Art as Therapy

Category: arts 504

An interview with functional sculpture artist Darren Hanson. 

Ysabelle Vautour
Artist Darren Hanson poses with a few of his creations. Photo: Ysabelle Vautour

Darren Hanson is a functional sculpture artist based in French Lake, New Brunswick. I went to the artist’s home where he first took me on a tour of his father’s studio and sculpture garden. Darren lives next door and in his home I found quite a surprise. He has rooms filled with one-of-a-kind functional furniture pieces he has created. In one room sits a lamp made out of guitars, a chair shaped like a giant coffee cup with a creamer as a footstool and shelf shaped like a huge block of Lego. Hanson lives with moderate to severe anxiety and works part time at his sister’s hardware store close by. 

Could you tell me about your art?

I try to make things that bring joy and are also utilitarian. It’s hard to be sad when sitting on a giant Oreo cookie. Making these pieces is therapeutic and helps me bring a sense of childlike wonder to the mundane.

Yes, your work is very playful. I love this Rubik’s Cube coffee table. How did that come about?  

I needed a new table and furniture is expensive so I came up with a design myself with left over wood. My premise is to take something you like that’s small and make it big or try to play a game of props in your mind with ordinary objects and go from there.

Your work has a great sense of atmosphere and nostalgia to it.  How did it all start? 

I originally started building the cube after I had made a coffin for my dog. The process of making something special just for her as a last goodbye really helped with grieving. 

You mentioned earlier that art is therapeutic. How does it help you with your anxiety? 

It does help. Careful planning and overcoming inevitable problems gets easier the more you do it. It can also go in the other direction by overthinking and giving yourself too much. It helps you learn your limits and where you might be able to push them, I suppose.

It seems like you put in a lot of time into making these.

I have. My latest piece, the Crayola pencil coat rack, has taken me a few weeks. 

How many have you sold? 

I’ve sold four pieces so far. My goal is to make somebody happy, that’s about it. If I could make a living at it, it would be nice, but as long as I can keep doing it I’m happy.

Do you find it hard to let go of your art work?

It was at first, but the process and the accomplishment is my reward. The end product will be for someone else.

How long have you been doing this? 

I have been building things since I was a kid, but I started this stuff, something like, five years ago maybe. I’m not sure.

What did you build as a kid? 

Shelves, tree houses, the occasional birdhouse, an indoor rock climbing wall.

I noticed you and your father’s work are kept separate even though you both make sculptures. Do you think you and your dad ever collaborate on projects? 

No, I doubt it highly. We both really need to be in control of our artwork. I think we would find it hard to share like that.

What inspires you / who are some of your favorite artists? 

I don’t have a favourite artist. I’m terrible with names and such too. I am a fan of anything and anyone that brings together design and function.

Ysabelle Vautour is a self-taught, visually impaired artist. Learn more about her work by visiting her on Facebook

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