Walker takes wearable art to world stage

Douglas woodworker's spiny creation selected for award gala in New Zealand

Posted: Thursday, August 02, 2007

Douglas craftsman David Walker has proven his crowd-pleasing mastery of wood design with six consecutive top-three finishes in the annual Wearable Arts Extravaganzas.

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Now, he has a chance to go international with it.

The woodworker's latest Wearable Art piece, the stegosaurs-inspired, fancy-ball "Prehistoric Princess," is one of approximately 150 pieces chosen to appear in the 21st annual international Montana World of Wearable Art Award show, Sept. 20-30 in Wellington, New Zealand.

As wearable art shows go, the WOW gala is the granddaddy of them all. Roughly 30,000 people are expected to attend.

"The whole thing's going to be an incredible inspiration," Walker said. "It's there to have it critiqued. As a designer, it's great to get feedback from other artists, designers, judges, wearable-art-type people."

Walker spent about $1,400 to ship the dress - a cherry veneer bodice with a series of four-sided spears and a skirt with projecting tips on a dinosaur-style tail. It took 10 days to get there. He's flying to New Zealand separately.

Walker received a $5,000 Individual Artist Project Award from the Rasmuson Foundation to help defray his costs.

He's placed in the top three in the last six Wearable Art Extravaganzas in Juneau. He won in 2006 and 2004; captured second in 2007; and took third in 2005, 2003 and 2002.

"This is kind of the next big step for Wearable Art, as far as I'm concerned," Walker said. "I've been thinking about it, but it's been out of my price range. When I got the Rasmuson grant, it just made it all possible."

Diane Palmer, a partner in a Ketchikan accounting firm and a board member of the Ketchikan Area Arts & Humanities Council since 1983, is an annual participant in Ketchikan's elaborate Wearable Art production.

She, too, has had a piece selected for WOW in Wellington. In 2002, her two-sided, Alaska-Native-style, porcupine quill, cat whisker mask, "Spirit Transformation," tied for third, or "highly commended," in the "American Express Open" section.

"We were going there anyway (in 2002) just because we're all so manic about Wearable Art here in Ketchikan," Palmer said. "I do it because I love the event. After seeing what they do down there, you always want to push the bar higher."

The first night of the WOW week, a Thursday, features a two-hour, Cirque du Soleil-type show with lighting, choreography, and of course, the 150 works of art. The year Palmer went, a gleaming white stallion suddenly galloped out from behind the stage and frolicked joyfully amid the pieces.

Awards are announced the next day. The pieces that place end up traveling on mini-tours around the world. Palmer's mask journeyed to Thailand and beyond.

A friend of Walker's, she was the one who ultimately encouraged him to enter a piece in WOW.

"They're looking for something that looks good from a distance," Palmer said. "They really dive in to what material it's made from, how it's constructed inside and out, how it moves on the stage, the precision it's constructed with.

"David is such an artist, and his work is flawless," she said. "I've seen the pieces that he's brought down to Ketchikan, and it's well-thought out - how it's put on, assembled and unassembled for shipping. All that stuff makes a difference, and he really has a handle on it."

• Contact Korry Keeker at 523-2268 or korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

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