Dan Goostree, renowned local artist widely known for his creations in metal, died Wednesday. He was 57.
More than a run-of-the-mill blacksmith, Goostree created works of art, some on display at Fiddler's Grove at the Wilson County Fairgrounds and at several Nashville restaurants.
“I like a lot of movement, fluidity and texture in my work,” Goostree said in an interview with The Democrat last year. “I like working with rusty metal rather than new or clean metal. My work in metal stems from the love of the medium. I take a substance that’s seemingly indestructible, apply thought, heat and hammer. Then, I let it cool down. Now, you have an object where art and science meet and – to me – that’s very cool. I guess you could say my style leans towards organic moves with functionality, but if you twist my arm hard enough, I can do right right-angles.”
Dorothy "Tiny" Caldwell said she knew Goostree for decades, going from high school sweetheart to good friend.
"He was barely 57," Caldwell said. "I loved him dearly as did so very many others. I've known him since we were both in high school back in the '70s. We dated briefly and remained friends throughout all the years since."
Known by many as "Dano," he was inspired by nature and his own imagination.
“Some things I make are from ideas out of my head," Goostree said. "I may get the piece all done and then turn it over and find it looks even better or says even more upside down. Sometimes, it’s a piece of nature. Sometimes it’s a patten I see and sometimes I just take a raw piece, put it in the forge and see where it takes me. When movement starts, like bending a pipe, the creative juices take over.”
Goostree grew up in Nashville and graduated from Stratford High School. He attended Tennessee State University, where he “was a full time student, but never left the music building.”
As a result, Goostree played flute, washboard and all kinds of percussion instruments. He played with Charlie Daniels and various different bands.
When he left school, Goostree got into the restaurant business in Nashville, including the South Street Restaurant, which held samples of his sculpted lighting and hot pepper condiment caddies, and the Bound’ry Restaurant, which included his sculpted railings, lighting fixtures, bread baskets, chandelier, gas torches, mosaic tile floors, countertops, tables and candle trees.
Other restaurants besides his own that included samples of his artwork were the Chu Restaurant and its gemstone mosaic wall, sculpted railings and embossed copper; the Sunset Grill and its sculpted railings and outdoor patio wine bottle; and the Alley Cat Restaurant’s Alley Cat logo outdoor sign.
In the meantime, Goostree attended the Penland School of Art for blacksmithing and metal arts; the Appalachian Center for Crafts for blacksmithing, hollow body metal art and embossing metals; the Ornamental Metals Museum for blacksmithing and copper smithing.
When he turned 40, Goostree said he wanted to do something else with his life.
“When we were building the Bound’ry Restaurant, I had a guy come and do some metal work for us. Also, I had done some torch work for custom vans back earlier that triggered my interest,” said Goostree in an earlier interview. “So, I went back to school and started doing more blacksmithing in metal art. I did two of Charlie Daniels' guitars. One of them went to Gibson Guitar’s Town Project, ‘Let Freedom Ring,’ and the other, a 12-foot-tall guitar in fiberglass, went to the Bridgestone Arena. The work I did recently for the Urban Grub Restaurant was the first time I used mixed mica and expanded metal steel to make light shades. I also did their peacock feather railings.”
At the time he was building the South Street Restaurant, Goostree hired a local artist named Paige Easter to paint murals on the walls of the establishment. That meeting went on to become a more in-depth and lasting relationship. They built their own individual careers in their artistic endeavors, they have also worked on several projects that combined their talents. In fact, they were featured on a local television station for their winding walls of mosaic tiles at the Goodlettsville Branch Library. “Seasons from a Bird’s Eye View” is now a permanent part of the Garrett Family Garden and Public Art at the library.
Caldwell said after working as a restauranteur for years, Goostree found his true calling in his work as a blacksmith and the art work her created with those skills.
"He was in the restaurant business for a long time," she said. "But he found fulfillment with the blacksmith stuff. It was what made his soul sing."
Goostree’s family was Lebanonites for nearly 200 years, although he grew up in Nashville, and lived in Key West and Sarasota, Fla. Goostree finally returned to his true roots on the family property in Lebanon a few years ago. Fronting on a lake, the house is still there that his parents built with their own hands many years ago. It features a rock wall that surrounds a great fireplace and took them four years to build.
Caldwell said a memorial service is planned Monday for Goostree at Urban Grub in Nashville.
"When he smiled at you, you couldn't help but smile back," Caldwell said. "He never met a stranger."
To check out Goostree’s work, visit goostreemetalworks.com.