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Bellmaker of Deweyville
September 23rd, 2008

Doug Adams is a steel worker who makes bell scuptures out of Deweyville, Utah. Doug's bells evoking images from Eastern art resonate with the buying public in Utah.
big bell sculpture
metal bell sculpture by Doug Adams

When people ask Doug Adams how long it takes him to make one of his sculptured bells Doug says "that bell took me my whole life. Each bell is the product of a life's worth of experiences."

Doug made his first bell on a whim 20 years ago using a steel gas canister cut in half. Doug has worked in the steel industry for 27 years and counting. "I graduated from high school on a Friday and started working at the steel mill on Monday morning and I've worked there ever since." But it wasn't until 4 years ago that Doug began making his bells professionally he credits his wife of 6 years for giving him the inspiration and encouragement he needed to take off in such a unique direction. Doug's wife is a talented watercolor painter as well as his muse.

Adam's home is more like a gallery than a typical house, "everything from the art on the walls to the tables and chairs in our house is art." Doug, his wife and 4 children (ages 26, 25,16 and 4) "hers, mine, and ours," he calls them. The Adams live in the town of Deweyville, UT pop. 330. Doug and his wife each have a studio at home for their respective artistic pursuits.

When I asked him where he gets his materials he responds "I'm a classic dumpster diver." Doug recycles a lot of materials that would otherwise be thrown out. Sometimes he has been known to trade his art.

Doug also incorporates large rocks into the construction of some of his bells. Some of the rocks he has used, he tells me, came all the way from the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau Alaska. The rock steel combination actually originated long ago from far away.

bell close-up
metal bell by Doug Adams

In buddhist temples and rituals, bells constructed of steel and stone are often used for their meditative and purifying qualities. I asked Doug about this and he told me that in Eastern Philosophy, the combination of stone and steel is said to give good fortune. "I don't think people can have enough good fortune these days" he says.

Prior to talking to him, I assumed Doug must have some kind of a religious background in Eastern Philosophy but when I questioned him about the tree and sun symbols he so often uses to adorn his bells, Doug tells me that he is an active member of the LDS church and the tree and sun symbols have personal religious significance for him. He goes on to tell me that the term Zen means "without scripture" which is a concept in opposition with faith based on scripture and content.

How does he reconcile the clash of East and West in his art? Doug says his art is more about the emotion it conveys, "if it doesn't give a certain feeling, why even buy it?" Doug's clientele are as diverse as his bells. Doug's bells are both decorative and functional. They have been used for meditation; one of a kind gifts to "upscale yard art," as Doug puts it.

Doug's latest and largest commission to date, is to provide bells to adorne a frisbee golf course. A prominent Utah County business man recently commissioned Doug to create 9 large bells, for around $40,000 to adorn each hole of his private frisbee golf course. The bells for the course will be used used as targets.

metal bell with heart
Bell with heart inscription

Another recent commission Doug received was last week was from a couple visiting Salt Lake from Texas, in town for their daughter's wedding. They had been looking for weeks for a unique and special wedding gift. When they saw Doug's bells they knew they had found the perfect item. They asked Doug if he could make a custom bell in time for the wedding. Doug inscribed their names and their wedding date on the bell circumscribed with a heart -- the bell ready and waiting for the happy couple at the Farmer's Market Saturday morning.

After 27 years in the steel industry, Doug says he's looking forward to retiring in the near future (January 2010 to be exact) and focusing all his energy on his sculptures. While the prospect of retiring is exciting, he says the decision is somewhat nerve-wracking with four children to take care of, the youngest just 4 years old. But Doug and his wife are optimistic. They were both recently accepted to show their art at the Sedona Art Festival this October 4th-5th in Arizona. The Sedona Art Festival accepts just 150 artists nationwide each year. Many artists apply time and time again only to be rejected. Doug and his wife were accepted on their first try. He says they feel very fortunate and blessed.

Locally, Doug's sculptured bells can be found at the Palmers Gallery and the Farmer's Market in Salt Lake City as well as the Juniper Sky Fine Arts Gallery just West of St. George in Ivins, Utah.

-by Amanda Hurtado

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This piece is the seventh in Utah Stories ongoing Farmers Market series. Click here to visit our Farmers Market Stories main page.

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