CrowPrints Puzzles by daniel w. trythall


Kirkland Artist and Woodworker Daniel Trythall Carving His Own Path In Life

The woodworker and photographer is best known for his intricately carved walking sticks and says "it's funny how life evolves after decisions you make."

  • By Julie Arnan, writer for the Kirkland-Patch
  • April 27, 2012

 ARTISTS ARE OFTEN branded with simplified labels such as painter or sculptor. In reality, most artists do not so easily conform to such a blanket designation. Daniel Trythall is both sculptor and painter, designer and photographer, just to name a few of his skills.

The long-time Kirkland resident may be best known for his Native American-inspired crow prints and his intricately carved walking sticks, but he started out as a design major bent on making children’s toys.

“I was a big fish in a small pond,” says Trythall of his years in Montana State University’s design program. He landed an internship with General Motors, where he soon discovered there was an ocean of “hot shots” out there. Trythall passed up an opportunity to interview with toy giant Mattel because the company wouldn’t fly him to the meeting.

“It’s funny how your life evolves after decisions you make,” says Trythall.

After many years in the interior and furniture design business, Trythall and his wife Sue moved to Kirkland and now live in Juanita. Trythall says he has always been a bit of a techie, even back to his Air Force days. He isn’t afraid to incorporate technology into his art, utilizing digital programs and equipment. 

While he was working as a space analyst at the University of Washington, Trythall discovered one of his most enduring subjects. Managing the university’s 43,000 usable rooms created a “fever pitch” atmosphere in the office.

“I’m not a good institutional worker,” Trythall says with a laugh. So he would often escape the hectic environment with walks around campus. What he noticed while blowing off steam were crows -- lots of crows. These birds, the bane of garbage bags and picnics, surprised Trythall with their intelligence.

Drawing upon Native American lore, Trythall began photographing the dark-feathered totems -- “emissaries for the spirit in all things natural.” He even brought them peanuts in an effort to get the crows into certain poses.

TRYTHALL HAS NEVER been at a loss for hobbies and soon began carving nature motifs into walking sticks. He likens the patterns to Western-style leather tooling from the 1940’s and 50’s. Each pattern is first designed on the computer and then printed and transferred to an Aspen or Linden stick. Trythall burns in the outline and then carves the design with high powered rotary tools, much like dental tools, that spin 300,000 times per minute.

Though he spends 50-70 hours on a single stick, he charges roughly $200 (base price). That’s only about $3 per hour.

“I’d like to be making at least minimum wage,” says Trythall, eyes crinkling in humor, but he doesn’t approach his work with a profit incentive. “Philosophically, I enjoy peoples’ reactions when they see the piece I made for them. I’d like to think I’m adding something of value to the Universe instead of just making a profit.”

One particular stick has made a big positive impact on a UW colleague’s life. Suffering from the debilitating effects of lupus, a woman ordered a cane carved with ladybugs. While people used to focus on her physical issues, they now stop and admire her cane, instead. Negative attention has turned into positive interaction for her.

Trythall has dealt with his own pain, including an alcohol-induced near death experience in 2002 and a series of three heart attacks in one year. He claims a greater power guided him to stumble on a radio program detailing the “Spiritual Dimension of Healing” by Dr. Joyce Whiteley Hawkes. The artist believes that healing energy has prevented another cardiac event as well as giving him peace in other areas of his life.

“I’ve learned to live in the present -- embrace the trip that I’m on,” he says seriously and then jokes, “I’m 67, almost 68, but I’m fairly immature.”

He left his position at UW to concentrate on making art. When he’s not chipping away at wood in his garage studio, Trythall is likely to be eating breakfast at Hector's with his buddies.

“When you get to be my age, you realize that life goes by very quickly,” he says, telling me to pursue all of my ideas, not just one thing.

He may feel an affinity with pesky birds, but he refuses to be pigeonholed. Daniel Trythall is both artist and healer, comedian and sage.