The greatest thrills in writing a human-interest story come from the connections and facets that can appear from one single, passionately-written piece. A writer finds a gem in the wilderness, and holds that gem of words and photos up to the light to see that it actually reflects far and wide, and that it’s not only the writer who appreciates this rare find, but others as well.
I wrote about one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever encountered two years ago this August. His name is Nik Hougan, and he lives in a remote wilderness on a mining claim, where he finds crystals and topaz and magnetic rocks. Using primitive techniques, he crafts his minerals and gems along with imported silver into jewelry. He further supplements his jewelry making by producing landscapes, hand-carved block prints of rivers framed by cliff walls, and sometimes wildlife (not unlike those produced by Utah’s most famous outdoor adventure writer, Everett Ruess). His work is magnificent, and like Ruess, Nik is also a true Utah original, but he never had a gallery for selling his art. At least not until Moab Made was born.
Moab Made is a concept that was started by Rebecca McAllister, along with the encouragement of her artist friends. Moab artists are plentiful, and extremely diverse: from sculptors to painters, to jewelry makers and potters, to upcyclers, wallet and bag makers, and even sunglass crafters. But they never had a place where they could consistently display their products for sale to tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Moab Made is satisfying an excellent niche; it’s amazing that someone didn’t come up with this concept sooner.
Clarissa, who makes fine jewelry from rare beads, takes me on a short tour. Besides Nik’s block prints, there are works produced by Scott Mitchell, from Monticello, who takes long nails and coils them into snakes. He has done the same using copper, lead, titanium and all sorts of patterns, designs, and levels of intricacy, using various patinas. It’s a simple idea, but from the work he has on display, it’s clear he could maintain a 50-year career just with snakes alone.
I met upcycle artist, Tim McAllister, last month at Fresh Moab Coffee. He told me about Moab Made and Tom Toms Volkswagen Museum, that is closing. McAllister said that he has found a treasure trove of items for his art at the junkyard. His work consists of shapes and patterns made from old telephones, computer motherboards, springs, wires and baby dolls. I love it, except for the baby dolls, which remind me of a horror movie. But the skill he puts into upcycling is obvious, and he clearly has an eye for detail in the discarded and forgotten.