Dan Shannon from Bellowing Timber

 
 

"There's a profound satisfaction in starting with a raw piece of wood - something that grew right out of the earth - and cutting, milling, shaping, sanding, and finishing it into something beautiful.

The whole process is important. Skip a step or make a wrong assumption, and you will be lucky to have things not end in compromise, or maybe even heartbreak.  But if you take the time and energy required, if you give it all of your heart, and your mind, and your body, you can end up with something special.  Something that reveals all the previously hidden beauty of the material itself. Something that brings the user pleasure to touch, manipulate, and look at. Something useful that will outlive its maker.

Working away in my little shop, what drives me is the hope that these things that I make will speak to people in some way that makes their lives a little simpler and more beautiful. I hope that these objects allow people at least a fleeting moment of peace and pleasure when they run their hands across them.  I hope they will become the 'little treasures of the past' of the future - and provide a personal, human connection from maker to user, right through to another generation"

INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft?

Kind of on a whim!  I had always wanted to try it; always enjoyed doing art, design, and music projects, but hadn't actually even taken shop class in high school; back then I had always figured I'd end up in a science-related field. Eventually, after dropping out of university and doing all sorts of jobs, including a few years as a line cook, I took the plunge and enrolled at Conestoga in Kitchener.  When I started, I didn't even know the names of most of the machines and tools.  But I loved it and just kept going.  I find it really fulfilling in a lot of ways.

What do you listen to while you are working?

Lots of podcasts about fascinating things, like Canadaland and Radiolab, or comedy shows like Hollywood Handbook or Comedy Bang Bang.  Just whipped through the whole season of Mystery Show a couple days ago.  For work music, I usually gravitate to the stuff in my collection that's got real emotional power, so stuff like Father John Misty, Tallest Man on Earth, Ellen McIlwaine's funkier stuff- or Fela Kuti if I feel like dancing while I'm sanding.

Outside of your medium, what other types of art/design/etc are you inspired by?

Music and visual art.

If you couldn't be an artist/craftsperson, what would you love to be?

Maybe a columnist, or an audio engineer.

Where is your studio located? What's your favourite thing about your city?

I live in Hamilton, and my small shop space is in my basement.  I love Hamilton's progressive and working-class identity, and the art, music, and restaurant scene is really starting to take off.  Hopefully the inevitable gentrification that comes with that will bring positive things like better transit and affordable housing initiatives, instead of pushing people out as it often tends to do. I'm optimistic about that though, there's a lot of really active and socially conscious folks around.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

I fall in love with just about everywhere I travel.  But Iceland might edge out the rest.  I got a sense that folks there need to have a really good understanding of both their built and natural environment, probably due to the sparse population and the long, cold, dark winters. There's also a real sense of camaraderie. I guess self-reliance and community support aren't mutually exclusive. Everyone we met was really interesting and very kind.

What do you love most about Canada?

I mostly shy away from anything approaching nationalism, but I will say: We are so lucky to be where we are, when you look at all the places we could find ourselves.  For the most part we live freely and without fear.  And you can go an hour or two in almost any direction and end up in wilderness.  We often have an overly-rosy view of ourselves, our role in the world, and our collective social conscience, but there's a lot of great things about Canada as well.

What is your favourite thing to do with your "down time"?

Writing and recording music that no one ever hears.  Usually a lot of it is electronic, since I can do that late at night on headphones, but I still have a bunch of instruments, and it's fun to use found sounds too.  I'm a terrible lyricist though, so that's usually why no one but me ends up hearing any of it!

If you could go to dinner with ANYBODY, alive or dead, who would it be?

A couple of people that come to mind are Amy Goodman and Ed Snowden. I really admire people like them.

What brand/artist can you not get enough of?

I have trouble picking one thing!  Everything that I've heard from David Byrne is amazing.  Try to listen to his song "Glass, Concrete and Stone" or the Talking Heads track "Heaven" and not be moved to your core. Both tracks are best when you play them at a high volume!  And then for woodworking, there's a guy named Luke Hope in the UK that posts on Instagram as @hopeinthewoods - it's literally just wooden spoons, but taken to this exquisite, sublime level. I swear my heart skips a beat every time I see his work. They are really pricey, but someday I will own one and display it prominently in a humidity-controlled glass case or something.

What is one thing you hope makes it big?

I'm pretty sure this isn't the type of answer you're looking for - but I am going to say "the craft movement as a whole."  Here we are in this age of increasing automation, where it seems like more and more 'work' is either becoming machine-monitoring and button-pushing, or else it's manipulating algorithms for market trend forecasting so the next quarterly earnings report looks good for shareholders, or whatever, you know?  The craft movement is a big old wrench in that machine because it's something incredibly human and personal and caring.  It makes labour an art, not a resource. Which, to me, is so necessary and so valuable right now.

Do you have a favourite book?

One of my most prized possessions is my (later edition, but still somewhat rare) copy of the Codex Seraphinianus - if you don't know it, it's like a technicolor visual encyclopedia of an alternate-universe Earth, written in an imaginary language that no-one has yet been able to decode -- if it's even possible to. Even the page numbering is in "a variant of base 17", according to a geeky website devoted to the book.  It's so weird and wonderful, and somehow manages to comment really insightfully on our world and the way we perceive it. For fiction, 'Dune' was a really good recent read that comes to mind, and for non-fiction, Rousseau's 'The Social Contract' is maybe my favourite poli sci reading from my university days.

What's one goal you are working towards right now?

I mean, other than getting to the point where I can pay myself a living wage?  I'm still really trying to find my own personal voice as a craftsperson, to find ways to have a particular worldview come through in the work I do. It's a sort of ephemeral thing, and I don't know if there's a point when I will ever reach that goal.  But it's really important to consider and work toward.

What is your favourite thing to do over the holidays?

Every year my family will pull out the globe & mail's massive 2-page crossword and set it on the breakfast table, so while some people are cooking or doing dishes we call out clues and gradually chug through the whole thing. Just don't be the person with the pencil, since whoever's over your shoulder will be calling out answers faster than you can read clues.