The geological majesty of Utah’s canyon country captivates millions of visitors every year. Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is no exception, drawing more than an estimated million visitors last summer down Highway 12.
Of course, for millennia before the area was recognized by the US government for its special qualities, humans recognized a potent creative muse in the red rock and sagebrush. Many of today’s residents of Escalante and Boulder, the towns that bookend the monument at its entrances, take inspiration from the landscape for art in a wide range of mediums.
Whether in watercolor, precious metals, music and the spoken word, or other means of expression, the creativity pouring out of the Escalante region’s artists can be seen in festivals and galleries throughout the state and four corners region, and even internationally.
Artists David and Brigitte Delthony share their own gallery in the town of Escalante, where they have found grounding and inspiration for their work in separate crafts for more than 20 years. A woodworker and a sculptor, David designs and sculpts custom furniture pieces using a process of wood laminating that allows strong, complex designs. Brigitte designs and produces original pottery using ancient techniques.
“It’s very harmonious to look at his work and my work,” Brigitte says. “Together, they’re very compatible .”
The couple are enthusiastic about sharing both their work and the region that has inspired them with visitors. Trained and working in West Germany, the artists visited Utah themselves for the first time on vacation. The experience satisfied their fascination with prehistoric cultures so well, they returned the following year.
On their way through Escalante on the second visit, conversations with locals led them to tour a sawmill on the edge of town—which the owner happened to be putting on the market. The price was right and the canyon was calling. A few days before returning to West Germany, the Delthonys were property owners in Utah.
The shift from bustling European lives to the more elemental world of the rural American West was grounding, David says. “We really enjoyed coming to a place where we could determine our own lives, live more simply and enjoy the environment here.”
David’s work seems to echo the form of the surrounding landscape. Inspired by the use of negative space in sculptor Henry Moore’s work, David’s pieces evoke the delicate strength that has held massive arches aloft for millennia. The polished, honey-colored wood curves sweep a person enjoying a repose into playful stability.
The move to Escalante also sparked Brigitte’s desire to master ancient pottery techniques. “I needed something to ground me, because I felt like I ended up on the moon after coming from a dynamic metropolis of three million,” Brigitte says.
She immersed herself in the pottery techniques and materials used by ancient cultures in the Four Corners region, reading, visiting museums, galleries and universities. The educational component is never ending, she says, including her own experimenting and innovating.
The intimate setting of the couple’s gallery allows them to share their work with visitors from all over the world, an exemplary execution of the delicate balance between consumption and appreciation that attends tourism in the canyon country.
Brigitte invites guests to share in her experience through primitive pottery workshops, and David is pleased to introduce visitors to his sculpted furniture’s delightful ergonomic experience. “Everybody who visits our workshop, the first thing they do is run their hands over the sculptured furniture and pottery,” he says.
The Delthonys’ Sculptured Furniture, Art and Ceramics studio is yet another magical reason for people to be drawn down Highway 12.