We all know the captivating allure of sitting around a fire. The hypnotizing dance of the flames creating visions rooted deep in the primitive psyche of the mind. Like pictures in the clouds, flame imagery changes at a blink, yet it’s a reliable show of beauty with every ignition.
While fire has always been a prominent fixture in winter gatherings, especially surrounding the solstice, 2020 has perhaps brought a renewed purpose to the fire. With social distancing as the new norm and inside gatherings off-limits, fire pits offer the option for small groups to gather in safe proximity and stay warm.
Given the challenges to restaurants in 2020, fire provided Luke and Lyndsay Evans of East 20 Pizza the inspiration to adapt to the health guidelines. Luke, a skilled builder and craftsman, wanted to create an authentic, Western-inspired outdoor eating option for the pizzeria. With the Western motif of sitting around a campfire on the open range and the need to extend outdoor dining into the shoulder and winter seasons, Luke built a series of fire tables for the outdoor seating enshrined with Western emblems.
Like so many creative endeavors in the Methow, this project involved some creative inspiration and a suite of locals with an eclectic group of skills, and some happenstance. Embedded in the concrete tabletops are horseshoes provided by Ely Smith, a local farrier. As you sit at the tables, the horseshoes wind down a meandering path adding texture and interest to the surface. For weeks, people have been eating and drinking around the fire tables. But one problem hadn’t been rectified yet — pizza boxes could slide into the fire and ignite!
This week the tables were finished with the final addition of a steel guard marked with Methow livestock brands. No more pizza boxes catching fire. The steel guards were made by Patrick Hannigan at his TwispWorks studio. Known for his species-specific birdhouses under the label Nice Nests, Patrick has recently expanded his repertoire of crafts and projects to include steel-cut figures and custom pieces under a new label, BarnFunk.
The idea to place Methow brands in the guards came from Luke, who pitched the idea to Patrick during the summer. Coincidentally, Patrick mentioned the project to Tara Gregg at a farmer’s market. Here’s where the story comes full circle.
When the U.S. Forest Service vacated the Twisp campus and consolidated to Winthrop, a lot of furniture was moved to the Riverbank building, where another federal agency, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), set up office space along with the Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation. Tara worked for BOR and the Methow Salmon Recovery where she came across a reference sheet of registered brands of the Methow Valley left in one of the desks. Most likely, a reference card for a Forest Service range employee, the sheet contained the hand-drawn brands of all the livestock brands that graze on federal allotments in the valley.
As a locally raised valley girl, her work with irrigators and ranchers for the BOR sparked interest in holding onto the brand’s sheet. When Patrick mentioned the steel project, she had just what he needed to make an authentic artist addition to the fire tables.
Patrick replicated the images into a digital drawing to finetune the images and used his CNC plasma table to cut out the images into steel sheets that he welded into rectangular guards for the tables. Trying to stay as true to the original brand imagery, he needed to modify some of the images because he was working with negative space as opposed to the three-dimensional branding iron that makes a positive stamp. The challenge proved to be a beautifully captivating and creative solution to the fire tables.