Ashley Delonas’ Pocatello, Idaho home reflects her dual interests in nature and art.

Details: The Sparkle of Life

Since the late 1800s, travelers have poured into and passed through Pocatello, Idaho via the Oregon Trail, helping establish the modest-sized city as a gateway to the West. For Pocatello-born and -raised artist Ashley Delonas, life in the area has been a gateway to personal and professional accomplishments and continued growth.

Delonas combines vibrant stained glass, an array of crystals and gems, fossils, and antler sheds in this gracefully curved, upturned umbrella-shaped chandelier she calls Sundance. | COURTESY OF ASHLEY DELONAS

“Anywhere you look — left, right, northeast, southwest — we’re surrounded by public lands, big mountains, and endless miles of trail-biking, hiking, shed-hunting, and whatever else your little outdoor heart desires,” Delonas says.

In addition to hunting and watching the wildlife that roams around her Pocatello home, Delonas is an avid mountain climber. She has summited all nine of Idaho’s 12,000-foot peaks, making her one of around 300 people and only a handful of women to do so. “I don’t think I realized it at that moment, but looking back at all those mountain-climbing adventures I was doing, it was all just me getting my power back,” says 39-year-old Delonas, who was going through a divorce when her passion for climbing mountains took off. Her initial forays with her brother and father in 2012 have since evolved into climbing with her husband and son — the cycle continues.

A closer look at the piece reveals her detailed embellishments with copper-colored solder to create silhouettes of northwestern wildlife. | COURTESY OF ASHLEY DELONAS

In addition to the personal empowerment Delonas gained from the ascents, the descents have also revealed an abundance of unique Western resources: antler sheds from deer, moose, and elk.

For Delonas, antler sheds equal art-making materials. Since 2020, she has created chandeliers, pendant lights, and custom designs by combining antlers with stained glass, gemstones, crystals, and various fossils. “It’s a very unique design that she has,” says Mary Sims, executive director of By Western Hands, which represents Delonas’ work.

True to its name, Ascend is the chandelier that helped elevate Delonas’ career and visibility as a unique Western artisan. | COURTESY OF ASHLEY DELONAS

Sims and a group of By Western Hands artisans first saw Delonas’ light fixtures at Jackson, Wyoming’s annual Western Design Conference exhibition and sale in 2022. Sims says they knew right away the designs would be a good fit for By Western Hands, a Cody, Wyoming-based nonprofit whose mission is “to educate, conserve, and perpetuate the legacy of Western design and craftsmanship.”

“We’ve definitely seen antler chandeliers and different types of chandeliers,” says Sims, “but nothing [with] the stained glass, stones, and soldering that she does.”

Delonas works out of her home in Pocatello, Idaho, with a view to the mountains that both inspire her work and provide the necessary antlers for her increasingly in demand fixtures.

Relinquished, for example, is a nearly 5-foot-tall chandelier featuring six elk antlers fused to form an inverted pyramid. Delonas spanned the open spaces where the beams crisscrossed with pieces of stained glass interspersed with golden citrine, sliced agate, red carnelian, and other gemstones. At the base of the chandelier, Delonas added more solder — the framework of any stained glass piece — to create a copper-toned mountain tableau of elk amid the evergreen. When illuminated, Delonas’ vibrantly colored fixtures sparkle with life, casting soldered figures as silhouettes, yet her functional artworks are just as stunning simply hanging from the ceiling.

Delonas’ pendant-like deer antler chandeliers can be commissioned in a full spectrum of colors, from warm reds and golds to cool blues and greens. | COURTESY OF ASHLEY DELONAS

Growing up in Pocatello, Delonas’ interest in art was initially peripheral to dance and high-school sports, but her mother’s work in stained glass, silk painting, and other media was a constant creative presence. “She was definitely the first person in my life who influenced that kind of art desire,” says Delonas, who in 2009 had a lightbulb moment when she was about to become a mother herself. “My mom was doing little polymer clay beads, and she brought over this book, and in the book, there was this picture of this light-switch cover with a little sun and moon on it,” Delonas says. “And I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll make some for my house.’”

As her tummy grew, so did the demand for light-switch covers, which she sold at pop-up events. That, in turn, fueled Delonas’ interest in attending a college art program, which she paid for with art sales. Not bad for a 24-year-old self-made artist and newly single mom. “It kind of blows my mind when I think about it,” says Delonas. “My very first introduction to doing any kind of art or craft was those light switches.”

Initially, Delonas considered following in her parents’ footsteps and earning a degree to teach art. That would have been the safe route, she says, but she envisioned a different future: making a living through her own artwork. No loans. No second job. No backup plan. “When I graduated college [in 2016], I really put the pressure on,” says Delonas, who first hit upon the combination of antler and glass for a college art final. “Once I made that, I realized that was all I wanted to do.”

In 2020, Delonas was preparing for what would have been the 29th annual Western Design Conference, but COVID closures upended her plans. She used the time to beef up her Mountain Girl Studios web presence and go all-in on what would turn out to be a life-changing chandelier she called Ascend.

At nearly 3 feet across, the umbrella-shaped chandelier — glowing with golden clusters of citrine crystal, sliced agate, and stained glass — was the largest and most elaborate piece she’d ever constructed, the culmination of four months of toil. Its swift sale validated her long, challenging uphill climb, Delonas says. Her hard work was further recognized when she received an honorable mention in the accent category during the Western Design Conference last year.

Delonas has spent the past few years developing new designs and fulfilling commissions, such as a 10-foot-tall geometric chandelier with successive tiers of antler tips called Tines Down. Yet, even as she’s dreaming bigger, Delonas recognizes the limitations of her current workspace in the attic of her chalet-style home. “I don’t have running water up here,” she says of her studio. “My chandeliers barely fit out the door.”

Delonas and her husband are in the process of building a new standalone studio. They plan to add modest living quarters for guests, allowing Delonas the opportunity to host clients and offer classes. Eventually, she would like to close the loop on the lapidary aspect of her fixtures as well. “I would love to have all the equipment to find a big rock — a rough-edge piece of Idaho jasper, maybe — and then slice it down, grind it, polish it, and cut it to fit my needs,” Delonas says.

The only part of her process she’s not interested in doing herself — at least not yet — is the electrical work, relying instead on prefabricated lighting kits to ensure every fixture functions perfectly every time the switch is flipped.

Carrie Scozzaro is a freelance arts and culture writer, former K-12 and college teacher, and practicing artist based in Spokane, Washington.

A native of southeast Idaho, Josh Petersen grew up with some of the nation’s most beautiful landscapes right in his own backyard. Now, working all over the U.S. and abroad as a portrait photographer, Petersen has developed a passion for travel and using his talents to give back to local communities. Whether it be in Ecuador’s bustling cities, throughout Haiti’s rural farmlands, or deep in the jungles of the Dominican Republic, he loves connecting with his fellow humans over their local food and ice-cold beer.

No Comments

Post A Comment

error: Content is protected !!