Artist Dan Davies and his connection to Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS)

by sarah j. clark • conductor or comings and goings

Salish Sea Market Artist Dan Davies creates amazing “Seashore Inspirations” from things found on his beach walks. Small pieces of driftwood the rest of us would easily stroll past, Dan is able to visualize the beauty that resides beneath the surface, the “inner glow” that happens when you burnish them to a fine lustre.

Dan’s assemblages are stunning, some with up to 100 pieces carefully placed in a shadow box frame. Each one a unique treasure and reminder of the magic that is found on our shoreline. As with all creative endeavours, there is a deeper story to what Dan is doing with his work. Each piece is created and sold in support of MARS – Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, in Merville, BC.

Dan donates all proceeds to help with their vital rescue work.

I recently asked him to tell me more about how he got involved with MARS and about his process. Here is what he told me:

How did you become involved with MARS?

Wendy and I have always supported various groups like the SPCA back on the Prairies for years. When we moved to the Comox Valley, in 2014, we visited MARS and have been Members ever since. We now have supported many of their wonderful programs.

How did the idea of creating your driftwood pieces as a way to contribute to MARS come about? 

After working in an office for so long, I wanted to spend as much time as possible out in nature, especially on the many amazing beaches here on the Island. There is such a unique beauty to driftwood, that I have admired, from the largest to the very small pieces. Over the first few years I would collect select small pieces and ponder over them. Others then started to ask if I would frame up some of these for them.

Where did you pick up the “old way” of burnishing with another piece of wood or stone, to finish your pieces? 

I learned over time how to best clean, dry, and present these small pieces. I began to notice that certain pieces of driftwood were polished from what was years, or even more likely decades being out in the open ocean, and then washed up on sandy or rock shorelines. When studying about ways to bring out the grain and the intricacy of old wood, I found out how this was done long before today’s current tools were developed. ‘Burnishing’ an old piece of wood, with other woods and stones, felt like a perfect fit for these pieces. I discovered as well that this whole process was very meditative for me, especially in making my way through some health issues.

The process of collecting your pieces means hours of walking along beaches and paying attention to small things … do you usually do this alone or with someone else? 

When wandering out beach combing, I usually go with a good friend, whom I met here. Henning Larsen was born in the Valley and w’ve gone out for countless days as he shared his life-long knowledge of the beaches, the ocean currents, and where different kinds and sizes of driftwood might end up. Henning has health issues as well, so we both would walk rather slowly out there, but that meant we began to see much more. Particularly the really small, most weathered, pieces of driftwood.

Dan’s creative endeavour is offering peaceful pastime for him and his friend Henning, supporting the important work of MARS, and offering the world beautifully and meticulously handcrafted art to enjoy for years to come. I say that qualifies as a WIN WIN WIN! Thank you Dan!

See some of Dan’s pieces online HERE … or drop by the market and see them in person!  

Visit MARS online at: marswildliferescue.com