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Sight of Sound at the Utah Arts Festival

Salt Lake City – If you were among the crowds at last weekend’s Utah Arts Festival you may have noticed the striking woodwork of Challis Customs. For the past year and a half, Don Challis has taken his prior decades of woodwork and wood carving in a new direction: sound. Sharp vertical lines rise out of the wood to form a unique body, a visual representation of a soundwave.

“Everything we do is custom made for each person that orders. It could be a clip from a voice mail that’s meaningful to you, maybe from a loved one that’s passed. You can use your voice or somebody else’s voice, music, anything you want really. Any sound,” said Challis. “So we take that, we put it into an audio editing software and that gives us the wave form and I print that out on a large scale, to where I want that to be, then I use that as a template to cut with my miter saw. I’m making individual cuts to create the full shape.”

Challis has been creating wooden carvings of soundwaves for a year and a half. It started with a memorial piece where “I love ya'” was isolated from a voicemail left by a loved one who had passed. With several sample pieces on display it’s easy to see that no two pieces are alike, with the soundwaves having the variability and uniqueness of finger prints.

“We never have stock on hand, everything we do is custom made,” said Challis. Challis has used everything from a dog barking to an unborn baby’s heartbeat to produce work for clients. The limits of potential subjects are really as limitless as his patron’s imagination. “The customer decides what kind of finish they want. We sell them framed, I make every frame so that it complements the actual soundwave and looks proportional, and we sell them with that or without the frame.”

Challis was pleased his innovative artwork garnered attention at the event, but says he believes that means imitation might soon be on the horizon.

“As for now, I’m the only one doing it, but that won’t last for long,” said Challis. Challis Customs drew a lot of attention, going through over a thousand business cards in just three days at the Utah Arts Festival. For more information on the process and products, potential customers or curious readers can visit challiscustoms.com.