Crist Ballas, The Mad Scientist of St. Paul

By the stairs leading down to Crist Ballas’ lower level hangs an old, beaten to hell movie poster for “Frankenstein.” Crist’s boots thud down the stairs before me, with soles so thick he could stomp a truck tire flat. His boots are the only intimidating thing about Crist. He is a peach of a man … [ Read more]

Hot Stuff: Finding the source of Minnesota’s thermaculture boom starts with a trip to the Iron Range

Deep in the remote Iron Range of northern Minnesota on the shores of Lake Vermilion sits the quiet town of Tower, population of about 500. The Minnesohhtan accents here are as thick as they come—right on Main Street, Uffda Thrifts & Gifts shares a building with UBetcha Antiques & Uniques. The town has a rugged, … [ Read more]

Minnesota’s Ron Swanson: Former Minnesota Twin Glen Perkins talks life after baseball at his woodshop and brewery

We pull into a driveway of former Minnesota Twins pitcher Glen Perkins’ 100-acre Lakeville farmstead, Gala Farms, on a crisp December day. He jumps out of his blue Ford Raptor to greet us, sporting a gray, half-zip hunting sweatshirt, khaki-colored winter hat, and a scruffy beard. He looks less like a millionaire former pro athlete … [ Read more]

Craft Culture: The Surprisingly Uplifting World of Taxidermy

Speaking solely from personal experience, my basic notions of taxidermy have historically gone arm-in-arm with sport hunting, starting at the army of deer mounts lining the walls of the northern Wisconsin bar I recently found myself in (28 heads!) and ending with the tragic tale of Cecil the lion.  But the practice stretches far beyond … [ Read more]

‘Every Tractor Has a Story’: Al Deiss is on a mission to restore heirloom tractors to their former glory

Every tractor has a story.” Al Deiss smiles a bit under his salt-and-pepper mustache and puts his hands in his pockets as he tries to find the words to describe the tractor culture he’s spent decades preserving.  “Ask about someone’s tractor, and you’re going to learn more than you ever expected to,” he says. He … [ Read more]

Iron Woman: American Skillet Company and FeLion Studios’ Alisa Toninato forges a career in cast iron art

Two summers ago, five days past her due date, Alisa Toninato stood at the outer edges of an iron pour in Cambridge, Wisconsin. She was uncomfortable, and not just because her daughter, Rhea, wouldn’t arrive for another week. She wanted to get in on the action. “Of course I didn’t leather up,” Toninato says. “But … [ Read more]

Cooke Custom Sewing: Handsewn outdoors gear for the harshest elements

It just works.” That’s Dan Cooke’s response when asked why the hand-sewn camping gear he’s been making for 38 years continues to have such an enthusiastic and dedicated following. “When you have a car, it’s the little things that start to fail. By the end, you just have four wheels to take you from A … [ Read more]

Get in the Van: VanGo Automotive’s vintage camper van rentals are one-size-fits-all

Drive far enough down West 7th Street and you can find pockets of St. Paul that haven’t yet fallen in step with the capital city’s gentle amble toward modernity. Past the faux food trucks and industrial upcycling, you’ll find steakhouses that still sport cigar burns from “legitimate businessmen” and lunch-counter diners with checkerboard on the … [ Read more]

Bridging the Gap: Maggie Thompson uses art to navigate a contemporary Native American identity

I’m sitting on a cushy red couch in Maggie Thompson’s sunbathed studio in the Northrup King Building of Northeast Minneapolis. The space is laden with virtually every agent of textile art imaginable: a giant knitting machine is surrounded by several smaller sewing machines, scraps of cloth, folded bolts of fabric, and large, vibrant spools of … [ Read more]

Craft Culture: Secondhand ethos, first-class fashion at Tandem Vintage

We humans are in dire need of an intervention—at the rate we’re going, there are simply too many of us creating too much waste for our earth to continue sustaining our buying habits. From our landfills to the flotillas of detritus in our oceans, we are virtually drowning in our own stuff. Rather than carrying … [ Read more]

Craft Culture: Northeast Tattoo & Fadeaway Laser Removal

Matthew Krofta stands perfectly still, his bare back covered in a smear of purple ink. Jack Gribble, Matthew’s coworker and, today, tattooer, holds up a sheet of stencil paper to Matthew’s back and makes minute adjustments to get everything just so before securing the sheet—again. This is take three of the process—arguably the most painstaking … [ Read more]

Carpentry and Community at Women’s Woodshop

In a world that seems to be growing increasingly unstable, Jess Hirsch sees Women’s Woodshop as a much-needed escape for the community. “I think that people need a break, and need to come together over something that’s outside of themselves—and working with wood, it’s such a warm material, it has all these smells that are … [ Read more]

The Couture Creations of Celina Kane

Some Minnesotans seem to get nervous, even a little sheepish, when they see Celina Kane’s booth set up at local art shows and the Mill City Farmers Market. Occasionally, onlookers will even let out a stifled giggle, as if to say “I could never pull that off.”  Admittedly, it takes a certain level of confidence … [ Read more]

Woodsmanship & Tradition at Little Crow Custom Bows

If you get Lee Waltman, owner and sole employee of Little Crow Custom Bows, started on varieties of wood, you’d better have some time on your hands. Not because Waltman is overly wordy or dry, but because he’s a zealot for detail and fastidiously interested in every facet of traditional bow making.  Waltman’s workshop sits … [ Read more]

Beyond Polka: Championing the accordion at Mahler Music

A 20-something man lugs a battered accordion case through the screen door at Mahler Music. As he pulls the instrument out of the box, Ken Mahler is already speaking. “This is a 1930s accordion. Probably 1938 or ’39,” he says, pointing to the engraving and inlay. He tinkers with the strap, points out broken buttons, and … [ Read more]

DAILY PHOTO FROM THE ARCHIVE

Love this photo? Purchase a print and support The Growler. Visit growlermag.com/photo-archive view photos available for purchase, sizing, and pricing.