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Artist of the Month - July 2007

Playing in the Mud
by Michaelene Pendleton

There is nothing Dan Stott likes better than playing in the mud -- drywall mud, that is. For more than 30 years, Dan has been hanging sheetrock and taping and texturing the surfaces to make that process a true work of art.

Dan Stott
Dan’s advice about caring for a plastered surface is simply, “Don’t poke a hole in it.” Repairs are hard to blend and that will cost some bucks.

Archaeological studies show that we humans have been stuccoing and plastering our walls for thousands of years. The earliest attempts to create solid barriers between us and the outside world soon became new surfaces on which we could express our artistry. Generally, we used colors for decoration. Patterns on the walls came later.

Ready-mix joint compound is usually a combination of water, limestone, expanded perlite, ethylene-vinyl acetate polymer and attapulgite.

Patterns are Dan’s stock in trade.

Hanging sheetrock is the kind of job that takes a toll on your body; the panels are heavy and unwieldy and most drywall workers end up with back trouble. On the other hand, at least you are inside out of the weather. And once you have a wall of mudded and taped sheetrock, you have a canvas awaiting your special texturing.

A drywall panel is made of paper wrapped around an inner core of gypsum plaster, the semi-hydrous form of calcium sulphate. The plaster is mixed with fiber, a foaming agent, various additives that increase mildew and fire resistance, and water. The panel is formed by sandwiching a core of wet gypsum between 2 sheets of heavy paper or fiberglass. When the core is dry, the sandwich becomes strong and rigid.

Few people do that as well as Dan. He builds arches and bullnoses corners and prepares his surface with all the skill of an artist preparing a canvas. Then he gets to the fun stuff: texturing.

If you’ve never done your own drywall, it sounds easy enough. Hey, it’s just slapping mud around with a trowel, right? Well, yes and no. Just as any person can paint a picture, any person can texture drywall, but to do it well takes years of practice to master a difficult craft.

Dan is a master artist in mud. After hanging the sheetrock and taping the seams, Dan sands the surface until it is so smooth you can’t feel the seams. Then he mixes the plaster, which is crucial to good texturing.

Mud Texture
The first thing about texturing is to not be uniform; freestyle patterning, as in this “Alpine” pattern, is the most pleasing.

There are just about as many texturing patterns as there are mud men. Dan has created one he calls “Alpine” that looks like a spray of pine needles or snow kicked up by skis. Another is “Santa Fe” which is more subtle, but just as beautiful. Some textures are splatters, others are orange peel. Each texture gives a different feel to the walls and ceilings, and Dan chooses which texture will enhance the other design elements of the house.

The job is labor intensive and physically difficult. Since most construction takes place in warmer weather, Dan works more in the winter than the summer, applying those finishing touches that can make a whole house a work of art.

In the spring of 1993, Dan was working out of Salt Lake City, mostly in places like Park City and Deer Valley, when he was lured to Moab for a job. He must have drunk from Matrimony Spring because that fall he moved his family down and settled in. He works on high-end houses, and usually hires 2 or 3 employees for a specific job.

When you ask Dan what he does for fun, he has a hard time thinking of anything he likes more than his job. He spends some time on the golf links now and then, and following the Moab norm of having at least two jobs, he and his wife, Karen, also do catering. Their two sons, Travis, 19 — soon to return to Utah State University as a sophomore offensive lineman for the Aggies; Christopher, 16; and Aaron Smiley, 20, who became a member of the family as an adult, all work in both businesses.

They started Dan and Karen’s Catering in 1994. They cater everything from small parties of 15 to groups of 350. Rather than specializing in one kind of cuisine, Dan and Karen customize each menu to the particular customer.

Dan is a Past Exalted Ruler, Trustee, and Chaplain for the Moab Elks Club. He is very involved in the Elks service projects, and is concerned that it’s hard to find enough people willing to give their time.

Time is something Dan is aware of. In 2000, he was diagnosed with nonseminomatous cancer (Lance Armstrong’s cancer) and underwent chemotherapy. He is now cancer free, but says that his focus is on making every minute count.

Dan loves his family and he loves his work and he loves the place he has chosen to live. Dan Stott is a happy man, playing in the mud.


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