Creative Nutworks - Mother Nature and Imagination

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.