Joe Deru’s introduction to art started at a young age, thanks to his mother who was an art teacher at a nearby college. After spending more than three decades as an educator himself, Joe parlayed his passion for wood artistry into a spot as the Celebration of Fine Art’s resident woodworker.

Visitors of the show are drawn to Joe’s unique creations, which span bowls, vases and jewelry boxes made out of ambrosia maple, apricot, box elder and aspen, among others. He celebrates natural simplicity and skips embellishments in favor of letting the beauty of the wood and its unique character shine through.

“The logs determine what forms I can make,” Joe said. “I cut out the defects in the wood, and then I do the best with what the log will give me and make the biggest piece that I can.”

Each piece of wood is a different challenge. Nothing is the same and nothing can be duplicated. The process is that of continual discovery, for both Joe as the artist and for visitors of the show who find joy in discovering the endless possibilities of each piece of wood.

“Nature is wonderful,” he said. “It’s fantastic to be able to see these things in wood.”

Susan Potje, the Celebration of Fine Art’s co-owner, jokes that the reason Joe has been a staple of the show for a decade is that she simply can’t find anybody better. For his part, Joe says the experience of being part of the show is one he looks forward to all year long. He values the friendships, inspiration from other artists and meeting the visitors.

“I hope I can keep lifting logs into my truck as I get older and older,” he said. “It’s a wonderful experience to be here and go around and talk to other artists. This show really features the best the country has to offer.”

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