Danny of the Dirt
Danny of the Dirt
Hang a right at the Arco in Echo Park, Los Angeles, and head a few blocks up a sunny residential street lined with work vans, sidewalk dogs, and flowering shrubs and trees. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you stop to admire the three bright red vintage Toyota trucks. A 1988 Land Cruiser, a 1986 pickup, and a 1977 Land Cruiser. All parked in a row.
Past the Toyotas is a single-car garage. Barely large enough for one of the aforementioned vehicles, the garage somehow manages to house a world of objects. A workbench looms in the back, complete with a pegboard arrayed with tools. Above it, dangling string lights illuminate a shelf stacked high with deconstructed cardboard boxes and packing paper. A bike is mounted on one wall. On the other, an array of car parts hang like gallery art. A surfboard waits patiently in a corner behind a bench seat from an old pickup truck. It serves as a seat for a leaf blower and a stack of dusty buckets.
Table fans whir in corners over sponges, work gloves, and murky mason jars stuffed with pointy metal smoothers, trimmers, and scrapers. A broom leans on a wheeled cart of cups, pots, and plastic-bagged bricks of clay. In the center, perched on a stocky metal stool, a man hunches over a pottery wheel, humming along to the radio, shaping a humble clump of mud into a functional work of art.
You’ve arrived at your destination: Danny D’s Mud Shop.
The Man at the Wheel
Daniel Dooreck’s ceramics shop name was inspired by the world of motorcycle shops which tend to follow a familiar naming pattern: Name Name’s Chop Shop. Being a purveyor of well-shaped mud, Daniel went with Danny D’s Mud Shop. He loved the reference to motorcycles and the unpretentious air it gave his business, which is, after all, run out of a single-car garage.
“I started getting curious about pottery a few years ago, and the first thing I noticed was that a lot of folks in the ceramics world are very precious with everything. People take this way too seriously. At the end of the day, we are selling dirt. I care about my work, but it’s not precious. That’s why I like the name Mud Shop. It’s honest.”
You’d never guess it from his clay-caked hands or his well-worn, splattered overalls, but Danny hasn’t been at this for very long. Less than one year ago, he quit his job as a beverage manager at a prestigious LA restaurant, turning down a pretty glitzy gig to try his hands at something a bit dirtier.
It was a bold move. One of quite a few bold moves that Daniel made during and since the pandemic, looking to inject more fun, adventure, and independence into his life.
Figuring it Out on His Own
After growing up on Long Island, Daniel attended university in Canada, which is how he found himself working in the Toronto restaurant scene before the pandemic. While he had found success in the food scene, he wasn’t feeling fulfilled by his work. On a whim, Daniel joined a community pottery studio while still working full-time in restaurants. He didn’t take any classes but instead preferred to play around and figure things out for himself — bold move number one.
During this period of his life, Daniel’s parents moved to Santa Barbara to slow life down a bit. With friends in LA and his parents there too, he found himself visiting California and starting to plan a second bold move, moving to California himself. One of the first things that struck him about the West Coast was the car culture, which just wasn’t present in the same way in New York or Toronto. Vintage 4x4 trucks and SUVs were all over southern California, and they always caught his eye.
Daniel had never been off-roading. He had never owned a vehicle at all. But that didn’t stop him from bold move number three — buying a bright red 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser off of Craigslist. Everything he knew about caring for a vintage truck he had learned online. The first thing he did was put on a set of 33-inch white-wall BFGoodrich® Tires All-Terrain T/A® KO2 tires.
“If you look at forums or ask any enthusiast, it’s all about the BFGoodrich Tires. That was immediately clear. But in general, getting to know my way around this truck has been the most insane learning curve. I did nothing but switch out my tires for the first year or so, and then I drove it across the country to move out to California. That trip was a dream. And immediately after, the truck needed a ton of work.”
