Forartist Brian Chandler, what began as a 10-year-old’s interest in fire has become his life’s work. Now a professional solar carving artist, Chandler-known around town as Solar B-initially drew inspiration from the character Piggy using the lenses of his glasses to start a fire in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
He can be seen at Hendry’s Beach on most sunny days, wearing a pair of tinted Alpine climbing goggles to protect his eyes, and carving intricate designs into pieces of wood with the concentrated beam of light created by the sun and a magnifying glass. He discovered his art gradually, experimenting on green leaves. “My first legible piece was a green mulberry leaf,” Chandler said. “I burned ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ into it.” After that, his mom stopped worrying that he was simply playing with fire.
Eventually he started burning wood, tattooing musical instruments, walking sticks-anything he could find. The patterns became more and more complex until one day 12 years ago when he burned a plaque reading “Tuesday Night Jam,” commemorating his friends’ and his weekly jam session. “I made the plaque for a friend,” he said. “Before he even knew it was for him, he offered me 100 bucks for it. That’s when a little light bulb went off in my head.”
A couple years later, Chandler was hitchhiking up and down the California coast, chasing the sun and making art. He spent much of his time in smaller towns up north, infiltrating the art scene and trying to get commissions for work. “I spent a lot of time in Bodega Bay, camping on the beach and selling art in the parking lot,” Chandler said.
In 1999, he decided to settle in Santa Barbara. “This is the perfect place to do my art,” he said. “There’s plenty of sunshine and it’s a very art-friendly community.” Trying different spots to work, he eventually picked Hendry’s Beach as his main spot. “I like to connect with people here,” he said. “It’s a great platform from which I can relate things like recycling and alternative energy.”
Recently, Chandler has offered workshops, teaching his art to children and teens. “I want to teach kids this art, because it’s meditative and focuses energy into making something creative out of a destructive process.” He also made the award plaques for the City of Santa Barbara’s Solar Design Awards.
As far as business goes, Chandler lives off donations and commissions from his art. He isn’t allowed to sell his work at Hendry’s Beach, but if you want to have something designed, all of his pieces are custom-made. Examples of his beautiful work can be seen at myspace.com/solarcarving, and he can be reached at 259-7829.