As a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Ross Stangler fell in love — with woodworking. “Being able to take a 2-D sketch and make a 3-D object — it fascinated me,” he says. He changed his major from printmaking to furniture design and never looked back.

Today his northeast Minneapolis wood shop, Stangler Works, hand crafts everything from custom dining tables to smaller “objects for living” like his “Ding Box” — a sleek portable cube that’s both storage container and artwork, designed as a catchall for all those little items that create visual clutter in homes.

Stangler’s aesthetic, “contemporary minimalism,” is focused on materials and construction. “Materials speak volumes,” he says. “I keep it simple — nice big beautiful pieces of wood with nice grain structure. The simpler you make something, the more perfectly made it has to be.” Clients seek him out to craft pieces that fit their homes. “Sometimes they let me go hog wild. Sometimes there’s limited space. Sometimes they want a specific type of wood,” he says.

Walnut and ash are his favorites. “Both have a lot of character,” he says. Currently he has a rich inventory of Twin Cities ash, thanks to efforts to control the spread of emerald ash borer. “Lately I’ve been working with giant trees — taking locally harvested trees and turning them into tabletops.” Stangler likes to “push” his materials, coaxing new tricks from an old medium. “I like being risky. I wake up in the night with random ideas. I have lots of projects on the back burner.”