Playing With Fire & Paint

Playing with Paint & Fire

Artisans Goostree, Easter merge metal, acrylics

STORY / PHOTOS BY KEN BECK

Playing with Paint & Fire 

LEFT: Paige Easter and Dan Goostree’s 55-square-foot mosaic creation “Seasons from a Bird’s Eye View” comprises three short curved walls that run along the sidewalk in the Garrett Family Garden at the Goodlettsville Public Library. Children can sit on the wall or use it as a scavenger hunt to search for images of a variety of birds, insects and animals that inhabit Middle Tennessee.

CENTER: These Goostree-Easter tomato slices at the Nashville Farmers Market offer cyclists a place to park and lock their bikes.

RIGHT: Paige Easter’s “Gentlemen Prefer Reds”

When two creative forces collide, sparks fly. In the case of ornamental blacksmith Dan Goostree and artist Paige Easter, they often arc toward three-dimensional art.

The duo has been together 10 years and lived in Lebanon the past eight years where Easter has her art studio and where they share their home and garden with felines Carbon, Clinker, Lily and Belle.

Playing with Paint & FireGoostree’s blacksmith shop sits about eight miles out of town on land that was farmed by his great-grandparents. Many of their collaborations wind up in Nashville restaurants such as Boundry and Urban Grub, but their colorful works also may be spotted at the Nashville Farmers Market (big metallic tomato slices and corn stalks that serve as bicycle racks) and at the Wilson County Fairgrounds (a giant ear of corn and giant soybean pod at the entrance) and in Fiddlers Grove. They also have a panoramic mosaic titled “Seasons From a Bird’s Eye View” at the Goodlettsville Public Library. (The mosaic and the bike racks were commissioned by the Metro Nashville Art Commission.)

“We’ll mix anything: steel, copper, wood, stone, mosaic, shell, tiles. We just create,” says Goostree. “I like it when we build three-dimensional objects because that is when Dan and I create cool pieces. I really enjoy doing the restaurant work because you get to be really creative,” Easter said.

Nashville native Goostree worked for 25 years in the restaurant business and helped start the Tavern on the Row, Third Coast, West End Cooker and Sunset Grill and was co-owner of Boundry and Sunset Coast. He met Easter when he hired her to paint murals for South Street Restaurant in Music City.

“We were friends for a long time. We would go roller blading on the streets with group of friends,” recollected Easter. “We worked in restaurants together. I liked his unique personality. He’s a social butter fly, and he’s funny.”

“We started doing mosaics together at Boundry, and that’s when our talents crossed,” Goostree said. “We get a job, we’ll take it on and make it work. That’s a lot of the exciting, creative work, and sometimes it’s frustrating and also costly.”

For their joint ventures to succeed requires that they both listen, talk and, occasionally, surrender.

“A lot of times someone will call us, and we both go listen to what they have to say to see if there is a way we can come up with the project together, or I if can just do the drawing for him to bring it to metal,” said Easter. “It helps with both of us thinking what the space is and listening to their idea.

“We come back and do sketches and then tell them what we would like to do. That gets us started. He and I usually have to talk it out. There are times we want to go different ways so we have to make the other one stop and think and say, ‘Look at it this way,’ and either meet in the middle or flip it and go with the other way that works. It is usually just putting our heads together to figure out how to make something work.”

It took Goostree nearly half a lifetime to figure out his true calling. A musician from his teen years and fanatical about the music of heavy metal band Jethro Tull, he played silver flute and everything from percussion keyboards and vibes to conga drums, bells, marimbas and full trap drum sets. He dreamed of being a session player on Music Row but wound up playing in local bar bands.

For a career he worked in the restaurant business, beginning at 15 as a busboy and dishwasher at the Western Sizzlin in East Nashville for Jim Demos, patriarch of the Demos’ Family Restaurants. But he also labored in construction. learning the skills of carpentry and plumbing.  With childhood friend Jay Pennington, they designed, built, opened and co-owned a slew of eateries. Then one day he became fascinated watching a welder-blacksmith put up a hand-forged coat rack at a restaurant.

“When I turned 40, I realized I wanted to do something different and that’s when I started studying blacksmithing and metal work,” he said.  “I fired myself from restaurants and dove into it. Sixteen years later, here I am.”

Goostree studied blacksmithing at Penland School of Arts and Crafts in Penland, N.C., the Appalachian Center for Arts in Smithville, the Memphis Metal Museum and attended scores of demonstrations across the United States and Canada.

“We had plans to build more restaurants. My goal wasn’t to go into business but to build a shop and make new things. I have continued to produce lighting, railings, wine racks and all types of accessories for restaurants in and out of Nashville. And we love to do lights and the combination of lights for signage,” he said.

The blacksmith laid his shop out east to west, 30 by 44 feet, and built it like a Quonset hut on stilts with 12 by 14 feet doorways.

 “It’s my art studio/sanctuary,” he says. “Everything in here is designed to make metal. A lot of what I make has to do with nature and a lot wthe abstract form. I like the way industrial machine parts look and the way nature’s organics flow, and I don’t mind mixing them up.”

To produce his functional, abstract and organic forged creations, he works with a gas and coal forge, power hammer, anvil, a three ton arbor hand press, a Hossfeld bending machine with multiple dies for bending metal, a cone mandrell, a swage block, a beverly sheer, leg vices, stake vices, a 50-ton hydraulic press and a multitude of hand tools such as hammers and tongs.

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