as windows to one’s personality
Photography: Mark Oliver
(page 2 of 3)
Saw door, was inspired. Now, Diana Fassino saws doors and inspires Awe.
When Dick and Diana Fassino built their Sun Valley home in 1993, Diana thought it would be fun to carve the front door.
Never mind that she was a newcomer to the world of carving.
Soon, her big heavy basswood door featured Adam and Eve standing under an apple tree, a bear positioned to give Adam just the right touch of modesty. A moose, bison, mountain goat, deer, raccoon, and other animals completed the intricate relief.
“I knew what I wanted to put on it because I believed we had come to live in the Garden of Eden,” she says. “I wanted to feature all the creatures in the Wood River Valley in it.”
It didn’t stop there, though. When others saw her door, they wanted a door of their own. And today, Fassino’s carved doors, which celebrate nature and wild animals, can be seen from Bellevue to Sun Valley and even around the world as their owners have moved on, taking their doors with them.
Fassino, who grew up near Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest in England, started her foray into wood carving with a totem pole.
“I saw Glenn Carter’s carousel animals and I said, ‘Gosh, I’d love to do this.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you?’ ”
Carter is a successful wood sculptor who lived in the Valley for a time, during which his studios produced more than 3,000 animal bar stools for Rainforest Cafés, among other artwork. The two established a mutually helpful relationship. Diana drew designs for Carter and he showed her how to wield a chainsaw, grinders, sanders and other big power tools—an intimidating pursuit for an artist used to working with a pen and paintbrush.
“They were all big and heavy, terrifying, really,” recalls Fassino.
Nevertheless, when her husband asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she replied simply, “A chainsaw.”
“He called me ‘the chainsaw madam,’” she adds.
Diana put the chainsaw to work, carving lamp stands that boasted bears climbing up them and a 15-by-5-foot relief of horses for a client’s wall. She also carved out two 200-pound wooden waving mannequins that she dubbed “sun dancers” and placed near her driveway on Elkhorn Road, clothing them for years in wedding dresses and ski togs, according to the seasons.
And, then, there were the doors.
“I transferred my first design onto a door and said, ‘I don’t know where to begin.’ Glenn told me, ‘Well, you just begin,’” Diana recalls. “He said: ‘You have an image. You’ve got to cut the wood back until you find it.’ There was a bit of philosophy involved, really.”
Some of Fassino’s doors show a touch of humor—one, for instance, features a bear climbing a tree. Way up in the branches, you can see the boot of the cowboy making his way up the tree as fast as he can.
Another features a cowboy ready to pull his Colt .45 amidst a plethora of cacti.
In one case, she incorporated real sticks and twigs into a door, creating an illusion of a tree.
And an 8-by-8-foot door that she created for Pat and Patti Carter’s East Fork home features three stallions galloping across three panels of desert with mountains in the background and cactus in the foreground.
The Carters liked it so well they even had Fassino repeat the scene inside so they could see it from their great room.
“I never liked stone but I love the smell of wood, the touch of wood,” Fassino says. “It’s alive—it responds to you. And it’s awful fun.”
It’s backbreaking, too, Fassino found out, especially since she uses power tools, rather than hammer and chisel
“I spent a month on the Carters’ door and my arms ached, my back ached, my fingers ached. Carving is very hard physical work—and a little frightening because of the tools. But Glenn used to say, ‘You stay frightened of them. If not, you’ll cut your foot off.’ ”
Despite the physical toil the work took, Fassino would have happily continued to carve her doors. But Glenn Carter moved away, taking his tools with him.
And so Fassino turned to making sculptures out of papier-mâché.
“You don’t need tools for papier-mâché,” she says. “Just ‘recycle—reuse’ some newspapers, some paste and a dish of water.” >>>