Reaching Out

Terry McDaniel: Environmental Artist

How would you describe yourself?  Not easy, is it?  For most of us, a few labels might come to mind: daughter, employee, mother, reader, gardener.  But who we are is so much more than a list of labels.  Sure, those classifications may help us determine our social groups, but that’s not a guarantee that we’ll find a kindred spirit behind that kindred label.

Terry McDaniel defies labels…even the one we used in this post title!  She is a passionate artist, and she does work tirelessly to protect the environment.  But most of all, she lives to enjoy the beauty of each day, each person, and each thing with which she comes in contact.

Terry never intended to become an artist.  In fact, she fought it as long as she could.  “It felt shameful to want to become an artist because, growing up, we were told that we couldn’t make a living at it.”  Ironically, all of her siblings are now artists in their own right: two of them are potters/ceramicists, one creates artwork by welding, and two remodel homes.


Terry’s former home, complete with igloo and chicken coop. Taken on a January full moon, 8 degrees outside, at 2am. Photos by Terry McDaniel unless otherwise noted.

Although Terry makes a living by photo styling for companies like Quad Graphics in the Twin Cities, her passion lies in photography itself.  Carl Jung said, “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”  That is certainly true of Terry.  Her stunning images of ice luminaries and frozen waterfalls speak to her goal of making people feel more connected to the environment. She published a limited edition of Ice Luminaries, a compilation of her photos, and she is working on a second edition of it.  Her second book, Listening to the Waves, is a photographic journal on grief she made several years ago after her dad died. She never published it, but would like to in the future. Click here to view her website and see more of her amazing work.terry_1

Despite having a degree in photography and visual communications, it wasn’t until Terry started photographing her ice luminaries that she first truly defined herself as an artist, “I was an artist, but I kept it all inside.”  That is, until her turning point unexpectedly came.  For several years, she froze a variety of flowers, plants, and other organic materials in water and put candles inside to create the luminaries to line the driveway at her annual Christmas Eve party.  As the last guest was leaving one year, she told Terry to make sure to take some photos of the luminaries, as they were incredibly beautiful.  terry-iceluminaries

Hundreds of luminaries later, Terry inspires all who view her work with her celebration of the majesty of nature, frozen briefly in time.  She connects the flower and ice images with how the seasonal cycle affects us, contrasting the harshness of winter with the roundness and gentleness of summer, and comparing it to the constant ebb and flow of our lives. “The ice predicts death and symbolizes grief, but yet the flowers, they show life…I want my work to help people heal and be inspired by the beauty of nature.”


One of Terry’s igloos lit by her luminaries


Terry finds peace in nature.  She used to live in the country in an amazing dome-shaped house raising bees, chickens, and horses.  Her flower gardens were the stuff of legends, and the neighbor kids couldn’t wait to help her build her annual igloos that even received attention from KARE 11 news.  But she missed the connection with other artists.  So, after ten years, she moved back to the city, with all but the horses.


Terry’s current beehives

Although the first year was an emotional struggle to adapt to her new, more cramped surroundings, Terry is surrounded by wonderful neighbors who love her urban farm.  And the kids enjoy her chickens, named after strong women throughout history–Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, and Malala.terry_4terry_8sm

She hosts an annual honey harvest open house for her neighbors, complete with hands-on experience, a video on the process, and a chance to watch the centrifugal honey extractor at work!  She’s even installed a number of different gardens on her city lot, for both aesthetics and to help the pollinators.terry-honey-harvest

Terry spends a good deal of her time teaching others about the importance of bees and pollination.  “Without pollinators, we wouldn’t have the beauty of flowers and trees and the abundance of nature.  Nature is where I get my spiritual connection.”  She is also a swarm chaser, and has even posted a Youtube video on how she catches and moves a bee swarm.  You can see more about her honey bees at “T McD’s Bees” on YouTube.


terry-statefairhoneyHer honey has won many ribbons at the state fair over the years, and Terry volunteers to speak in classrooms as well.  She loves helping children understand where our food comes from and the important role that bees have in our ecosystem.terryteachingkids

In addition to her photography, BareBones Productions is Terry’s current creative outlet.  She has helped to build the puppets over the years, with her favorite ones being for the production showcasing the coral reef.




