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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Volusia County

DaVinci Design House readies for renaissance
Rating: 2.75 / 5 (24 votes)  
Posted: 2013 Apr 19 - 06:12

By Erika Webb

The DaVinci Design House in DeLand's burgeoning artisan district is nearing completion.

Owner Mark Shuttleworth said the latest link in the city's up and coming cultural corridor south of New York Avenue should be finished in about five weeks.

So far, four artists and craftsmen are set to move into the two-story house turned multifarious gallery at 117 W. Howry Ave. More are knocking at the door.

The very name DaVinci invites the polymath. Leonardo, after all, was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer.

The building's tenants find many of their materials at Mr. Shuttleworth's Florida Victorian Architectural Antiques warehouse.

Florida Victorian manager Danny Sorensen said DaVinci Design initially will have eight or nine spaces for artists and craftspeople to display their work, including photography, "funky furniture," sculpture and functional furniture pieces, such as bookcases and tables made out of reclaimed wood.

Mr. Sorensen's creations will be in one of them. He designs musical sculptures and constructs instruments out of recycled propane and water tanks.

His drums, called Hank Drums, were invented in 2007 by Dennis Havlena who has been creating and inventing musical and hybrid instruments for more than 40 years.

His invention was inspired by the Swiss-made Hand or Hang Pan, an instrument developed in 2000, Mr. Sorensen said.

Mr. Sorensen first saw Mr. Halvena's work on the Hand Pan enthusiasts' website, www.handpan.org.

Hand Pans are made similar to steel drums, and played with hands and fingers while sitting.

Mr. Sorensen contacted Mr. Halvena whom, he discovered, once lived in DeLand. He asked for permission to put his own spin on Mr. Halvena's invention.

Mr. Sorensen's Tongue Drums are visual and audible artistry, unrecognizable as utilitarian implements. He welds and grinds raised silver designs into the stripped metal, fires it with torches to bring out blue, brown and aubergine hues. The instruments' notes come from tongue-shaped cutouts on its surface.

When he opens Harmonic HeArts at DaVinci Design House, curiosity seekers will be well served. Mr. Sorensen enjoys demonstrating and talking about the melodious masterpieces.

"I love utilizing raw material, to repurpose things that would otherwise be in a landfill, repurposing garbage to make beautiful music, a beautiful instrument," he said. "The instrument relaxes you physically, mentally, emotionally. It gives peace and washes away the ills of the day."

He has plans outside of the studio, too. As Artisan Alley, Florida Victorian, Café DaVinci and the DaVinci House become more connected logistically and creatively, those involved seem destined to benefit from mutual admiration and inspiration.

"I'm in the process of putting together a sculpture for the garden in Artisan Alley," Mr. Sorensen said, "using a large water tank to do a large musical sculpture that people can come and play."

He said he'll continue "dabbling in the vast material warehouse" at Florida Victorian where there's "a plethora of goodness ready to be made into new stuff."

Mr. Sorensen's vision is compelling, a nudge to stay tuned.

"I would love to get a bunch of these together, all with the same tuning" he said motioning to the drums, "and bring people from all walks of life, different cultures, together to play them. Within half an hour those people will have a common bond, just through the music."

Lance Johnson and Ian Williams will open Iron Wood Raven, an interior design studio, at the DaVinci House.

Mr. Johnson makes furniture and lighting out of reclaimed and salvaged wood, and vintage industrial parts.

The reclaimed wood includes southern heart pine, chestnut, oak, walnut, northern white pine and other species, he said. Much of it comes from the framing of old buildings that have been razed. The cast iron industrial and farming fragments are mostly from the first half of the 20th century, and include gears, legs from old lathes and other machinery as well as other salvaged remnants.

"Many of the old castings have a heavy deco influence," Mr. Johnson said. "I choose the materials and design and build each piece. It is a blending of industrial design from a lost era and of workmanship that ends with a unique item that has utilitarian function and artistic qualities -- with great attention given to components, patina and finish."

Along with furniture and lighting Mr. Johnson said he's thinking of creating some "outside pieces," including fountains, for gardens.

The artist has been a Florida Victorian client since moving to DeLand four years ago when he bought and restored a bungalow on South Stone Street.

"Mark has a good eye for the architectural pieces and materials I like to work with," he said.

He too is looking forward to the DaVinci experience.

"It will be interesting to work there because there'll be other artists, and for the public there will be a variety of styles and different types of items to choose from. It will be a great place for DeLand and will serve a need which is not presently fulfilled," Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Williams is a painter, sculptor, essayist and non-fiction author. His artwork is inspired by Constantin Brancusi and Henry Moore. His abstract sculptures also are made from reclaimed industrial and environmental materials. He's working on a new collection, which will be featured at Iron Wood Raven.

Combining stones from the beaches of The Dominion of Donegahl with wood and steel pieces, reclaimed from the Strawn Packing House salvage effort, he creates mounted pieces six to 10 inches tall.

"The stones have a beautiful, shiny patina when polished," he said.

Neolithic hand axes found in "various fields in Wyoming" which he said are anywhere from 10,000 to 17,000 years old will be used in other mixed mountings.

"Unless you know what you're looking for, they just look like another stone but in your hand they come to life," Mr. Williams said.

A passion for blending the organic with the inorganic drives his sculpting. Each medium possesses its own unique aura, he said. Together the elements effuse new energy.

Recently, near the Volusia County Fairgrounds Mr. Williams found some small skulls people had carved from animal bones. He intends to originate more multi-elemental mountings with those.

"It's the juxtaposition of the artifact or manmade with the iron and wood ... the (natural items) are intrinsically beautiful but become accentuated by mounting them on a steel or wood base," he said.

Local filmmaker Woodruff Laputka operates his film production company in the DaVinci Design House. "Laputka Films offers high-end production and post- production industry services for video and audio, from concept to the finished film," Mr. Laputka said.

The filmmaker originally is from West Volusia, but, until recently, was living in Anchorage, Alaska. He said his decision to return was influenced by the area's cultural progress.

"I really liked what seemed to be growing here," Mr. Laputka said. "It's very conducive for creative arts and for a creative economy."

Mr. Shuttleworth bought the house, built in 1900, from the City of DeLand for $25,000 in 2012. He obtained a $20,000 CRA grant for part of the restoration effort. The age and condition of the structure presented workers with some unexpected problems, but Mr. Shuttleworth said the project is on its way to completion.

"It's moving along a whole lot faster, actually," he said.




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