“I go hunting for downed juniper with an open spirit,” says artist William Daggett, about searching for new canvases in the high desert. “It helps me to find a personal connection with the wood, so when I find the perfect snag, it feels as if it’s been looking for me, too, waiting patiently to be brought back to life.”
Daggett has a deep connection to wood, one that goes beyond juniper’s twisted branches, one rooted in his personal history.
ATA, which is the name he uses professionally, means “woodcarver” in Cherokee, this a nod to his Native American heritage.
Daggett’s love and connection to the wild comes through in every piece of his abstract art. Birds, fish, critters and other elements of nature organically surface during his creative process.
“When I start a new project, I spend time with the wood,” says Daggett. “I try to open up to its essence until I get a sense of what it’s saying, or how it wants to express itself. My pieces are very much born in the moment.”
Daggett’s muse is his wife of nearly 50 years, Jennifer. “She is an integral part of my process,” he says, especially as the piece evolves and the vision becomes clearer, revealing itself slowly.
This evolution can be a moving target, notes Daggett. Occasionally, he says, the sculpture takes an unexpected turn. “Happy accidents, I like to call them, which often result in something magical.”
His love of woodworking can be traced back to his childhood, which was spent in Illinois, Wisconsin and Arizona. In his formative years, he worked with wood for school projects. As an adult, Daggett began elevating his woodworking skills, eventually into designing and building custom homes and commercial projects as a developer.
“I’ve always been interested in expressing my creativity,” says Daggett, who, in his spare time over the years, has also built furniture, decorative wall pieces, designed/created Native American jewelry, and custom stained glass windows. "The process of creation, in whatever medium, has always been in my blood.”
Over the years, after working with a variety of wood, including larch, pine, and cottonwood, Daggett became interested in more refined art. Now using ancient juniper, mesquite, and ironwood burls, he uses small hand tools and detailed techniques to create his beautiful sculptures.
“These days, I’m especially drawn to 3-dimensional, abstract forms,” says Daggett, of his work with juniper now. “The process of taking a natural piece of wood from nature and—with its inspiration—turning it into a beautiful piece of art is what I find most rewarding.”
Daggett is a multiple award-winning artist, residing in Arizona for more than 60 years. He currently lives in Paradise Valley, AZ with Jennifer.