Courtesy of Max Hanes Photos

Most recently, Terry just finished performing in BareBones’ outdoor Halloween Extravaganza.  Although her shyness has kept her from being much of a performer in past productions, this year she actually mastered stilts for the show!


Photo courtesy Jeff Adams

Terry has lived her life in search of beauty, and she always finds it.  Lucky for us, she always shares it as well.  “The goal is to do the art and share it.  I love to see the joy, not just in people’s faces, but in their whole bodies.  If I can help people, that gives me joy.”



Previous Story
Next Story

You Might Also Like

  • Allison D
    November 3, 2016 at 6:59 am

    Wow! I want to be Terry when I grow up!

    • Laura and Melessa
      November 3, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Me too! She is AMAZING!!

      • Terry McDaniel
        November 6, 2016 at 4:16 pm

        I think you to are amazing for making a blog like this. I’m sure it is helping lots of women to grow stronger and take more risks. We all have to.

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Allison, I don’t know how old you are but follow your intuition the best you can. Your own mind will try to push you off your own path but deep down inside you already know who you are. People will support you when they see your enthusiasm of who you are. Honor their support and believe it in yourself. Listen and follow your own heart and surround yourself with people who are like minded and you will find the ‘Terry’ in you. You are a unique individual already who will share what Allison has to share with her community and more. New doors will open to guide you on your way. Take those opportunities when they are available.

      You will be an amazing Allison when you grow up because you already are.

      • allison D
        November 10, 2016 at 8:20 am

        Thank you for your encouraging words, Terry. I am 36!!! I admire your love of the earth and living things and how you incorporate creativity and art into your life.

  • Ashley | Spit Up and Sit Ups
    November 3, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    We need more women like Terry!

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Ashley, I think the world is filled with women like me and we all shine the best way we know how.

  • Shannon Schroecker
    November 3, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    I can agree with that!

  • carol J clark
    November 3, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Perfectly describes you and your amazing spirit Terry!

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      Thank you Carol. You have been a good support for me as well. Thank you for helping me find the house in the city. I’m very comfortable here now.


  • Rani
    November 3, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Likewise on all of the above comments!

  • Teri Joyce
    November 3, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Terry demonstrates a true passion for everything she does, and inspiration to us all. We still talk about how magical it was to sit in Terry’s igloo, petting the chickens on our lap. Thanks for this wonderful article!

  • Stefani @ Crafty Christian
    November 3, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Amazing! I dream of having a homestead one day with chickens and beehives. She seems incredible!

    • Laura and Melessa
      November 3, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      She’s more than incredible. She is so GIVING–of her knowledge, her time, and her friendship. We’re so lucky to have met her!

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      Our dreams can come true if we work for them. Chickens are happy little creatures moving about when yard makes me smile. They will bring so much joy to our homestead.


  • Georgiana
    November 3, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    How sad that she felt shame at wanting to become an artist early on! So glad she was able to shake that off and be who she was meant to be.

    • Laura and Melessa
      November 3, 2016 at 6:10 pm

      I agree! And she is absolutely amazing.

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      When I think of that part it it had to do with my self esteem and believing in myself that I could do what I wanted to do without feeling judged. Everything happens at the right time and we learn what we can about ourselves when we’re ready to learn. I’m looking forward to more of life and what doors will open for me now. Fear of outcomes is always there but if we don’t check things out we will never know what’s on the other side when we are stuck. We keep trying new things that makes life interesting for us.

  • Lillian Soza
    November 3, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Wow, this is so cool! I love that she takes the time to teach kids about the importance of bees- since my kid got stung the only thing he talks about regarding bees is that they sting you. We always try to remind him about honey and pollination. Hasn’t sunk in yet…

    • Laura and Melessa
      November 3, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Ha! It’ll take time for his little emotions to heal from the attack. 🙂

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      It may not even have been a honey bee that stung your son. Possibly a wasp or hornet. Honey bees are not aggressive unless you are bothering their hive. I have posted several videos I made about my honey bees you can look at with your son. They are under T. McD’s Bees. ‘T. McD’s Bees – Honey Bee on the Sunflower’ shows a honey bee getting nectar from a sunflower. Or T McD’s Bees – Lakeville Swarm May 3, ’12, this one shows a swarm that I saved it will show more bees but is very interesting. I can also bring an educational class to his school or club. I think children need to learn about nature, they often realize they like bees after learning about them. You can email me at terrymcdaniela@gmail.
      In the subject line say something about a ‘honey bee class’ if you want more help with that.


