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Artist of the Month - November 2004

Retirement brings the Artist out
in Moab’s Somervilles

By Carrie Switzer

Sammy and Darlene Somerville were fixtures at the Moab Farmer’s Market this year, and with gift and craft shows coming up, it doesn’t appear their stone and jewelry work will slow down.

The Somervilles team up with beautifully cut and polished stone collected and shaped by Sammy, who passes them on to Darlene. She then wraps, sets and beads the pieces with a skill that belies her claim to have found this artistic bent only three years ago.

“I had never done anything artistic in my life,” Darlene claims. “I watched a lady who made jewelry using wire for a couple of years and decided I wanted to try it. She showed me how to do it, and I just took it from there.”

The pleasure Darlene derives from twisting, shaping and beading slim wire into high-quality settings for necklaces, bracelets and other ornamental products, is evident in the finished product’s simplistic beauty.
“I always wanted to mess around with rock,” Sammy says. “It’s mostly a pastime. Instead of sitting around, I can go out and put three or four hours in and cut a lot of rock.”

And hunt for it, too, which is where you get the feeling Sammy’s real joy lies.

Sammy has a collection of petrified wood and coprolite – petrified dinosaur dung – that looks like precious stone. The colors are vivid, the textures smooth as silk. And they make remarkable settings.

“It’s just a rock on the outside, when you find something like this,” Sammy explains, showing a half-sphere of grainy, dusty stone on the outside and marbled agate smitten with a shooting star image. “I really enjoy the agates. People ask for dinosaur bone a lot, but we really don’t work with that much.”

The Somervilles work is so popular their lifestyle has changed to accommodate travel to craft fairs all over the Rocky Mountain Plateau. Darlene said she could never get Sammy to travel much in years past, but simple logic gets him out on the road with her these days.

“We’ve got all this stuff, we’ve got to sell it,” Sammy says matter-of-factly.

“Years ago this would not have worked for us,” Darlene said, noting they have raised three children on their small parcel in Spanish Valley, where Sammy can point to the place he himself was born.

“Now we have a few cows and chickens, and they’re okay if we leave for a few days. Someone can look in on them for us.”

The Somerivlles have six cows, to be exact, which they raise for food for themselves and other family members. Sammy also does contract work in the spring and summer. Their small farm feeds them, and the little bit of cash earned after road expenses from jewelry sales keeps them going.

In addition to jewelry, Darlene creates ornamental decorations using gourds, feathers and other items from nature, comparable to high-quality crafts available at high-end trading posts in the southwest. They produce in their home, and outside of fairs and the farmer’s market, sell usually by word of mouth. She will also have holiday ornaments made of gourd and stone available at the Moab holiday art fair.

“Ever since we went to a craft fair in Montrose, last April, it’s been an ongoing thing,” Darlene says of the quickened pace her jewelry sells these days. “We did pretty well in Ridgeway and Helper,” Darlene said. “It’s nice to talk to all the people at these fairs. I really enjoy it.”

Moab area residents and those passing through can get a sneak preview, and perhaps place orders to specially-sized items by calling the Somervilles at their home, where they have a wide display of finished work. They can be reached at 259-7385.
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