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Local artist feels blessed to be in dream situation

Posted on Monday, June 23, 2014 at 8:59 am

Dan Burleson in his workshop.

Dan Burleson in his workshop.

Dan Burleson refers to himself as a “morning person.”


“Basket Illusion” wooden bowls. A project like this can take up to three months to complete.

“I’m out there, in the summertime, sometimes midnight to 1 a.m., because it’s cool. My lathe doesn’t care what time it is.” By noon, Burleson has put in a full day’s work and retires inside to have a bite, take a nap and often continue working on a different phase of one of his amazing, basket illusion wooden bowls or vases.

The Missouri Humanities Council recently honored Burleson, by presenting his hand-crafted, Missouri hardwood bowls to this year’s award winners. This is only the most recent honor Burleson has received. He is proud of his status as a juried artist with Best of Missouri Hands. He is a member of the Greater St. Louis Arts Association; has served as past president and vice president, respectively, of the Bremmerton, Washington and St. Louis chapters of the American Association of Woodturners; and received blue ribbons at the fall and spring art shows held at Queeny Park.

For much of his life, Burleson worked with fire, the mortal enemy of wood. Born in the Southern Black Hills of Hot Springs, South Dakota, he started as a firefighter in the United States Air Force, got an associates degree in fire science and spent most of his career in Washington State as a firefighter for the Department of Defense, in the civil service. In 2008, he found himself downsized from a Chesterfield company that specialized in writing software for police, fire and emergency dispatch. His retirement alone wasn’t making ends meet, so he turned a lifelong love of art into a new career, and he couldn’t be happier.

Burlesman-5“God’s really blessed me,” Said Burleson. “I’ve been put in my dream situation. The only thing that would be better is if I had someone to clean my shop.” Burleson says he and his wife, Nancy, aren’t getting rich or famous, but that’s fine with Burleson. “I don’t care to. I just want to survive. We are staying even now.”

A typical piece can take as long as 25 to 40 hours to complete. More elaborate pieces can take up to three months. By the time he accounts for materials and his time, he figures he probably makes the equivalent of minimum wage on each piece. But it’s not about the money for Burleson. It’s about his art.

While he doesn’t aspire to be in a museum, he does have a goal for his art. “And it’s a serious one,” he says. “to get in a gallery, or one or two galleries that sell my stuff at a price that’s above minimum wage, so I can survive, and I just make things and ship them to the galleries.”

For more pictures of Burleson’s artwork, visit his website at

Dan Burleson turning a bowl at his lathe.

Dan Burleson turning a bowl at his lathe.