Dan wears a few different creative hats. During the day he is an in-house marketing department creative director and designer. When he isn’t toiling away at his day job, Dan would probably best define himself as a maker, putting a lot of attention on his needle-felting business, but also spinning yarn, making socks and cooking meals from scratch.
He finds the tactile qualities of fiber-related handicraft a good balance to the hours spent pushing pixels on screen. And, the time getting from home to office is usual spent on a bike, Minnesota winters included.
Carrie: Welcome Dan to Artist Strong. How did you discover your interest in the arts?
I wouldn’t say it was a discovery, but more like a continual presence in my life from very early on. As a kid, my most treasured possessions were my sketch pads and pencils, always drawing and doodling and playing with my hands.
I’ve always gotten immense satisfaction from the ability to be able to create something, be it a drawing or a little felted critter or even dinner, from the raw materials, from scratch.
Carrie: How would you describe your art to Artist Strong readers?
I don’t really think of what I do as art. It is certainly a creative pursuit, and I do practice a lot to hone my skills, and I have many customers who appreciate and find sparks of joy from the little guys that I make.
Overall, I think of the overall approach to my life as one of creating from scratch, enjoying the process of making, and supporting others who do the same. We live in an increasingly homogenized world of mass-produced crap (food included), that to be a part of something that pushes against that tide is a noble goal.
Carrie: What has been something that has surprised you about this work?
When it comes to my needle-felted guys, I have been surprised at how many people have expressed true appreciation for the small spark of joy the guys can deliver, and sometimes in very moving situations.
They have often been tokens to commemorate major events (weddings, births, anniversaries). I’ve received many notes of appreciation and stories that I try to remember during those days when I’m less inspired and a little overwhelmed.
Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?
I will often get ideas at odd times, usually when I am not in the act of producing something (eating dinner, riding my bike, etc…). The idea will sit with me and keep tickling my brain until I try it out.
Sometimes the ideas are ultimately not that great, but often the act of working through them will help shape new ones or allow me to refine. And, if the idea is a complete dog, I can leave it alone and move on.
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
Since my creative self is split between the design work I do for my employer and the making I do for myself, I have two distinct workspaces that I reside in. My wife is also a very creative person, and often we find that our house turns into a studio, with different projects in different rooms.
So, I’d probably have to describe our whole house to answer this question. Suffice it to say, we use a lot of different spaces suited to the material we are working in. The key to good work is good music, good light, and good fuel for the body (food and water).
Carrie: What are important strategies or choices you make that help support your creative process?
There are a couple of easy strategies that I try to employ that have a profound impact on my levels of creativity. I make sure that I get enough sleep and I make sure that the quality of food that I eat is the highest in terms of nutrition. I find when I am lacking in either of those areas, my work does suffer (and I feel sluggish), so I really try to get 7-8 hours of sleep and eat healthy food.
Beyond that, I try to keep my stress levels down and explore new ideas, even if they seem silly. Basically the better I feel physically, the better I do creatively. It also helps to visit museums and venues that display other makers’ and artists’ work.
Carrie: What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?
It has taken me awhile to realize this, but in the grand scheme of things, the only true competitors in life are my own feelings of self-worth and ego.
I may have competitors in the marketplace, other people who do similar things, but what really matters is that I focus less on other people, and focus on my own growth as a person, partner to my wife, and a contributing member of society.
Carrie: What do you hope viewers take from your artwork?
A flash of joy. A smile.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
Exercise. More specifically, riding my bike to and from my day job. It’s a ten-mile ride each way, and the length gives me enough time to wind away any stress and get a bit of fresh air. I find myself more creative at work, and more creative at home and in the studio. Even during the Minnesota winters, I try to ride on all but the coldest of days.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
Makers of all sorts who have really honed their craft and take care in their creations.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Bringing to life the sparks of imagination that are a result of our minds processing the varied interactions with the world we inhabit.
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