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Art from countless threads

Retired auto detailer, Coast Guard veteran's hobby of needlepoint has earned him awards at the Orange County Fair.

February 14, 2012|By Sarah Peters
(STEVEN GEORGES,…)

Pictures of delicate blossoms, children innocently kissing and elaborately gowned women grace the walls of Ivan Eugene "Danny" Dan's Costa Mesa home.

The framed pictures, bursting with color and romance, are not as they first appear.

Rather than oil paints and brush strokes, the nuanced shading and detail that form the images are from tightly interwoven threads from countless skillfully placed needlepoint stitches.

Perhaps even more astonishing to those unfamiliar with Dan, a retired operator of a Newport Beach automotive detailing and wax business, is that he is the artist.

"It's very interesting," said Dan, 86, whose stepdaughter introduced him to the craft 39 years ago. "You bring the picture out of the canvas like a painting. You wouldn't think that those are all stitches."

The needlepoint creations, which can take weeks to complete, are a source of relaxation for the former Coast Guard cook who served in World War II.

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His shop, Danny's Auto Detailing closed its doors on Old Newport Boulevard in the late 1970s, Dan said.

"It's not the same as waxing cars," Joan Dan, 81, his wife of about 40 years, said of her husband's hobby. "But it keeps his hands busy."

Joan Dan's favorite piece hangs in their living room and features an elegant woman dressed in 18th century garb. She smiles softly as she gazes down at a small envelope. The folds of the woman's dress, contours of her smile and vibrant red of the wax seal on the envelope were all created by soft, thick thread.

"I certainly don't need to buy any pictures for my home," Joan Dan said with a laugh.

True to her statement, the couple's home is filled with dozens of the pieces. Chairs, couches and beds are topped with more of the creations made into elaborate decorative pillows.

A scene of brilliantly red poppies in a green field took home a blue ribbon at the 2010 Orange County Fair. The needlepoints earn top rankings just about every year at the fair, Dan said.

Dan couldn't begin to count the number of works — or total yards of threads used in them — that have passed between his fingertips over the years.

"Asking me how many is a lot like asking me how many cars I've waxed," Dan said with a laugh. "It's a lot."

sarah.peters@latimes.com

Twitter: @speters01

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