Last month I headed east towards Port Perry to join a friend in picking up a sculpture specially carved by Dan Gallagher. The setting was idyllic with rolling hills, cornfields, forests in the distance, and a pond nearby. And Gallagher's studio, set up in a half-culvert barn, was messy enough to show that things were really getting done there.
Dan Gallagher studied environmental science and worked in his field for several years, but gave it up to follow his passion for woodwork. Although he started by making furniture, after acquiring a set of carving tools and adding this skill to his roster, hand carving became his main focus.
You get the impression that Gallagher could build anything, and do it efficiently and without drama. He takes pride in fine craftsmanship whether he is making a Windsor chair, a boat, a garage, hand carved signage or more sculptural pieces.
Gallagher rarely works on personal projects, so it was a treat to see a few pieces of his own: a "lovers' chair" inspired by snowshoes (about which he says, "one doesn't work without the other") and a whirligig inspired by two identical newspaper headlines published over 100 years apart. "What's wrong with people these days," was the headline in 1884 when a fire in Port Perry saw citizens looting rather than helping put the fire out. The same headline reappeared in reference to more recent G20 events.
With his sensitivity to materials, textures, and proportions, combined with practicality and know-how, Gallagher is incredibly adept at executing a creative vision, whether it be his own or another's.