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Lehi Teacher Channels Artistic Passion In Woodturning At Summerfest Arts Faire

Katie Peikes
Summerfest vendor Rex Burningham talks about some of his woodturnings.

Artists come from all over the United States to share their work with festivalgoers in the City of Logan’s annual Summerfest Arts Faire. UPR's Katie Peikes shares the story of one Summerfest vendor who is a high school teacher with a passion for wood art.

Rex Burningham is a woodturner from Highland, Utah and one of over 130 artists sharing their creations in Logan’s annual Summerfest Arts Faire. When he's not teaching woodworking at Lehi High School, he is in his basement woodturning, or shaping wood using a machine tool called a lathe. 

“Its always fun to have a hobby that you can make money from," Burningham said. "That’s kind of how it started out.” 

His enthusiasm for his craft dates back to college when one of his professors introduced him to the art. He then started doing summertime arts shows. It was a "hobby went wild."

Burningham works with tree trimmers and arborists to obtain trees and branches for his craft, and in exchange, gives them a bowl made of wood or another product. He turns a basic tree on a lathe, essentially a vertical potter’s wheel that spins the wood. Then, he takes a sharp tool and cuts it as clean as he can. He sands the surface of the product and occasionally adds a glossy touch to it.

"You’ve got two types of styles," Burningham said. "One is utilitarian: You've got cutting boards, you've got traditional salad bowls. Also, I make some cheese slicers, ice cream scoops for handles, rolling pins. Those are the utilitarian things. Then you've got kind of what they call 'wood art': That's where you're gonna have wall hangings or a really fancy bowl, but they're just mainly to look at, to enjoy." 

Credit Katie Peikes / UPR
Some of Rex Burningham's woodturnings on display at the Summerfest Arts Faire in Logan.

Signifying Summerfest, white canvas tents are spread throughout the grounds near the Logan Tabernacle and many artists sell products from paintings to glass figures to handmade hair forks as part of Summerfest. Artists spend months perfecting their craft so they can apply and be a part of the fair. Some artists return year after year, said Elaine Thatcher, the executive director of Summerfest.

“Honestly, they just work like crazy to get ready for these shows and they have to spend three days outdoors hauling stuff around,” Thatcher said. “It’s not an easy life, I don’t think.”

Artists spend months perfecting their craft so they can apply and be a part of the fair.

Summerfest, Thatcher said, has become a staple of Logan — basically the kickoff to summer.

 “We’ve called this the kickoff to summer because it is sort of like the first major arts event in Cache Valley of the summer," Thatcher said. "People are ready to get out and enjoy themselves, listen to some good music, just have some fun and some good food. It's a great way to celebrate the beginning of summer." 

Summerfest is in its 33rd year.