My name is Albert Tanko. I operate Creative Nutworks in North Branch, MN and this is my story.
I escaped from communist Romania in 1982. I landed in Minnesota where I met and married my wife. My interest in art from seeds and pits began with the black walnut shell cross on my wife's Grandma Roberts' wall in Mindoro, Wisconsin. When I saw I was fascinated with the intricate pattern in the individual slices of black walnut shell.
Fast forward 20 years. Our two boys are grown and I had time to experiment with recreating grandma's cross. I picked a wheel barrel full of nuts and began the task of figuring out the best way to husk, clean, and slice them. They are definitely a "tough nut to crack".
I began making a few crosses. After a few months, the initial crosses would break because the glue was not strong enough. Then began the illusive search for the optimum adhesive.
After making crosses, I began to look for other ways to utilize the black walnut pieces with this beautiful pattern. I asked for feedback from friends and family. A friend said these are beautiful but try making something different- like a bowl. A bowl? No way! I did not think it was possible. I started dreaming of how to create a circle. Thus, the evolution of the sun catchers. Next the best method for adding color. I experimented with different media, but I wanted to create something to hang in the window and dazzle in the sunlight. Thus the addition of colored glass, which evolved into the use of stained glass.
Eventually I figured out how to make a bowl, serving plates and even a dining room table! Then how to utilize the scrap pieces left after slicing and assembling. My wife had purchased a turkey table favor made out of an American walnut with a silk leaf tail. I told her I could do better and she asked for 22 table favors for Thanksgiving dinner. Voila! Enter the Nutwhats into my collection. They are whimsical critters each with a personality of its own.
I utilize different nuts and pits - peach, apricot, plum, date, buckeye, butternut -- the list is endless. The array of items that can be created from the nuts, pits and seeds that Mother Nature provides is also endless -- limited only by the boundaries of imagination.