  • running buddy
    November 3, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    I love this article! Now I want to see her books.

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      Running Buddy,

      This give me motivation to finish the new book. The first book was a limited edition of 20. This one I’m working on will be unlimited.


  • Briana Marie
    November 4, 2016 at 12:10 am

    Omg. Terry is one of the coolest people ever! So inspiring. I really enjoyed reading this.

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 5:02 pm

      Thank you Briana,
      Do what inspires you, it makes life enjoyable.


  • Mary Barham
    November 4, 2016 at 1:39 am

    Every picture had me inspired! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 5:10 pm

      I felt honored to be interviewed and photogrpahed by Laura and Malissa. They both have such big hearts and compassion for women.

      Live life to it’s fullest and follow your dreams and goals. They are always in us and need action to come to life. Love the things you are doing and surround yourself with people you enjoy being with. They will support you in ways you never thought about. We can’t do life alone. It’s all about ‘WE’.


  • Stacy- Taylor411
    November 4, 2016 at 1:59 am

    She is so inspiring, I’m glad she is living out her dream 😊 I love the igloo!

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 5:15 pm


      I’m hoping that we get enough snow this winter to make another one. Seems; I’m sitting out on my deck in Mpls Nov. 6th the sun is shinning as I write in a t-shirt and shorts and I’m too hot. Time will tell if we get a winter like we used to get years ago. I’m hoping for lots of snow.


  • Mary McDaniel
    November 5, 2016 at 3:16 am

    You did a great job with this article. Terry is my big sister and she is loved not just by me, but everyone she meets. She is one of the most giving persons I have known. She loves life, the good, bad and the ugly. I thank my mother daily for being able to know her. May she be embraced by a selfless life and goodness in return.

    • Laura and Melessa
      November 5, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Oh, you are so lucky to have such an amazing sister in your life! She really is so incredibly giving!

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 5:21 pm


      I’m not sure what I would do without your support. You are an inspiration to me with your life changes and reciently leaving the medical field and becoming a successful welder. I’m so proud of you and so proud to be your sister. You also exude love and support to so many people who know you. I just wish our mom and dad were alive to see how we are all doing.


  • Mary McDaniel
    November 5, 2016 at 3:16 am

    PS.. I am the welder

    • Laura and Melessa
      November 5, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      Oh! I would LOVE to see your work! Do you have a website?

  • Elizabeth Doren
    November 5, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Extremely interesting story. Also I’ve commented before but I forgot to tell you how much I love the blog title.

  • Tiffany |
    November 5, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    This is lovely! Terry seems like such a lovely lady. I think it is so wonderful that she shares her art and is active in her community. Thank you for sharing her story.

  • Erin @ Stay at Home Yogi
    November 6, 2016 at 11:21 am

    What an amazing lady! I can’t believe how beautiful her chickens are too and I love their names!!

    • Terry McDaniel
      November 6, 2016 at 5:30 pm

      I named them after strong women to remind me and anyone who meets them about what women in the past have done to give us our current rights and the courage to do what we feel is right for our society and the times we live in now. There is always room to grow as our planet is overflowing with opportunities to make it a better place for all who live here. Lets work together to make it a better place to live and enjoy.


  • Stephanie Frias
    November 8, 2016 at 1:44 am

    What an incredible profile of a fascinating woman and stunning art projects. Thanks for telling the world about her!

  • Shann Eva
    November 8, 2016 at 3:20 am

    Terry sounds amazing! Thank you for sharing her and her art with us. That igloo, and her photographs are so beautiful. I love her chicken’s names!

  • Lacey
    November 11, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Terry is awesome and inspirational! Especially as a fellow Minnesotan!

  • Shahira
    November 15, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Creative people inspire me. There is some deep beauty in being able to visualise a concept and make it a reality. Not everyone can do that. She is so inspiring.

  • %d bloggers like this: