There are key moments that end up changing the path and direction of your life. Looking back with hindsight you can spot them. One of those moments for sure was getting my own, first drafting table, custom made by now noted woodworker and artist, Barry Dolan. This was sometime back in the late 70’s when Barry was working for the Rio Grande Railroad with my father in Durango, Colorado. That table really focused my drawing efforts, as I loved it. It was all mine.
Flash ahead 40 years…I still have my Barry Dolan drafting table, and now some thousand drawings later my whole life has been changed by this table. Barry and I lost connection through the years but through the power of Facebook, we reconnected. What a talent he is. Now living in Canon City, Colorado he is still creating amazing works of art, glass, and wood.
In the past 40 years he has created a variety of works, including, sculpture, lighting, furniture, entryways, and stained glass windows. The common thread in his career has been his exploration of the concept of the Woven Wood Box. He created the first Woven Wood Box in the early 1980’s, and clients began to request that he create custom boxes just for them. Not wanting to repeat himself, the concept began to evolve. Sizes, were adjusted to reflect function, the intricacy of the weave evolved and new styles of weave were introduced. The most recent evolution has been the introduction of an ‘Art Glass’ insert into the lid of the box, a vast improvement to the aesthetics, and a major departure in the construction of the weave. He has kept the basic construction of the box as simple as possible, so that he could focus more time on the ornamental elements of the pieces. He prefers to use domestic hardwoods, as opposed to the more exotic rain forest woods because of environmental concerns. An effort to conserve materials results in matching corners and wood grains flowing in the order that they are cut from the boards. Every effort is made to use the most beautiful boards. He produces these pieces in small production runs of 15 or less to keep costs down, and each run exhibits a further evolution of the concept.
His unique approach to design comes from a lifelong interest in architecture. When he was 5 years old his grandmother built her dream home a short distance from where he now lives. Although modest in scale, it was truly an outstanding example of mid fifties modern architecture, with corner windows, massive hearth and an open flowing plan. She gave him pointers on how to design a home and some paper and pencils, and set him on a lifetime adventure in design.
He taught himself to do mechanical perspective drawing, a skill that set the course for his interest in 'Architectural Arts'. He did perspective drawings of the buildings that he would dream up in his head. This process of taking his dreams and putting them on paper soon led to the next step of actually building in the physical realm. Of course by that time, he had narrowed his focus to furniture and sculpture, even going as far as to regard the two as one genre. My drafting table is a perfect reflection of that as my table is more art and sculpture than table.
He then became interested in stained glass. The term Architectural Arts took on a much more concise meaning and he was on his way to becoming a true 'Artist'. In addition to creating art glass boxes, he designs and build lamps as well. He also accepts commissions for custom pieces and we were just about to collaborate on the stained glass for a private residence chapel.
Several of Barry’s woven wood boxes are available as Isabel’s store, Earth and Images and make a unique and beautiful gift for the Holidays. I think of the woven wood boxes as a reflection of Barry and my lifelong friendship – weaving in and out of touch but both committed to beauty and our art. I encourage you to check them out and pick one up. I think you will agree that if nothing else he has accomplished true art. It has been his objective to seek originality and quality and to give rather than to take from the art form. It is that contribution that is perhaps his greatest achievement.