Artist Absorbs Inspiration From Stone

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Robert Barela, unlike most artists who buy commercially produced supplies, takes his medium and inspiration from the geologic formations of the Rim country.

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Robert Barela

Barela uses a sandblaster to carve Southwestern and Native American designs into stone found exclusively in Arizona. The dark swirls and grains of the Sierra stone create the illusion of wood.

"It's so beautiful," Barela said. "You can't get this (stone) anywhere else in the world."

Barela, a Rim country resident for the past decade, has worked with stone, his favorite medium, for about 20 years.

"I've always liked (Southwestern design) because it's rustic, soft," he said. "I can just relax in it."

Take a drive around town -- you can't miss Barela's Mountain Bible Church and Rock of Ages Lutheran Church stone signs. And if you've ever been to The Rim Club, Barela's handiwork adorns the outdoor fireplace.

"I just put (my art) out there and you can think whatever you think. I feel a spirit in the rock and it makes me want to carve it," Barela said. "Not break it or throw it away, but to carve it and enhance it to the human eye."

When Barela first started selling his work, he said he was amazed at the possibility of making a living doing what he loved. But now, the passion for his work is paramount to the money.

Barela knows that if he wants to continue making art he has to keep selling, so he's working on his newest concept: stone coffee tables.

He hopes coffee tables will sell better than some of the smaller pieces he's done, like decorative clocks, because furniture is practical.

Barela doesn't remember how he got started working with stone. He recalled it being heavy and awkward to work with, but rewarding and exhilarating to see his first piece, a headstone, become a reality.

The feeling of creating something by hand is "really exciting" for Barela because he can step back and see the product of his labor.

Barela believes there's an artist in all of us, even if our art is nontraditional -- an artist takes pride in his or her work and creates art because it's a passion.

Payson People Facts:

Name: Robert R. Barela, Sr.
Occupation: Artist/Carpenter
Employer: Self
Age: 66
Birthplace: Los Angeles, Calif.
Family: Wife and partner, Nancy
Personal motto: Love your neighbor
Inspiration: Isaiah 40:8
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: designing
Three words that best describe me are: I'm on time
The person/people in history I'd most like to meet: Jesus Christ
Luxury defined: Peace
Dream vacation spot: Costa Rica
Why Payson: It has all the neat little things (good weather and being close to nature)

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