By David Terraso
Diirga Brough is a man of many talents who has lived in Candler Park since 1975. I have no idea how he’d feel about the term “renaissance man,” but in my opinion it fits him to a T. He grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and moved to Atlanta to attend the Atlanta School of Art, which is now incorporated into the Savannah College of Art and Design. He owns the building at McClendon and Oakdale that houses the Marie Marie Salon and Indie Craft Experience. He also runs Gravity Graphics Signs and teaches under the names Laughing Dragon Tai Chi, Laughing Dragon Swords and Laughing Dragon Summer Camp.
DT: How did you end up coming to Candler Park?
DB: One of my claims to fame was I was the first paid employee of Sevananda Natural Foods. We brought Sevananda to the neighborhood in 1975. We had a store at Emory and it was time to leave, so I came through this neighborhood and said, “I bet the rent is cheap here.”
DT: Tell us about your artwork.
DB: As a freelance artist I get to experiment. I ‘ve painted signs for forty years. I will always paint signs. I’m one of the last hand-letterers. The Gilded Angel and Candler Park Flowers are two of my favorites.
Another quirky thing I do is paint Christmas windows; Zesto’s is one. I decorate on the outside for Christmas and then they scrape it off after Christmas. I have about a dozen clients. I do it because I love it.
I also do signs for the Neon Company. He’ll bring something to me and say, “I want this to look old.” So I make them look old and handmade .
DT: How did you become interested in signs?
DB: From my dad, he was a graphics design professor at the University of Alabama and I watched him paint signs and he taught me the basics.
DT: You also teach Tai Chi?
DB: Teaching and practicing Tai Chi is a deep personal artistic experience for me. I teach private classes. That gives me a learning environment that is unique to each individual. I like to say, “Breathing is the most important thing I teach.”
DT: Tell us about the swords.
DB: Part of classical Tai Chi is sword. I designed a padded sword, so we could fight full speed . I spent a number of years developing them and I have a friend who makes them for me.
When my son was five-ish, I watched him and his friends go crazy with the swords and I thought this is really cool. So I started doing a sword fighting program with kids. I used to do it after school. So I have this whole generation of kids who’ve done sword fighting with me. It’s free-style sword fighting. If they want to be a Jedi, they get to be a Jedi. If they want to clobber, they get to clobber. Whatever they want to do, I cater to it because there is no one thing. It’s a lot of fun. It’s very universal; kids of all ages love it. I just put the sword in their hands and say “ GO”.
DT: And you have a camp?
DB: I was with Circus Camp for many years, I hung out with all the circus talent and picked up a lot of skills. About ten years ago I put that together with sword fighting and started Laughing Dragon Summer Camp . I run camp for one month in June. Right now I’ve had the same group of kids for three years. It’s great, I only want eight kids, not 24.
DT: You’ve lived in Candler Park for a long time, so I’m guessing you’re a fan?
DB: I think we’re the luckiest people because there’s no place like this. There’s friendliness, walkability, we’re a great community. When I go to our neighborhood meetings and events I feel proud.
If anyone wants to get in touch with me about any of my services, please do at Diirga@LDswords.com.