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Artist of the Month - November 2007

Art from the Earth: Triassic Stone
by Michaelene Pendleton

When Scott and Katy Anderson became Triassic Stone, they brought a wealth of artistic talent and environmental consciousness to the business.

Scott’s grandmother, grandfather and father were avid rock collectors, and used the rocks they found to make small stonework pieces, such as bookends. Scott also learned woodworking with hand tools, and began investigating the possibilities in both media. Scott graduated from Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Art School with a double major in anthropology and geography. Through Edwardsville, Scott went to Oaxaca, Mexico to study pottery and weaving, then to Hazard, KY, to learn blacksmithing. This learning would stand him in good stead, but not right away. After getting out of school, Scott began leading kids’ backpacking trips in the US and Canada for Aspen Youth Alternatives, which he still does occasionally. In 1997, one of those trips took him to Torrey and he was hooked on the country. Scott says, “I like the lack of people and the open space. You can see a long ways.”

In Torrey, Scott began making small stone pendants by hand. After he traded some pieces for a grinding wheel, the work went faster and his output went up enough that he began to think of it as a business. He lived out of his truck for 5 years until he relocated to Moab.

Katy came to Triassic Stone from a different direction. She was a creative kid, but even more of a soccer jock. She graduated from George Mason University in Virginia with a degree in journalism. When Katy came to Southeastern Utah on a backpacking trip with friends in 2003, she fell for Moab. When asked why, Katy has a simple answer, “It’s pretty.”

Katy hadn’t worked in stone or wood until she met Scott, but found a love for those art forms. She uses her creativity not only through Triassic Stone, but also teaches at the Paradox Charter School.

The ethic that underlies Triassic Stone is living softly on the earth. Their materials are salvaged, locally-available, and non-toxic to them or their customers. Scott and Katy used to order materials from the global market, but when they found that the leather they use from India contaminates rivers, they agreed they didn’t want to kill people to make jewelry.

They use alabaster from Onion Creek, pearwood from the soon-to-be Mulberry Lane Neighborhood behind Mulberry Lane and Rotary Park, black walnut from behind the old movie theatre, and apricot from all over the valley. To replace that hazardous cordage from India, they use dogbane by stripping the fibers and winding in the same way it has been used for millennia. Katy and Scott have found uses even for tamarisk.

They find most of their raw materials on backpacking trips. Making a connection to the place each piece comes from infuses their art and is part of the fun. “Customers like knowing where the pieces came from,” Katy says.

Their goal is “Zero Waste.” Whether they are working with wood or stone, they often start with big pieces and recycle the scraps in ever smaller and smaller pieces so nothing is wasted. A huge slab of wood might be shaped into a table, with the scrap pieces becoming bowls or spoons or chopsticks. This is not only eco-friendly, but helps keep their prices down.

“Stone is about breakage,” Scott says. “The material limits what you can do with it. This can be good because it stretches you.”

In form, Katy describes their style as “simple and conscious.” Each piece is handmade, one off. Most of their pieces are wearable or usable. Along with the large pieces, they make small tools such as drop spindles, tongs, weaving and felting tools, and burnishers. A Navajo weaver’s batten was grooved from the wool; they made her a batten from mountain mahogany, hard as ironwood and likely to last a lifetime. Scott says, “I try to make things that bring out the natural beauty of the materials, and I think I just provide the shape or the form. When I change what I’m doing, I meet a new set of people to talk to. Often I find out that they may have done something amazing.”

About a year ago, they bought a sawmill, which opened up new possibilities. Like many other artists, they add one tool at a time, gradually accumulating new equipment and broadening their range. Their workshop is messy and cluttered – definitely a shop that belongs to working artists.

They note that it’s hard for new artists to break in. In order to make their presence known, Katy and Scott took over Petra Gallery after its founder, Bill Kent, died, and ran it until they turned it over to Robin Straub in March of this year. That experience jumpstarted Scott’s bigger pieces.

Most of this year, you could find Triassic Stone at the Farmers’ Market. They underwrite programs at KZMU, and support local music programs, as well as participating in artists’ studio tours.

Scott and Katy agree that “Our philosophy entails our do-it-yourself attitude, and we encourage other people to try out these materials.” Generous and eco-friendly, Triassic Stone is a business that improves the art scene in Moab.

If you would like to know more about Triassic Stone, visit their website at www.triassicstone.com.

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