Indianola artist turns unlikely dream into reality

David Franklin, an artist from Indianola, has integrated his roots in graffiti with his training in native sculpture and graphics to create artwork throughout the Northwest.

Franklin’s first footprint took place at the Poulsbo library in the early 2000s. Franklin carved on entry posts, etched on glass doors and painted on the information desk. His work at the library had Norweigan ties to pay homage to the history of Poulsbo.

Shortly after, Franklin earned other local jobs, including working with Miller Hull, a Seattle-based architecture company, to create sliding doors at Kitsap County’s administration office in Port Orchard. Each door secures a different area for daily operations and has either a steel screen integrated into it or painted and carved panels.

Franklin has a piece on Bainbridge Island too. Before boarding the ferry, there is an arm of a Kraken. Franklin created the 12-foot tentacle as a fun and memorable way to begin a visit to the Kitsap Peninsula.

Despite building roots within Kitsap County, Franklin was not always destined for the art scene.

Franklin is originally from Denver and was an airplane mechanic. He and his wife moved to the Northwest in 1993.

“She would look for a school, and I would look for an airplane mechanics job. However, Boeing laid off tons of people in 1993 when we first got here,” he said.

Instead, Franklin found himself indulging in Northwest native artwork. Franklin said he knew art was his calling when he visited Stonington Gallery in Seattle. Once he finished touring the gallery, he asked if anyone taught wood-carving classes. He was given Duane Pasco’s address. Franklin said, “When I met him, he was carving two 50-foot totem poles for the Wilderness Lodge at DisneyWorld.”

Compared to other artists Pasco taught, Franklin had little experience and a only handful of dollars. “He looked at my tools and said they were terrible,” Franklin said. “He showed me how to make tools on a low budget since I had no money and invited me to his class in Poulsbo. I got super into it.”

After a few classes, Pasco and Franklin decided to make a deal. Franklin would help Pasco in the garden or split wood and Franklin would receive support from Pasco during class.

Afterward, Franklin took his first steps. Although he began to build his résumé, Franklin questioned if he could continue to follow his passion.

“In 2010, the whole housing crisis caught up to me, and I couldn’t find any work,” Franklin said. “I was timber cruising and living in this hotel on I-5 in Chehalis near the Juvenile Detention Center. I would timber cruise every day then return to the hotel and sleep.”

Although Franklin was on the verge of leaving the art industry, he gave himself one last chance. He applied for the Kohler Arts Residency program. With that program, up-and-coming artists travel to Wisconsin for three months. They fly the artists out, put them in houses with a monthly stipend and give them their own factory with all the material pumped in.

Franklin applied and when he heard he was accepted, he knew it was the changing point in his career.

“I was at my worst and the best thing happened,” he said. “Once I did the Kohler residency, it was an art stamp of approval, and I began getting bigger jobs.”

Since then, Franklin’s artwork has been shown near the Bainbridge Ferry, outside of Climate Pledge Arena and along the West Coast. Although he has done work in several cities, he still recalls his first big breakthrough.

“The first big one was in front of the Portland fire station that faces downtown,” Franklin said. “When I got that job, my wife and I were at a sandwich place downtown. When we heard the news, we were both crying.”

Along with his own work, Franklin works with others, including Preston Singletary, a Tlingit artist. The two have created several large Native American artworks, including The Devil Fish, outside Climate Pledge Arena.

The piece is a representation of the Pacific Giant Octopus of the Salish Sea.

Franklin also is looking to become a mentor to the next generation. “I don’t want to teach any person and show them how to carve,” Franklin said. “What I care about are people trying and they have a question that nobody else can answer. I’m more into mentoring and sharing whatever connections and knowledge I have.”