Hailing from the small town of Ivor, Virginia is the multi-talented Daniel Crawford. He has a natural affinity for art and design having attended Governors School for the Arts in Norfolk from 1993-2003 and went onto receive his BFA in sculpture at VCU in 2007. Inspired by parents (his mother a seamstress/quilter and his father a mechanic/hunter), working with his hands is second nature and crucial in the development of Daniel’s style.
Daniel decided to traverse a new landscape by experimenting with antlers circa 2007. After seeing success in this craft, he continued to mold antlers that all the spaces deemed hip were cladding themselves with. With a niche market, he opened up an Etsy shop.
While working on both engines and embroidering machines in Richmond, Daniel knew there was a new calling for his vision. An avid gift-maker, Daniel began embroidering patches for his friends around holidays to add to his collection of goods that gave rise to The New Woodsman in 2010.
We joined Daniel at his studio in Plant Zero to chat about his journey where we also meandered and found some cookie tin banjos in the works.
How did the NW begin?
DC: I made a set of antlers out of a mold to figure out how to do it. I made that one and then I made presents for people for Christmas probably that same year. It seemed like the thing to do. I started making more of them and sold them on Etsy. There was the boom in the antler craze and a whole bunch of people started doing it. So I stopped doing it for a couple years. The Etsy thing picked up selling a few here and there, making more colors and marking them as the animal friendly faux antlers.
What type of people own your art?
DC: All kinds. I think it really depends. Speaking of antlers I’ve had people that want them to look more natural so I’ve made them using white or cream. There are others who prefer not so natural like crazy hot pink. My art has a following from people who are animal friendly as well.
How would you describe your style?
DC: It is me – whatever that means. I've had people tell me the things I make look like my personality and is expressive of who I am. It is playful, colorful, sometimes funny, and sometimes dark.
You mentioned the influence your parents have on TNW. Tell us that story. DC: I grew up in a one-stoplight town. Maybe one horse town too. My dad worked on engines and my mom did a lot of sewing and made clothes for us growing up. So I probably have a balance of both of those things.
Describe a typical day in the studio.
DC: I come in and pour a set of antlers. I probably try and cast a set at least every time I'm in here. It takes about 24 hrs to cure. I let that set and work on another embroidery or drawing or make the plaques or mount a new mold of something.
Do you have any big project in the works? What are you most excited about?
DC: I'm always working on projects. I have a good at least half dozen. I'm working on about a dozen in my mind, which is too much sometimes. I have a good list of things to embroider or make into patches or to make into something that I feel needs to exist.
Is there anyone that inspires your work?
I look at a lot of typography for making patches and embroidering catchphrases. Any music I listen to might inspire me. Maybe it is a phrase a word, or the imagery that it conjures will inspire something.
There was one that I made that said Twist of Fate that had crossed fingers. That one just came from the Bob Dylan song. I'd heard it many times. I was just driving and singing along and for some reason the question just popped in my head, wondering what is fate? It just happened in an instant. It seemed like a twist of fate. So I made it a patch.
What are you listening to these days besides Bob Dylan?
I come back and forth to that (Bob Dylan) sometimes maybe when the time is right. Lately a lot of John Fahey. He is a great guitar player and pulls melodies from allover. It's a beautiful thing and mostly instrumental. The feeling it gives me has momentum to it.
WORK Labs believes there’s a difference between your job and your work. Your job isn’t as important as your work. Elaborate?
DC: I try and make this a job. I'm more passionate about this stuff. Doing the drawings turning them into embroideries, patches, putting 'em on bags hats, whatever it is - people are really excited about it and I'm really excited about it so that works out. I repair small engines by day right now. There’ satisfaction when you fix something - and it works.
With The New Woodsman, there is a sense of accomplishment that I can actually hold and say I introduced this thing to the world. That makes me feel pretty good. It’s kind of a side effect of what I'm doing, but I'm not making it for people. I make it because I feel it needs to be made or I want to do it.
What makes you tick?
DC: What gets me going? What puts steam in your engine? Oh I like that- I need to write that down. I know that's a catchphrase. We've all heard these things before but sometimes they lead to other things. Words, phrases, lyrics - the stuff that makes you feel things - that makes me tick. If it makes me feel something, it might make someone else feel something
If you were a bobble head, what would be your catchphrase?
DC: Hmm. That changes day to day because of the list that I have. I want it to be something I can own.
How about Late for Work?
DC: A lot of these have stories behind them. If you want that story, I'm rarely late for work, whatever work is. I'm pretty punctual about most things. Late for Work happened when I was biking home and one of my friends zoomed passed going to work and he hollers, "Late for Work", and I said Huh I'm gonna make that. That sort of became an icon for The New Woodsman because I’ve had a lot of fun putting it on things. Maybe Hold Your Horses or Get a Room – my friend Herschel and I use to drop that on people.
Can you tell us a little about your machines?
DC: It's a standard industrial commercial machine. I worked in an embroidery shop here in Richmond for about 6 years, putting out monogram bath towels, baby burp cloths, and all that stuff. When I started making my own designs, I got my own machine and started sewing stuff myself.
What’s your long term goal?
DC: I wish I knew what that was. Everything kind of happened naturally and I think hopefully it will continue to happen that way. I'm definitely not trying to mass-produce. I'm always trying to make something new. That’s why I have a couple of projects always going on. The antlers need to be something more than antlers on a wall for sure. I’ve started to do that with the chandeliers, which is a good way to go. I'm always trying to branch out into other ways to expand whatever the new woodsman is whatever that aesthetic is- maybe jewelry other wall pieces such as the fox jaw and deer teeth I’ve been messing with.
Cookie Tin Banjo?! Spill.
DC: I've made a few of them they’ve gotten progressively better – more like instruments, and more playable. The banjo has always had this weird calling for me. But to make them to sell them is something different. I'm gonna make this thing, go backpack somewhere with it and put cookies in it.
3 questions we ask: who are you, what do you do, and why does it matter?
DC: Who am I? I'm trying to figure that out. I have a little problem with calling myself The New Woodsman. I live in the city. Yeah I grew up in sort of the woods. I don’t live in the mountains. Maybe I have a beard from time to time. I think of it more as the aesthetic.
I make good things, nice things. Almost all of the things I do are kind of a self-portrait. But why does it matter? Maybe it’s an outlet for just me and to have people excited about it or into it too. To want to be a part of it is a huge plus so I'm okay with that. Why it matters in the grand scheme of the world…the universe?? Eh, I’ll leave something behind I suppose.
WORK Labs is proud to feature Sir Daniel Crawford as the first WORK Folk. You earned it, Daniel!