Plymouth man puts his own twist on birdhouses
Inside Dan Arnold’s bitterly cold shop on the shores of Mooney Lake in Plymouth, sits a bucket of stained glass scraps awaiting his next creation. “That’s a birdhouse,” he said, of the scraps his artist friend gave him.
The idea is still in the conception phase, and will likely have to wait until warmer temperatures return before Arnold can get back out to the shop and turn the glass into art.
It’s materials like those scraps in the bucket that Arnold turns into one-of-a-kind birdhouses.
“For me, it’s just casting about and finding things that are interesting that someday I can use. There is no rhyme or reason to it,” he said.
Five years ago, Arnold made his first birdhouse from white pine boards he salvaged from a house his daughter was rebuilding.
“I simply started out building a couple of birdhouses to put up around the property,” Arnold said.
By the time he finished the second birdhouse, Arnold began looking for different ways to make them more interesting for both birds and people. “I started thinking, why do birdhouses all have to look kind of the same?” he said. “Why can’t you apply some design thinking and turn them into not just birdhouses, but interesting art as well?”
A search for birdhouses online will show a lot of the “standard” one or two-story miniature houses with a round hole for the birds to get in and out. “Birdhouses have always been so predictable,” he said, which inspired him to start experimenting.
Now, every one of his houses has its own story.
“I don’t come up with an idea and necessarily go out and find the material,” Arnold said. “I look for the material and that generates the idea,” he said, noting he rarely goes to a home improvement store to find materials. “When I can’t recycle, I don’t do it,” he said.
For example, he has turned old cameras and thrift shop trinkets into one-of-a-kind homes for birds.
“There is so much around to be found and re-used,” he said.
While many of his birdhouses are functional, other houses are meant to be used for art alone.
One of his favorite birdhouses, for example, is made from a cardboard Starbucks gift box. “That wouldn’t last two minutes outside,” he said. “It’s just fun.”
When it comes to using a particular technique, Arnold said it really depends on the birdhouse and the materials. “Everyone is different,” he said and requires its own technique.
His granddaughter requested he make her a birdhouse resembling a piece of candy. He decided to make a Hershey’s Kiss. For this, Arnold made a pattern to get the proper shape and used stacked wood and hollowed out each piece. Since he only makes one of a design, he has make it right the first time. “You have to do one and make it work … if you made a second one, it would go a lot faster,” he said.
Three years ago, Arnold expanded his artistic creations and began making bowls from trees he finds on his property.
He is currently working on a piece of oak he estimates to be 120 years old.
Arnold described his plans, which he sketched on his iPad using the application 53 Paper.
This particular bowl will stand sideways on a pedestal. The imperfections in the wood only makes the piece that much more unique, giving Arnold the opportunity to be even more creative. A split in this century-old piece of wood will be filled with rock, creating a ripple. “That’s the fun part – figuring out what the hell to do with it,” he said of the split, admitting, “I don’t like perfect things.”
People who prefer usual things probably won’t appreciate his work, he warned. “People amaze me who actually want things out of the normal,” he said.
His next challenge is figuring out how to make a birdhouse out of two fire extinguishers his daughter gave him. “But I will,” he assured.
To learn more about Arnold and the work he has for sale, visit birdhousecrazy.com.