Dan Johnson- Local Artist
How art can become a business
I grew up on a farm in the Illinois Valley. On the farm, kids are expected to help with the chores and we learn young how to do lots of different things. I learned to weld at age 7 and have done it all my life. By the time I was in high school, I was good enough that my Vo-Ag teacher would send me off to the shop to work on my projects while he lectured the other students about handling equipment, or workplace safety, or laying out a project for fabrication.
After high school and five years in the Army seeing the world, I had the opportunity to work for many years doing welding and fabrication on large structures around the country. I fabricated structural support pieces and architectural details for Disney World and Epcot Center, for shopping malls, museums, and other high profile projects. In the early ‘80s I came back to the Rogue Valley and went to work as a fabricator for Crater Iron. I calculated the dimensions, cut the steel, fabricated and welded all of the balcony and stair railings in the Rogue Valley Mall.
I enjoy fabricating things from metal that make other people’s lives better or easier. But I also like being able to add some artistic value, too. By adding a little artistic touch to gates or fences or railings, I can add value to the customer’s product and provide them with something that’s unique and very individual. Doing wildlife, river scenes, or forest landscapes as part of railings or gates opened up the opportunity for me to create some specialized pieces with similar themes. For example, towel bars for the bath accented with a moose and trees, a granite-topped coffee table with a squirrel silhouetted on its base, clocks, mirrors, mail boxes, all with the added value of birds, bears or fish. And I love to make wind sculptures and weather vanes. One featuring a stainless steel dragon with a six-foot wingspan stands in front of my shop. I now offer them all for sale at my shop and on-line at iron-art.biz.
But success calls for more than technical skill and artistic desire. I went into business for myself in 1986 and within six months or so, I knew I needed more knowledge and skill, not in welding or design, but in managing my business. I enrolled in a new program RCC offered through its Small Business Development Center. Roger Harding would sign on to help several small businesses in a year-long program that included group meetings, but more importantly, individual consultation each month with each member of the group. The more time I spent with Roger the better I understood the things that are necessary for a small business to succeed. I got so much from his instruction, I re-enrolled and was in the program for three years.
For me, Art Works because I have been able to take my lifelong skill of working metal and my love of artistry and nature and combine them with the proven techniques of good business management. Art Works for me because I am able to earn my livelihood by being creative, by helping others get what they need and want, and by providing something unique in the market place. I guess that’s the way Art Works for all of us.