Craft Sculptor Dan Schuster
Crafting sculptures out of shipping pallets and other vintage lumber, this Iowa native puts a new spin on folk art.
Humble Beginnings Dan Schuster isn’t just an artist; he’s also an art director, graphic designer, advertiser and father. When he first began sculpting his folk-art creations in 1995, his analytical side had him wondering why people buy what they do at certain ages. So his art functioned as sort of an experiment: “I wanted to create something that appealed to a wide audience,” Dan says. In doing so, he not only created a popular product, but also one that encapsulates different facets of his life. In tribute to his self-proclaimed dry sense of humor, a one-liner adorns each sculpture. And their vintage, worn look is testament to his love of Old World aesthetics. What started as an experiment has blossomed into gallery exhibits and even a segment on HGTV.
Behind the Scenes Dan uses sculpting as a release from his 9-to-5 job. “In graphic design, everything has to be perfect,” he explains. “I’m able to do the complete opposite with my sculptures by using old wood and things that aren’t entirely perfect.” Driving his philosophy is the theory of Wabi-Sabi, a collection of Japanese aesthetic principles. “It’s all about finding beauty in imperfection,” Dan says. It’s a concept he hopes also comes through when his art is hanging on someone’s walls. “The idea is for it to become a statement against clean-looking walls–to throw off perfection in an interior setting,” he says.
Material Matters In correlation with Wabi-Sabi principles, Dan tries to choose wood with a worn look to it. He primarily uses shipping pallets, but also works with leftover furniture or scraps from manufacturing plants. “With shipping pallets, there’s a history that comes with it.” Dan says. “And part of the art is the hidden history.”
Inspiration Point Dan counts among his influences Aaron Foster, a folk artist who creates artwork with vintage license plates, as well as graphic designer John Sayles. His muse varies for each individual piece. While friends or family inspire some of his sculptures, often people come to him with ideas. “I created a tribute of sorts to a co-worker’s former greyhound, in which I sort of recreated the dog in the sculpture. People have really taken to that,” Dan says. He admits that coming up with a quote is sometimes the hardest part. “I’m not much of poet or a copywriter, but I get a lot of influence from greeting cards—anything that’s really short and to the point.”
Buy It Prices vary based on size and complexity, but pieces generally range from $75 to $500. For more information, call 319-362-9009 or visit danschusterdesigns.com
View some of Dan’s sculptures by scrolling down and viewing the slideshow. Having trouble with the slideshow? View Dan’s art here!