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Artist carves out a career

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Tucked away in a shed sit a bandsaw and a belt sander.

The items get pulled out as needed, for there is not enough space in the workshop.

Inside the home in front, there is a small room, next to the kitchen, where pieces of wood are transformed into art.

This is Danny Hart’s workshop – simple, yet important.

It’s where the ideas that float around in his head come to fruition.

It’s also the place where he creates enough pieces to take out to various markets around the city.

Hart is one of more than 100 artisans who will take part in the inaugural New Mexico Artisans Market beginning Friday, Nov. 23, at Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town.

The market is showcasing an all-New Mexican lineup selling products in more than 18 categories.

Hart draws inspiration from the colorful landscape of New Mexico, his father’s influence in woodworking, his mother’s inherent craftiness and his architectural and construction background.

His jewelry – rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and bolo ties – is created with plenty of intention.

“I will cut the piece of wood and when I’m in the studio, that’s when it starts revealing itself to me,” he says. “No piece is alike. The grain of wood constantly changes. I pay attention to what it’s telling me to do and I create based off of that.”

Jewelry making is fairly new to Hart, though creating pieces of art has been with him for years.

Hart – a fourth generation New Mexican – studied architecture at the University of New Mexico, where he graduated in 2007.

“I started making light fixtures when I was in the School of Architecture,” he says. “In the class lighting and design, one of the assignments was to build a light fixture. I built a sconce out of wood. It was my first light and it came out awesome. I got the bug. I began to make them while I was still in school and selling them to smaller markets or making them for myself. At the markets, the cheapest it would be was $150 and I wouldn’t sell anything.”

Hart needed something that was accessible to the majority of the public.

And then the unthinkable happened – Hart’s home was broken into. All his wife’s jewelry was taken.

“I had some ideas for jewelry going through my mind before this happened,” he says. “Then I told her, ‘Let me make you a necklace and a pair of earrings.’ She had a ton of cool stuff that was taken. Nothing over-the-top expensive. A lot of street market stuff from Portugal. She was in the Coast Guard.”

Hart made her the pieces of jewelry and she wore them around campus at UNM.

“People started offering to buy it,” he says. “A light bulb went off and I knew this is how I could show at the markets and make some money.”

Hart went back to the drawing table – literally.

He began to design pieces and got a critique from his wife.

“She’s my first line of knowing if something is good,” he says with a laugh. “She’ll let me know if she’d wear it. I’ve learned that I can go between simple and big. The big hoop earrings I make sell very well. The market changes so quickly, there’s no way of knowing what will stick. Just when I think I got it down, it changed on me.”

Hart is a regular at the markets in Albuquerque.

By spending weekend after weekend selling his items, he began to notice there was really nothing for men besides beard products.

Another light bulb.

“What if I created hats and beanies?,” he says. “They would be plain enough, yet have a distinct style about them.”

With that, he created another avenue for his art.

“What’s great is the hats have this blank piece of wood in the front,” he says. “It’s simple and each one is different. With the beanies, there’s a small piece of wood attached and it’s painted. So the piece of wood on both becomes the focal point. It’s fashionable without trying too hard.”

Hart is also participating in the city of Albuquerque’s initiative “One Albuquerque: Engage.”

The program works to fill vacant ground floor spaces along Central between First and Seventh streets to anyone interested in showing off their business.

The city partners with the building owners to enter a short-term lease of the vacant spaces at a discounted rate for the pop-up stores.

Hart’s brick and mortar store is located near Humble Coffee at 505 Central NW.

He’s open from noon-2 p.m. Thursday-Sunday through the end of December.

“The new administration has been pushing hard for the creative economy,” he says. “I’m about the idea of supporting local. The New Mexico Artisan Market, they’ve done a good job of being local and diversifying artists from outside of Albuquerque. There’s a range of artists that I’m looking forward in getting to know.”

As Hart’s business continues to grow, he’s looking for smart ways to expand.

“I’ve got to hire somebody to produce things because I’m starting to plateau of what I can make,” he says. “I just want to be creative all day, every day.”

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