Artist of the Month: Daphne Cates

Daphne Cates shows her award-winning tapestry Lost Pony at the RoadRunner Grill Gallery, along with her latest piece, The Road.

Dawn Price

Meeting up with new SaddleBrooke resident Daphne Cates from Idaho Falls, I asked what drew her here. Newly married, she had been living up North with her husband of three years and her horse. They recently did a road trip to visit family in Tucson, and Daphne was not enamored with the heat or the endless miles of flat desertscape. That all changed when she took in the view from her aunt’s SaddleBrooke backyard. She felt relaxed, healed, and at peace. The mountains, saguaros, and ocotillos energized her, and just like that, Daphne and her husband decided to buy a new home in The Preserve. She quickly signed up as a member of the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild.

Asked if she was always creative, she says, “I served in the U.S. Army as a line cook and had dreamed of attending a culinary arts program. After my daughter was born, I put that dream on hold for a bit so that I could be the best mom possible.” At one point, when helping with her daughter’s math homework became a struggle, she found some tutoring classes for herself at Idaho State University’s College of Technology. To her surprise, she was actually enjoying math and ended up taking several math courses at ISU. The culinary arts program had since been discarded, but she decided to study architectural drafting and design instead, and after graduating, she was employed at Idaho National Lab as a space planner and designer for many years. Upon retirement, she was determined to use her knowledge to “follow the energy of her home” to optimize its function, room by room. She researched all aspects of do-it-yourself (DIY); reading up and watching YouTube videos, and she taught herself several trades. She became adept at remodeling, DIY, and tearing down walls as needed. She reworked the flow of the home and did her own tile work, flooring, and butcher-block counters. She spec’d out and ordered her own kitchen cabinets and had them installed. Her husband had complimentary skills and took care of all of the plumbing. Together, the couple completed their first home remodeling project!

Now that they are in SaddleBrooke, Daphne has been surprising her husband with her creative talents. She says, “We’d been busy dating, then we got married and remodeled a home together … he had no idea that I loved art so much!” It’s only since their move to SaddleBrooke that Daphne started “art-ing,” as she calls it. Between learning to play golf and pickleball, Daphne has also taken oil painting and watercolor classes through the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild. Her current love is weaving, which was fostered through meet-ups at the Fiber Arts Club. She was an Award of Merit winner in the Guild’s One Image No Limits Contest for 2023. Her completed tapestry used intense colors, fabulous textures, and contained a representation of the Tohono Chul pony with her foal grazing in the fields at sunset.

Asked what frustrates her, she replied, “When I have to follow a rule!” So, she creates and experiments in her own way. On the positive side, “Creativity gives me energy. It’s not whether something turns out as I expected it to, but how creating a piece makes me feel when I’m doing it.” Daphne also has a passion for ceramics and has created works in stained glass, clay pottery, and wood carving as well. She says, “The best part is that art is a form of expression, of feeling involved, and keeping your hands busy.”

If you’d like to get involved in learning to create your own art, consider becoming a member of the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild. You can visit their website and check out their events calendar at to see upcoming classes. Established artists may welcome Open Studio time to meet new people and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow artists. Art Salon meets regularly for lively discussions on a given art subject each month hosted by different guild members.