Local woodworker finds incredible success with an accidental creation.
Edina resident John Danicic’s iconic Stirsby kitchen tool is a product of happenstance—in the ranks of other accidental inventions and discoveries like Post-It Notes, Velcro and the Slinky. But what exactly is a Stirsby? It’s a wooden spoon/spatula hybrid that’s 100 percent handmade—plus beautiful and useful to boot.
In a different life, the Stirsby was a piece of scrap from tapering a leg on a yet-to-be-complete set of nine handmade wooden tables Danicic had been making for his sisters and family. “I cleaned it up and gave it to my wife to use for cooking,” he says.
The design was tweaked, and the rest, as they say, is history. “My daughter’s art teacher taught at the Edina Art Center,” Danicic says. “I gave her 15–20 pieces to sell at their Christmas Art Show. In two days, they ran out completely.”
Danicic’s Stirsby is made one labor-intensive piece at a time. He uses four types of wood—ash, cherry, maple and walnut—as the base for his product. He double laminates the handle end, oftentimes out of a different wood species. He cuts the base on a table saw with the aid of a handmade jig. He glues the laminates and then shapes the soon-to-be-stirring stick on a belt sander. Hand sanding comes next. The final step involves a food-safe Mahoney Utility Finish Oil. Worth noting: A well-used Stirsby can be revived with a mineral or butcher block oil.
Danicic says he finished his first Stirsby in the early 2000s. Since then, he’s made thousands. “Once, I made 900 for Christmas,” he says, noting he doesn’t worry too much about numbers. To him, keeping close tabs on production numbers means this is a job. “If that’s the case,” Danicic says, “I’ll be working, and I don’t want to work.”
Danicic is a self-taught woodworker, and his father serves as an inspiration. In fact, the chair and ottoman his father made in high school still sits in his living room.
More recently, that inspiration came from Wendell Castle, the woodworker many consider the “father of the art furniture movement.” Danicic used to be a professional photographer, and he photographed Castle when he worked for the Rochester Institute of Technology. “He mixed different types of woods, and I decided I wanted to learn how to do that,” Danicic says. In addition to the Stirsby, Danicic makes other kitchen tools. The Seizer is a toast tong that can be used to fish out any slices of bread that are stuck. The Gatherer is a bit larger and is a salad tong. There’s also a ShapeShifter Trivet that can adjust in size and accommodate many dishes on the kitchen table. His final feather in his cap is the Cutting Slab, which is a two-sided cutting board that comes in a variety of sizes. All are Danicic originals.
His unique creations can be found on his website or at 60 Artists on 50th on November 4, the Morningside Woman’s Club Holiday Market on November 18 and the Art at Hidden River show on December 2.
Where to Find Stirsby
The Store at Mia Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2400 Third Ave. S., Mpls.
The Golden Fig Fine Foods, 794 Grand Ave., St. Paul
Cooks of Crocus Hill, 877 Grand Ave., St. Paul
The Grand Hand, 619 Grand Ave., St. Paul
Clancey’s Meat Market, 3804 Grand Ave. S., Mpls.
Eversharp, 344 Taft St. NE, Mpls.