota 55612
Open by appointment in the winter.
Call (218) 663-7008.