If you have a have a chance to start really poking around this island and learning more about the residents, you’ll be struck by the creative aura that pervades. True, some might view these artistic people as a bit quirky, but the things they create are amazing. Just being around so many lateral thinkers makes you want to let loose and try things yourself.
When you see someone who has found their niche, found their medium, it’s just so enjoyable to view their work. But being a small community, there are only so many buyers. Last month one of the local artisans, Dan Miller, was driving around town, just trying to show off his work, looking for buyers. His pick-up truck was loaded with his work – chairs, benches, birdhouses, tables. He happened to stop by the inns, where innkeeper Erin Dannelly spotted him. She was enthralled with his furniture – ended up buying a cozy bench of recycled woods, seven beautiful hand-crafted Western Red Cedar chairs, and placed an order for more!
Dan’s a man of few words when it comes to his work, perhaps preferring to let the pieces speak for themselves. “It’s hard to find the right wood; then you have to make it into something people want.” An island carpenter by trade since 1972, Dan likes to “mess with antiques” and make furniture. Sometimes it’s a hobby, sometimes it’s a sole source of income, all depends on how well things are going on the island. He always has a booth displaying his furniture at the San Juan County Fair in August and usually makes 15 to 20 large pieces a year – a corner cupboard, a dining set, whatever the available wood dictates. “It’s the same basic principles; furniture is all put together the same way, except the materials are different. I just start building and see how it turns out.” Most of his pieces are one-of-a-kind, simply because of the availability of materials.
You wouldn’t think so, but finding appropriate woods is a problem. The nice stuff is still very expensive, though occasionally he scores at a lumber yard or estate sale. The old weathered woods from buildings that have been torn down offer interesting possibilities for unique pieces, but then again, you have to be able to find it, along with other elements he uses in his craft. He’s used old copper sheets for table tops, discarded doorknobs for perches on his birdhouses, painted panels for benches. He loves to build artistic garden sheds out of recycled materials. Can’t you just picture it? You’ll have to, because so far Dan hasn’t taken any photos of his handiwork.
If you’d like to talk with Dan about crafting a special souvenir of the island, you can reach him at (360) 378-2046.