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Bravo to the Unsung Artist

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Recently I had the idea to feature the stories and art of some creative local talent that is as yet undiscovered… you know the proverbial lamp hidden under a bushel basket. And the first of these hidden talents that has come to my attention is Denny Driver and his artfully crafted boxes. I have met Denny several times at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center where he is an integral part of the team that puts together the various shows and exhibits there. In fact, I have photographed Denny previously putting together at least one such exhibit there in just the last few months. He was also one of the giant puppets in the Apple Blossom Parade… the Giant Miner if I’m not mistaken.

But, when he’s not at work diligently putting together the myriad creations at the museum for the edification and cultural enhancement and delight of our local population here in Wenatchee, Denny has been quietly working away on his personal time designing and creating some of the most unique boxes I have seen in a long time if not ever.

I asked Denny where he gets his inspiration from. He told me that he has “always liked the idea of functional art”. And then, about twelve years ago, he added, he built a wooden bead table for his daughter. He described how he used scrap wood for that first creation. This first item was admittedly rough with uneven seems and “ just looked terrible”, he said.

He then started experimenting with different types of texture to cover up the flaws. Later he took a claw foot coffee table, which had a damaged top and applied the molding paste texturing material he was using to it and then painted sunflowers and a decorative border (a trademark he developed in the early 1990’s).

He tried selling this table in a craft gallery in Seattle’s Freemont district. The size and price he figured made it difficult to sell. He then saw that some decorative boxes were selling at a moderate price and he decided to do his own. At first, he used pre-existing boxes made of wood, metal or pasteboard and applied his own texturing technique, decorative border, and simple sunflower or tulip designs to those.

Then when he ran out of premade boxes (he just had a few), he began constructing his own boxes in varying shapes and sizes. He then started selling his boxes at Frank and Dunya in Freemont around 1999. Pretty soon he had boxes selling in a Kirkland gallery and a Bothell gallery as well, and later an Atlanta, GA gallery and an Alexandria, VA gallery. He did that for about three years, but then stopped. He didn’t say why. Only recently the creative urge grabbed hold of him again and he began creating boxes again.

He says that his inspiration comes from people’s reactions to his work, the music he listens to, and even from within himself in that internal creative space that all artists go to where time and the outside environment are lost in space.

The technique he uses is simple (says here), he constructs the boxes out of whatever kind of wood he can find or chip board from the backs of note pads and such. He seals the seams and joints with a joint compound and then sands it. Next, he textures the boxes with molding paste or thickened paint that he applies with a palette knife. Then he draws whatever design comes to him on the box and paints it with latex enamel – basically house paint. Then he applies a transparent polyurethane sealant with a brush and places colored or textured paper, card stock, or matt board in the bottom of the boxes and sometimes in the lids. Finally, it’s time to attach some upholstery tacks to the bottom of the boxes as feet and voila – a decorative box that is completely unique, artfully designed and completely utilitarian if one wishes to use it as a functional box of some sort.

Bravo Denny. I really like what you are doing.