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PBS "Outdoor Idaho"

Crafting a Living

I live and work as a self-employed artist in Pocatello, Idaho. For the last ten years, I have been fortunate enough to travel around to various art shows and festivals, and local Farmers Market to sell my work.  In July of 2019, I was featured on Idaho Public Broadcasting System in a series titled “Outdoor Idaho.” This television program featured me in an episode titled “Crafting a Living.” The episode films my process of transforming moose, elk, and deer sheds into magnificent pieces of art incorporating stained glass, copper, and Idaho gemstones. I have also been featured in an article from the Idaho State Journal showcasing my success in forging a career in art and how my success as an artist is mirrored in my tenacity as I have overcome the challenges of being one of a handful of women summiting Idaho’s 9 tallest peaks.

My segment begins at 10:25

https://www.idahoptv.org/shows/outdooridaho/episodes/craftingaliving/

"9 Peaks"

Artist Statement

As an artist, my primary goal is to convey my love of Idaho by sharing the beauty I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter. Some of the sights I have seen would be considered beautiful to many people and lend themselves well to artistic compositions. Other sights have some inherent beauty, but their beauty lies more in the experience and insights gained from witnessing and becoming part of them.

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Climbing mountains, particularly rugged, intensely challenging ones has helped me feel part of something bigger than myself. In the summer of 2012, I had the opportunity to climb Mt. Borah, Idaho’s tallest peak, with my dad and brother. Conquering that first mountain became the catalyst to conquer all nine of Idaho’s peaks over 12,000 feet. Knowing that very few people, and even fewer women, have summited all nine peaks, was particularly enticing. I felt great satisfaction knowing I would be earning my membership as part of an elite and special group. Each mountain maintains a unique set of challenges. For each one I have conquered, I felt a quiet, yet powerful sense of being aligned with nature. Each summit brought me closer to the realization that not only can I master difficult things and overcome life’s challenges, but I can find beauty and strength in the struggle.

As I considered which medium to convey my love and appreciation for these majestic mountains, I considered how I felt during each climb. At times I felt vulnerable and weak, other times I felt invincible. Silk is an extremely delicate and beautiful material and is often associated with things of great worth. Much like a person’s spirit, silk can convey beauty through intense colors and patterns. Silk has feminine quality about it; extraordinarily strong yet vulnerable. It proved to be a fitting canvas for this work. I applied French dyes to the silk and then steamed the dye for three hours. This lengthy and intense process creates a chemical reaction between the silk and the dye which bonds them together. The transformation that occurred within me each time I climbed a mountain, bonded me with both my family and each mountain and will stay within me forever. The colors I chose to apply to the silk were selected for their intensity and for the feelings they evoke. As the dyes were applied, they began to flow and spread, blending into their own unique and magical combinations. This mirrored the growth and change that occurred within me as I came to realize my worth, my power, and my ability to persevere and come out on top. Feathers were created to symbolize my ascension to the highest places in Idaho.

Feathers also symbolize the ability to move freely throughout life and to obtain a fresh start. After each climb, I have felt renewed and refreshed. It was important for me to physically bring some of elements I experienced into my work as well. During each climb, it was not unusual to find elk or deer antlers that had been discarded and left behind to make way for new growth. Pairing each of these antlers with colored glass and giving them a new purpose took on a dual meaning. Each shed became symbolic for my former thoughts being given new life and beauty. I have transformed and enhanced the sheds giving them new life.

The glass in my antler sculpture is symbolic as well. Glass is a strong material created by undergoing intense heat and pressure; but if not handled with care can be easily broken. The individual shards and pieces of glass are sharp and dangerous on their own but when joined together they are beautiful. Just as the shale and scree one crosses to reach the summit are treacherous, they too create a beautiful whole. The same holds true for my own thoughts and beliefs. I have strong convictions and ideas about the world and have had those shattered with one tragic event. It is has been my choice to pick up the pieces, solder them back together and create something new and whole and beautiful. Some things can never be repaired, but the pieces left behind can be used to create something even better.

Ashley Delonas

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