Granite ParadiseChris Brown
Fort Collins, Colorado, 80521, us
Guided visits to Chris Brown’s Granite Paradise are available by advance appointment: call him at (970) 619-0589. There is no admission charge, but he does accept donations.
About the Artist/Site
Brown was born in New York State, and his family moved to Montana while he was still in grade school. He always loved rocks, but living near the mountains is when his love of geology really started to flourish. After bouncing back and forth between the states and Mexico for several decades, he and his family finally settled full time in Colorado. In 1995, searching for a way to cut and polish a stone he found, he took the rock to a granite fabricator and ended up not only with a nicely cut stone, but with a new career.
Now, in several ways Chris Brown’s life revolves around rocks. As his hobby he collects, studies, categorizes and displays rocks from around the world: he is a rock hound. As his profession he cuts and shapes stone slabs in the granite countertop industry: he is a stonecutter. And, when he is not out collecting stones in nature or cutting them at his job, he is busy in his backyard assembling granite slabs to form giant sculptures in odd and mesmerizing geometrical patterns: he is an artist.
Most professional stonecutters usually trash the round, oval or rectangular cutouts that are removed from granite slabs to leave room for the sinks in their customers’ kitchen and bathroom work. However, instead of throwing them away, Brown started taking them home. In 2008, he decided to tile a path alongside his new home in Fort Collins with the discarded slabs. After building horizontally – first a walkway, then a patio and some decorative landscaping - he started going vertical, stacking the constant stream of incoming remnants into statues.
Combining like-sized pieces, he weaves intricately layered and complex sculptures. The heavy slab sculptures are held together primarily by friction, gravity and, apparently, the grace of God. He is having fun with a hundred-ton set of Legos! Brown’s art demonstrates an innate ability to layer his sculptures so that they are creatively composed as well as structurally sturdy. The sculptures also double as shelves where he displays his rock and gem collection, exhibiting specimens from all over the world.
Brown doesn’t cut granite just to add to his yard; rather, every sculpture is the result of years and years of collecting, stockpiling, organizing, and reorganizing of gradually growing stacks. If he needs 200 rectangles of a certain size, he must patiently amass rectangles over the years until enough customers order a particular kitchen or bathroom sink cut with just the right hole. He also only uses slabs that he cut by hand, and not those cutouts made by his employer’s CNC machine. Part of his pride in the sculptures is being able to say, “I cut all of this myself.” In fact, Brown calculates that over the last decade, he has spent at least one solid year of labor just cutting nonstop, exhausting well over $40,000 worth of saw blades. He plans to make a display of these blades at some point as well.
Brown’s earliest pieces were simpler in design. Now the patterns are becoming more and more complicated, with pieces twisting, turning, and jutting out into such complex arrangements that it is difficult to identify the center of balance or fathom how each sculpture holds its shape. Additionally, he has become more adventuresome with not just design, but with scale. Several pieces are starting to peak into the 15-foot range. One potential issue is weight; these are heavy slabs resting on top of heavy slabs. His process is to stack a sculpture several feet tall, and then let it sit for a few months, making sure it does not sink or topple over. Then, once Mother Nature gives him the A-OK, he adds more layers.
What he has created is a very personal, fascinating and unique rock garden. Brown is passionate about what he does and loves to share his creation with the public. Guided visits to Chris Brown’s Granite Paradise are available by advance appointment: call him at (970) 619-0589. There is no admission charge, but he does accept donations.
Map & Site Information
Fort Collins, Colorado, 80521 us
Latitude/Longitude: 40.58526 / -105.084423
Colorado Springs, Colorado