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Friday, November 23, 2012

Annandale's Dan Burke: artistry in wood

A chest made of ambrosia maple and Brazillian cherry.

After retiring from a successful career as a molecular biologist, Annandale resident Dan Burke has made the transition to woodwork artisan.

Burke’s woodworking career started when he and his wife Susan, an accomplished needlepoint artist, moved into their Broyhill Crest home about 15 years ago and began searching for a bookcase for their living room. He couldn’t find a ready-made one he liked and custom bookcases were too expensive, so he decided to make one himself and took a weekend woodworking class.
Dan Burke
The first bookcase took him 16 months to make but he was happy with the result. He started making boxes from the leftover wood, and from there, moved on to furniture. Burke started selling his pieces when he ran out of room in his house to display them.

A box made of Japanese Cherry in the Tansu style.
His most popular items are simple boxes with rounded edges that sell for $60 to $70 and small jewelry boxes with a tray, which usually go for about $75. A large jewelry box with several compartments is about $175.  A dresser or bookcase would be about $1,000.

Burke has a workshop in his home and also rents a workshop at the Reston Community Center. He’s currently learning how to make puzzle boxes with secret compartments.

“The hardest part is trying to figure out what someone wants to buy that I want to make,” Burke says. He’s found “people like things they can use and that are nice to touch and show the wood in the design.”

Burke doesn’t like spending his weekends sitting around craft bazaars, so the only one he participates in is an annual craft fair in Richmond, where artists doesn’t have to appear. His work can also be found at the gift shop at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and has been on display at various craft galleries in Northern Virginia. 

You can find some of his pieces at the Artisans United Craft Gallery at the Packard Center, 4022-C Hummer Road, Annandale.

The public is invited to the Craft Gallery’s annual holiday party Dec. 2, 10-3 p.m. There will be craft demonstrations and refreshments, and visitors of all ages will be able to make holiday tree ornaments for a local charity. The Craft Gallery is open to the public Monday through Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 4 p.m.

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