'Following my muse': York artist finds joy in creating sustainable furniture

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

The year was 1971.

It was the year Walt Disney World opened in Florida and Charles Manson was sentenced for the Tate-LaBianca murders.

It was a time of anti-Vietnam War protests and the launch of NASA’s Apollo 14 mission to the moon.

It was also the year Peter Danko started selling waterbeds after graduating from the University of Maryland with a degree in art.

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Peter Danko at his workspace in York on Friday, March 24, 2023.

He was just starting out in his career and sought jobs doing anything and everything. The moment Danko set foot in a woodworking shop in Georgetown, everything changed, he recalled.

"The wood smelled so good; it just felt really good to be in there," Danko said. "I was looking for work, and one day I came in and the owner says, 'I have a guy that needs some claws carved for their store.' So he gave me a chain saw — and I could just wail with that thing. So I started making furniture out of the cabinet shop."

From there, Peter Danko Designs bloomed. The York City resident now operates out of a large studio warehouse on Elm Street where all of his furniture is designed and built.

Peter Danko at his workspace in York on Friday, March 24, 2023.

Since the 1970s, Danko has crafted eclectic furniture pieces with a focus on sustainability. To him, solid workmanship can be achieved with less.

For example, Danko has designed chairs using seat belts and couches with recycled wood materials.

"It's like a process of discovery — it's like a quest," Danko said. "I think that's probably the most rewarding thing a person can do, is have a quest that has a purpose and that helps others or can potentially help others."

Peter Danko at his workspace in York on Friday, March 24, 2023.

All art is a process, and woodworking is no different.

"I like the process of coming up with the idea, then designing it, working out all the details and building the prototypes," Danko said. "The most satisfying is building the prototypes and working out all the problems."

Danko's furniture tends to lean toward the angular and geometric, with unique shapes and bends to the wood that are difficult for beginners to achieve.

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Beyond the satisfaction of having his furniture in homes, Danko has seen his designs appear in the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He also takes on commission work for York County residents and businesses.

Most recently, Danko designed tables for the newly opened Yorktowne Hotel in York City.

"I love following my muse," he said. "It just has become a joy in my life."