Art in the family: Father and son share creations at Area Art Show
Gaeland Priebe has always been good at making things with his hands. He went to college to become an industrial arts teacher, but his career path took him in other directions.
“I was a long-haired hippie, and I got interested in geodesic domes,” he recalled about his life in the early 1970s. “I built a small one for Earth Week at college, and then I asked my dad if I could have a corner of his property to build one. There was a photo of it in the Daily Globe in 1974.”
Through that experience, Gaeland became a self-taught dome expert, and then he transitioned his building experience into a career making furniture, first for a small company outside of Mankato and then eventually starting his own business, which included not only furniture and cabinets, but also sculptural wood pieces.
“I built furniture that went all over the United States,” he said. “It was all our own designs, but we could customize pieces. Everything was made to order.”
A downturn in the economy brought that business to an end, and Gaeland moved to Wisconsin, where he was employed doing finish carpentry in new homes. As a sideline, he made wall carvings of animals.
Now mostly retired, Gaeland moved back to his hometown of Slayton in 2008 and found new outlets for his woodworking skills and artistic interests.
“In 2009, I had a booth at the Murray County Fair, where I showed some of my pottery work, rug wall hangings, wood carvings, some furniture I had built — and I started picking up some orders,” he said, adding that he’s continued his fair demonstrations in subsequent years.
When his son, Eli, came to live with him in 2010, the father and son reconnected by spending time in the workshop.
“When we visited the Como Observatory, Eli saw these star chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and wanted to make one,” described Gaeland. “I knew we couldn’t hang one from the ceiling, so we made it into a table lamp. I learned the stained glass right along with him.”
The two also collaborated on a table that has stained glass inset into the top. Eli is now a student at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus, and both pieces are among his apartment furnishings and will be entered in the Area Art Show opening Sunday at the Nobles County Art Center.
“Right now I don’t know what I want to do,” said Eli about his future plans. “I know I want to do something with computers.”
Even though he never had a career in education, Gaeland enjoys teaching all the skills he has learned over the years.
“The greatest joy is when I can demonstrate how to do stuff,” he said.
Although it wasn’t part of his industrial arts curriculum, Gaeland first tried his hand at pottery during college.
“I didn’t touch pottery again until 2006 in Wisconsin, when I got connected with some people who had a pottery studio," he said. "I bought a potter’s wheel and kilns last year. It came back really easy.”
Punch hooking rugs is another of Gaeland’s artistic endeavors that dates back to his college experiences. He would watch an artist-in-residence at then Mankato State University create hooked textiles in the student union and then taught himself the process.
Additionally, Gaeland builds frames for the artwork that his girlfriend, Melodie Knutson, paints, and he’s also dabbled in making musical instruments.
Once Gaeland gets an idea in his head, he’s not satisfied until it has come to fruition.
“I literally picture these things — it’s like I have movies going on in my head,” he said. “It keeps going as I go through the process of building it.”
Gaeland has documented many of his projects — including extensive landscaping at his Slayton home and his joint projects with Eli — on a website: http://mgsmngallery.shutterfly.com.
Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.