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Art can literally be anything - which is why we were tickled pink when a reader nominated John Daoura from Dakota Craftworks to be an Artist of the Week. Daora works with cuff bracelets, wine barrels, belts - you name it. (Image: Dakota Craftworks)

Artist of the Week: John Daoura

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists and today marks the first weekly artist feature on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Art can literally be anything - which is why we were tickled pink when a reader nominated John Daoura from Dakota Craftworks to be an Artist of the Week. Daora works with cuff bracelets, wine barrels, belts - you name it.

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Do you work with other mediums?
John Daoura: I started crafting my leather cuff bracelets and key fobs only seven months ago. In the past I was building Adirondack chairs, rocking chairs, ottomans, and tables from used wine barrels. I made my furniture for 5 years.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
The creative process begins with the search for the right belts to use. I spend a lot of time at thrift shops, estate sales, garage sales, etc. Sometimes I catch myself eyeing someone's beautiful belt as they walk by. It all starts with the right piece of leather and being able to imagine the possibilities. From there, I head back to my workshop at home to see if I can make those possibilities come to life. They don't all workout, but sometimes it turns out even better than I thought. I try to pair each piece of leather with the right concho. My goal is that both their colors and styles complement each other so that their sum is greater than the parts. Some belts look great all on their own.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
My original inspiration for the cuff bracelets came from a trip my wife and I took to Austin, Texas to celebrate her 50th birthday. We came across some leather bracelets as we were wandering through a boutique shop. As often happens, I said "I can make that", and then promptly forgot all about it. A few weeks later we were at a local thrift shop and found a cool belt. I bought it, brought it home, and figured out how to make a better version of the bracelets we saw at the boutique. It was the same when I was making furniture. I saw a crude version at a winery and decided to make a much more refined version.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
I don't try to stick to anything specific, although the cuffs generally lean more towards a western style. Most of the beautifully tooled leather belts are western in style. However, I like to keep an open mind and I'm always on the hunt for the next great belt to work with, whether it has tooled horses or skulls.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
My current favorites are the cuffs I made from a horned lizard belt. I made sure to craft one that would fit my wrist.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
I enjoyed building furniture. However, being rear-ended twice in 18 months limited what I could and couldn't do. I finally decided I could no longer do the furniture, but I still enjoyed being creative. The trip to Texas was the catalyst I needed to get going in a different direction.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
Right now, Facebook is my only online presence. I have plans to expand online, as well as having my products available in boutique shops.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I'll be introducing some new things at the beginning of the new year, going in a slightly different direction. The one idea I'm most looking forward to is necklace pendants made from assorted bits and pieces. They've received lots of positive feedback, and they will definitely be unique.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee?
Yeah...not a fan. I was born in Seattle and I've never liked the stuff. I do like my tea though.