This March and April, Burien Arts hosts Danny Mansmith’s exhibition, “We All Become Myth,” at the Highline Heritage Museum. 

Danny Mansmith is a prolific artist who moved to Burien from Chicago in 2013. Throughout the 90’s he taught himself to use a sewing machine. He makes clothing, dolls from found objects, illustrations, fanciful papercuts and more. His successful recent show, a collaboration with his partner of 14 years, Alexis Ortiz, adorned the walls of Grand Central Bakery. Most of which was purchased online by his longtime supportive and loyal followers.

I was able to visit Danny in his home studio to find out more about this show and what it meant. Their house is encircled with trees as well as rhododendrons, a large rosemary plant, birdhouses, and other little clusters of curated nature. I was welcomed into his home by 3 gentle cats. I removed my shoes and stepped into Danny’s world.

The walls were covered in original art; flowing fabrics, colorful rugs, paper flowers, and twisted sticks covered in thread. There was a rug made of denim jeans, arranged in a circle, and balanced with nearby stitched together fabric hearts. 

Before we started to discuss the March exhibition it seemed that Danny personalized everything he touched. There was paper with handwritten poetry on the ceiling. Figures inhabited every corner with beach shells nearby in attendance. Each piece of artwork held a story and a connection to something in his life. From every perspective Danny’s home was filled with natural elements.

Danny made me a cup of coffee, a beautiful mug made by his partner Alexis. We moved into the heart of his studio where the sewing machine was taking a brief pause. Next to the machine was a chair covered in fabric shreds from years of projects. 

We started the conversation with how Danny became an artist. Three women were foundational to Danny; his mother Delphine, Grandmother Emily, and his grandmother’s sister he called Aunt Mary, who have all passed away. They encouraged him at a young age to draw and create, teaching him how to express himself. His Grandmother Emily would take him to the alleyways of affluent neighborhoods to hunt for discarded furniture and fabric, instilling in him the ability to see the beauty in what someone else simply threw away. Reusing fabrics and papers continues today as many of his works of art are made from used packaging material and fabric.

I inquired about a nearby book of doodles, made from wrinkled paper and fabric scraps. Danny said he doodles regularly and is a good general practice for the finding the flow of art. The conversation felt like one of the doodles, wandering around topics of art, the trees outside, and enjoyable hikes to the mountains. 

As we moved into the topic of the show, “We All Become Myth,” Danny reflected on seeing 52 years. He remembered times with his mother and grandmother, causing him to wonder about his memories, and how they might have changed over the years. For the current show he immersed himself and focused on these memories, then he communicates with them through his sewing machine. Here are a few of his own meditations regarding the show:

“To walk through the door in your mind to visit those who have passed over.

The stories that you knew change over time to become new stories for today.”

He has spent the last two months creating artwork for the current show. Using a variety of mediums. His main instrument is his sewing machine, a well-oiled and conditioned companion in his exploration of these memories. He has used the same machine since 2003 and uses a technique he calls stop-motion, which involves constant repositioning for each piece. After a session of creation, he then politely thanks his sewing machine.

We talked more about trees, nature, and the beauty of the Northwest. Then after my coffee was thoroughly enjoyed, I said goodbye to the cats, I put my shoes back on and departed from his little oasis. For those few moments of conversation and presence, I felt like part of his environment, entangled in the trees and fabric, and stitched together with conversation.

When & Where to See His Art

You can see his artwork at the opening reception at the Highline Heritage Museum this Friday, Mar. 3, 2023, from 6-7 p.m.

Perhaps this glimpse into the world of Danny Mansmith will connect you to his art, and maybe a little more to the world around you.

The exhibit runs through the end of April 2023.

Danny Mansmith in his Burien studio.

The Highline Heritage Museum is located at 819 SW 152nd Street in Olde Burien:

These opinions come from the years Raymond Street has served as a Normandy Park Art Commissioner, a grant writer and artist for the Mural Masters Graffiti festival, a previous Burien Art Walk organizer,...

One reply on “Danny Mansmith: An Artist in his environment”

  1. I loved reading this. You really captured his essence, and the mood and atmosphere of his creative world. Looking forward to seeing his show.

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