The Frame is the Art: An Interview with Local Artist Darryl Cox
If you stopped by the new Bluebird Coffee Company downtown recently, you may have seen the gorgeous frames on display by Fusion Frames NW. We caught up with the man behind these masterpieces, Darryl Cox, for an interview about his artwork that has gained so much attention. Exciting news: we are now selling some of his exclusive handcrafted pieces at Eastlake Framing!
Eastlake: Tell me about your background. How did you get the idea to make these frames?
Darryl Cox: I earned a degree in art, but that’s not my day job. I’m in sales at Carlson Sign Company in Bend for the past 18 years, and a lot of the work I do there is digital, not tangible. So I guess this started with me wanting to do something tangible instead of something that was on a computer screen. About two years ago, I saw a similar idea online and I had this really neat branch that I knew I wanted to make into something I liked. So I warped it into my own thing and since then, it’s kind of taken a life of its own. Each one is totally unique; I couldn’t do the same one twice if I wanted to. As I work on them, they kind of take on their own personality and that’s where I get their names. People liked them so I just started making more.
I started an Etsy shop last November, but the display at Bluebird Coffee was the first time that I had ever shown anything publicly. It’s funny because I showed my work to my family and friends and they gave me good feedback, which was great–but you never really know what that means because they’re supposed to support you. Having it be well received outside of friends and family is awesome.
EL: What are your influences? I read on your website that you drew from dead trees.
DC: More so the branches. All the vegetation is stripped off and it’s down to the basic structure so you see what it actually looks like–you get to its core. The organic structure of a branch joined with a structured, man-made frame, creates a unified piece from materials that are otherwise distantly related. I’ve always liked the idea of morphing two things that don’t necessarily belong into one piece.
EL: Tell me more about where you get your materials.
DC: I go out and find branches with character to them, usually Central Oregon manzanita, juniper, aspen, Willamette Valley filbert, grapevine and pine. I’ve started collecting frames, and I’ve come up with quite the inventory. I lay everything out and let them kind of dictate how they belong together. I usually work on 2-3 at a time. I use minimal amounts of bonding agents like glue and wood filler. As for preservation, they’ve already been stripped down so far and they’re structurally solid to begin with. They get built back up, but the smaller pieces need to be supported a little bit.
EL: What is the most challenging aspect in making your frames?
DC: I would say finding the balance between the two of them so that neither of them are more dominant than the other. It’s about knowing how much of the branch to leave and how much of the frame to leave; how much to blend together and how much to leave independent. It’s also the most fun part.
EL: Do you have a favorite piece that you have made?
DC: I really like Gabriel – the one with the wings that was hung above the door at Bluebird Coffee. I also really like Rusty, which I just recently finished. (pictured)
EL: How has your practice changed over time?
DC: I’ve gotten a lot more selective with the materials that I use, and I’ve gotten pickier with the pieces I decide to go with. I’ve also started making larger pieces (the first few were fairly small). Since I started, I’ve gone to using either antique frames, or frames that have a lot of character to them. I find them everywhere, including garage sales, family members, coworkers, ebay, and craigslist.
EL: What is the general reaction to your frames?
DC: It’s kind of difficult to describe them, so you really have to see them. The frame is the art. You don’t hang anything in it, because it’s more of a sculpture than it is a frame. That’s not to say it can’t mean something; you might hang your grandmother’s pearls in it for example. But it’s not literal. There are some people who cannot break out of wanting to put art in them. It’s all about pushing outside of the literal of what it used to be. They used to house the art, now they are the art. But I guess that’s a good thing. If it doesn’t make people think, then it’s stagnant, right?
EL: Where do you want to go with Fusion Frames?
DC: I just enjoy making them, I’m not looking to become a full time artist. When you turn it into a job and you have to do it, it loses some of its luster. I’ll just keep growing it locally. That’s not to say that if a gallery called I would turn it down (laughs). Right now I’m just building inventory back up–I’ve even started doing some on commission, and it’s fun to collaborate with other people’s ideas.
Darryl’s pieces are currently being sold at Eastlake Framing located at 1355 Galveston Ave., Bend Oregon 97701. Subscribe to our newsletter to ensure you don’t miss our great features on other local artists and shows!