(Really) Open Studio

[Just re-discovered this post, which I wrote a few weeks ago on another device and then promptly forgot. So it’s out of order, but we thought it would be fun to share these photos.]

We’ve been staying in Northeast Harbor for a few days to do laundry, re-provision, and a hike a bit in Acadia National Park. While here we reconnected with an artist Drew met last winter, Dan Falk. He’s a woodcarver who makes whimsical (and occasionally freaky) animal sculptures at his studio here in town. A number of them are right in his front yard, surfing and playing badminton:

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In the summer Dan opens up his studio to kids, who come to paint, sculpt, sand wood — they just walk in and get started. The studio is crammed with Dan’s animals, pots of paint, brushes, books, and postcards tacked to the walls. Bonnie Raitt plays on the stereo, and mobiles swing from the ceilings. Upstairs there’s a pool table. The floorboards are covered with paint drips, as are Dan and most of the kids.

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Here’s Dan coaching some kids who were sanding driftwood into snake sculptures:

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“Don’t forget, you’re going to hate me,” he told them, in the sweetest way imaginable. “I’m not going to let you finish until you’re finished.” They didn’t mind in the least. “It’s ok, we have two weeks until school starts!” one boy replied.

Of all things, Dan started out working on Wall Street. That didn’t take. Then with his father’s encouragement he applied and was accepted to medical school, but three days before his first semester he bailed out. For the next two years he worked as a lumberjack, and then owned a sawmill. And then, in turn, he started making art.

He volunteers this story pretty freely, along with the fact that he hated school (probably for the benefit of the kids who come to his studio feeling a little lost). He’s been having kids at his studio for 20+ years, asking only for donations to cover materials from those who can afford it. Upstairs are two plaques given to him in recognition for his work over the years at a senior center. We talked about a mutual love for Japanese design and he showed us a post-and-beam house — just behind the studio and across a zen-raked badminton court — that he built, without any nails, entirely of hand-hewn fallen timber from around Northeast Harbor. The walls of this house and the studio are sprinkled with post-it notes he’s written as reminders to himself. “Be kind.” “Slow down.” “Play music.” His daily schedule, tacked up in another room, indicates that he wakes every morning at 3:30 to meditate for two hours before moving on with his day.

Anyway, thank you Dan, we had a great time.

3 Comments

  1. Fun adventure – Dan is quite guy. His community is lucky to have him. Glad you ran into him.

  2. What an inspiring story, Linda. Dan is an incredible example of someone living an “intentional life”. And his spirit touches many others – old and young – with acts of engagement and art-making. Martin and I agree that you’re a terrific writer!

  3. Lindy Williams

    October 2, 2015 at 16:00

    Sounds like a really special place. Would love to see photos of the house Dan built if you have them as well!

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