ARTIST IN THE SPOTLIGHT | Daniel Belton - 'Da Pallet Man'
Welcome back to Cacique’s Artist In The Spotlight series - a journey into a thriving Bahamian art scene and a deeper look at some of our most celebrated talents. In this episode, we are chatting with Nassau’s very own wood whisperer, Daniel Belton, who has stormed the art scene with his colourful craft.
For many, woodworking is rather simple. It involves cutting larger boards into smaller boards and then arranging them in a particular way to create something useful. For others, carpentry is the expression of creativity and emotion. I think Daniel’s work begs the question of whether or not carpentry can be considered both. Although he has only just begun to skim the surface of this previously dormant dexterity, Daniel has surpassed ‘craftsman’ - he is without doubt an artist. Daniel’s desire to create using this timeless material transcends the possibilities of woodworking as we know it. His distinctive work isn’t necessarily taking advantage of the flashiest technology but rather honing in on the traditional woodcraft techniques with the addition of whimsy, bright semblance. Daniel’s commitment to work wood by hand is not so much nostalgic but more because of his innate appetite for organic creation. The result is more nuanced and spontaneous with the colours of the Caribbean speckled throughout.
The labour of lumber…
Cacique. how did you get into art ? Did woodwork come first and art later ? How did this work ?
Daniel. I enjoyed drawing from a young age. I still have elementary and high school art projects as proud keepsakes. I would say my fascination with expressive and artistic drawing came first, then it turned into an interest in technical drawing. I was always tinkering in my father’s shed using tools and scrap wood which fostered a curiosity which led to me participating in carpentry classes. At the time, technical drawing and carpentry were both electives at my school so I took both. I very much enjoyed and still enjoy taking 2D concepts and watching them take shape. The first bit of validation was receiving the ‘Best in Performance’ Award from the Ministry of Education for the 2000 BGCSE Examination in Carpentry and Joinery.
C. How do you define your work ? Or perhaps where do you position your work ? ‘Carpenter’ has a far more engineer-esque feel to it and ‘artist’ seems less about functionality and use and more about a creative craft. I think you have created a great hybrid.
D. I like to think I am a cross between an artist and a carpenter. There is a great deal of planning and design that goes into each piece. I’m unable to just pick up some wood and flow without clear mental directives to develop from. As I progress in the project I like to take breaks and allow for free-flowing creativity and expression to manifest once the foundation has been established. I really enjoy making functional art; something that not only looks good but that you can interact with, something with purpose!
Cacique. Where do you get your inspiration from ?
D. I get my motivation from the people and environment I surround myself with. Particular people have, without knowing, played a vital role in my journey towards entrepreneurship. Without these individuals I am sure I would have lost steam but their encouragement has been a tremendous help. My family is a huge support system, they have been invaluable throughout this artistic process. I find that reconnecting with nature in some way helps me to refresh and reset my thinking allowing me to actively move towards a goal.
C. You’ve created a product that is now very recognizable and one that has been so well received - how does this feel ?
D. It’s weird because I feel like I haven’t really accomplished anything yet. I’m thankful and incredible grateful for all the opportunities thus far. It’s completely exhilarating when people want to purchase a piece of work! There is so much more I want to create, I feel like I am only skimming the surface but with time I hope I am able to sink my teeth into this completely. I am thrilled to hear that people recognize my work that feel that there is a distinctive look to it as I spent a great deal of time creating a ‘signature’ and I wasn’t entirely sure that I’d succeeded. I’ve never been one to settle but it does feel good to hear that.
C. Walk us through the journey . how did you get here ?
D. It all begin with a desire to be a business owner. I wanted to be independent and work for myself, utilizing the skills I had learnt and perfected up until this point in my life. I also knew I needed to stand out. The island is small and we are surrounded by talent. As I progressed through adulthood I developed more of a love for nature and a desire to create something that either took advantage of its beauty or helped in maintaining it. I experimented with a lengthy list of ideas that all had roots in the idea of up-cycling what most would consider trash into usable, stylish home decor. I have also cultivated a growing collection of driftwood from beaches throughout The Bahamas for the better part of two years. It was during one of many beach scouring afternoons that I found my first sun bleached pallet. I realized then that the pallet had so much more potential than logs and branches.
C.what has been a seminal experience in your career ?
D. I would say there have been two on this journey. My first being an expo show at Jollification in 2017. It was my ‘debut’ if you will. It was a nerve-wracking experience to say the least. I was filled with doubt wondering how my work would be received and whether people would be as excited as I was about my new endeavor. It was the first of many leaps and I’m glad I did it. The second being the opportunity The Current gave me when allowing me to have a furniture exhibition in their gallery. Their guidance and support has really paved the way to what I am doing now. The experience of seeing my work alongside other amazing creatives in an artistic space was completely surreal.
C. What’s next for you ?
D. I’m definitely going to expand on my repertoire. I want to focus on creating functional art like table variations, chairs, stools, headboards, planters and bookcases. I also want to gear some energy into a variety of smaller items like desk organizers, serving trays, clocks and game boards. I have a few ideas regarding an incorporation of driftwood into my reclaimed furniture so I will continue to explore this! I am also so excited to experiment with resin so we will see where these fantasies lead me!
C.Why tables ?
D. This idea came from The Current team. The saw the potential long before I did. Their vision for a non-traditional conference space included a table that met the needs for its intended purpose but also provided a decorative and artistic feel. It was a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with them and this quickly led to a furniture frenzy. The exhibition that ensued included all kinds of pieces that serve utilitarian purposes with a distinctive, repurposed aesthetic.
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At Cacique, we love to showcase our colourful art scene and the characters that create its distinct flair. For more information on Daniel Belton or any of our other fabulous Artists In The Spotlight, or to find out about curating a unique event, feel free to contact us.
Looking forward to the next chat! SMS ;)