Figuring it Out with Others
When he first landed in LA, Daniel continued to work in restaurants and even got a job at a prestigious one. It was the kind of gig that many people would envy. But in spite of the prestige, the steady income, and the nice — especially for the industry — benefits package, Daniel was still unhappy professionally.
“I wasn’t having any fun. I was living in California, but I wasn't able to do all the things that it has to offer with all the people I was meeting. I was working too much for others. I couldn't go camping. I wasn’t driving my truck as much as I wanted to. So, after some advice from friends and a successful pottery sale on Instagram, I decided to go big. I quit.”
On April 18th, 2022, he launched dannydsmudshop.com with a modest sales goal in mind and his rent due in a few weeks. He ended up doing six times his goal in sales. It started to feel like the pottery thing could work out. He liked what he was doing, he worked when he wanted to, and best of all: he was making enough money to work on his truck.
“After bouncing around a few mechanics, I found a group out in Long Beach that I really clicked with and who are really amazing. They’ve taught me so much, letting me hang around and watch them work. I’m very honored to be the caretaker of this vehicle. Not everyone can afford a truck like this or has the fortune of finding a good one. I work really hard to save up and maintain it. I’m all in”
Establish a Routine, then Break It
Danny was so “all in” he bought a second vintage Toyota — a 1986 SR5 Toyota pickup, which came lifted on 33-inch BFGoodrich® Tires All-Terrain T/A® KO2 tires. Complete with a custom-built camper on the back, this truck came ready to off-road and adventure camp. Danny’s ultra-capable truck, his growing circle of 4X4 Toyota-owner friends, and the freedom that comes from working for yourself was the perfect mix for a year full of exploration and adventure.
“Camping is definitely an escape for me. You can hop in your truck, drive a few hours, and be somewhere completely different where you can live a completely different life for a while. It’s a great way to break out of your routine.”
Out on the dusty trails of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, Danny found inspiration for his work back at home. He quickly refined what became his signature style of graphic linework hand-carved and -painted on creamy glazed clay.
“I have much of my pottery routine pretty dialed. My shaping, firing, and glazing processes all leave little room for error. The designs are where I let myself roam. My work is inspired by motorcycle culture and tattoo culture. That classic American tattoo style works so well carved into clay. I also get inspired on road trips. Desert landscapes show up a lot on my pieces, but also I love to pop into thrift stores along the way. They’re full of inspiration.”
Making it Happen
With patience, a strong work ethic, and a knack for making knowledgeable friends, Daniel’s bold moves have paid off. Each win brings him the confidence he needs to take another bigger, bolder leap forward — crafting exciting works, writing new life chapters, growing his business, swapping out broken radiators, or safely reaching camp in the middle of nowhere.
“I took my pickup on a recent trip to Denver, and I was trying to reach this camp spot up in the remote Alabama Hills. I was pretty scared, but thanks to my BFGs, the truck absolutely crushed this trail full of huge boulders. I didn't air down because I had no ability to air up again. I didn't even engage four-wheel drive! In my truck, I can do anything.”
Along with his unfailing tires, Daniel’s community gives him the confidence to make big moves. It’s a central theme in his life. His former career in the restaurant space was full of collaborators and friends. His ceramics business connects him to illustrators, artists, and customers. And his obsession with vintage Toyotas surrounds him with a sprawling community of instant friends, resources, and co-adventurers.
“Owning a vintage vehicle requires an immense amount of patience, money, and work. But it brings so much to my story. My life today is a crazy, interconnected web of Toyota people. Not only do I have my favorite shop on speed dial, I have a random man I’ve never met in person on speed dial because he owns a Land Cruiser junkyard in North Carolina.”
So, what’s it gonna be? Wanna start fly fishing? Start your own business? Rebuild an engine? Move across the country? Conquer that scary, boulder-strewn hill?
Your next chapter is yours to write. Or perhaps, artfully carve into the side of a hand-thrown vase. Wherever you’re headed, keep this last piece of advice from Danny D with you on the trail:
“It won’t happen if you half-ass it.”