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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Dave Daniels’ Creative Outlet, Absolution Woodworks

May 23, 2017 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

With the Grain

June 2017
Story by Jordan Venema
Photos by Kelli Avila

The wonder of most creation is the process of transformation – of taking a substance, whether it’s paint or metal or clay, and giving it new shape. Sometimes creativity not only gives substances new form, but also new life by repurposing what others would have thrown away. Furthermore, that process of transformation isn’t always external, but sometimes takes place within the artist, adding deeper meaning to the process of creative transformation.

Visalia native and music teacher Dave Daniels probably would agree that such a transformative process happens both within his art and himself whenever he crafts furniture and cutting boards from repurposed wood. 

After relocating with his wife to Visalia from Las Cruces, N.M., Daniels admits experiencing stress from work. “I just needed a creative outlet to blow off steam and leave the workday behind,” he says.

So Daniels picked up his woodworking tools, a craft he had studied during high school. It had been a long hiatus, but coming back to it, Daniels says working with wood became a kind of therapy for him. 

“Also, it was like a hobby that started to pay for my tools,” he says with a laugh. “But it’s grown from there.”

He began with small projects, supplementing his high school courses with tutorials he watched on YouTube.

“I was making stuff like cutting boards, and realized, ‘Hey, I could sell this.’ My friends were buying them for Christmas gifts and stuff like that.”

Realizing its potential, Daniels transitioned his 20-hour-a-week hobby into Absolution Woodworks, crafting (in addition to cutting boards) a variety of tables and furniture, mostly from salvaged wood. 

“It’s all from wood that has been salvaged from the valley,” says Daniels. “My dining room table is from Coastal Redwood that came out of the valley here. I made another dining room table out of walnut pulled from an orchard.

“I just sold a Giant Sequoia coffee table,” he continues. “That piece of wood I salvaged from a garage out in Bakersfield. This guy was just sitting on it. That’s wood you can’t mill or harvest, because it’s illegal to cut those trees down, obviously.” 

“For me, those trees are almost sacred. I used to take them for granted,” continues Daniels, “because as a kid, it’s just a big tree. But going back as an adult, I realize this tree has been here for thousands of years. It’s amazing to have a piece of wood like that, to count the super tight rings of this table sitting in your living room like, ‘OK, that’s when Abraham Lincoln was president.’”

Whether the material for his work is decades or generations old, he’s transforming this salvaged material into midcentury modern designs, tables with hairpin legs, and cutting boards crafted from different types of wood to look like aesthetic checkerboards. 

“I’ll glue four different kinds of wood in a panel, and then I’ll go and change the size of my cut,” says Daniels, explaining the process of making his multimedia pieces, “using a larger piece of maple or slivers of different types of wood, bringing out varieties and colors, and creating complex patterns.” 

In a sense, Daniels considers the entire arc of his work – its past, present and future – and reflecting on this, he says there’s a unique inspiration that comes from the process.

“The title Absolution has an underlying theological element to it,” he says. “I believe that I was created in the image of a maker who is also creative, so when I get down to being creative, that’s an expression of the nature of God.

“And then there’s regeneration,” he continues. “Giving new life to something that’s dead. Absolution comes from my favorite part of the liturgy that you’re forgiven and you can go and begin anew.”

So more than his work being a kind of therapy, Daniels also calls his woodworking God time. “Yeah, for me, that’s God time. As God exists outside of time, I’m also free of anxiety or a sense of time, when in that zone while creating something.” • Find them on Facebook