Back to His Roots

After eight years of building projects for Delka Designs, Bret Delka is taking his business in a new direction

From sculpting to woodworking and welding, Bret Delka has always enjoyed working with his hands. And although the K-State grad is known for creating unique pieces of furniture, his affinity for fine art is taking him back to where he started.

How did you initially transition from fine art to woodworking?

BD: I started out doing illustration work and freelance, but it’s a hard thing to market and a hard niche to get into and actually sell your work. I’ve always liked interior décor and design, and with so much building in my background, I started just making tables—sofa tables and dining tables for the most part. That slowly morphed into more metal work, and eventually I started doing pieces in mixed materials, mostly with steel and wood.

How would you describe the style of a Delka piece?

BD: It usually has some kind of a rustic-industrial spin. It has a cleaner line. The materials and the textures and aesthetic of it will look kind of rustic and old, but the actual design and lines of it are more modern.

How did you develop that style?

BD: It’s just the direction I tend to lean. I grew up in a small town, kind of a rural area. All of the men on my dad’s side were mostly mechanics or engineers. I was always around tools. I think that’s where the industrial side of it comes from. I always loved more natural-looking materials. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find me putting a high-polished, high-gloss look on something. It’s not typically the direction I go.

What’s next for your business?

BD: I’m slowly going to edge back to more fine-art stuff, versus the world of construction, home remodeling, interior decorating and building. We’ve been really fortunate that we’ve been able to build a lot of unique pieces. But that whole process lends itself to your clients’ schedule, budget, taste and what they want from an aesthetic standpoint. So it’s not really your work any more, even though you get to build it. Losing that creative handle on things wasn’t something that appealed to me.

It’s interesting that you are now circling back to where you first began.

BD: Oddly enough, when I first got to school I thought I was going to be an engineer. But I always liked art class and drawing things. I sat down in the student union in college and picked out a picture from a newspaper. I sat there for five or six hours and drew it, and I thought, “I really need to be doing this.”