Medals for Birds of Prey reflect conscious design
November 27, 2018
VAIL — Birds of Prey is one of the biggest ski competitions of the year — and the awards and celebrations should reflect that.
To do so, the Vail Valley Foundation commissioned Colorado metal artist Lisa Issenberg to craft medals for the event — medals that will be awarded to world-class athletes for more-than-impressive performances.
Issenberg has been a metal artist since she was young, saying that it gave her "passion and direction right off the bat."
Her career began after college when she set up a jewelry and steel shop in Telluride, where she worked on both small- and large-scale projects. Eventually that blossomed into architectural work, and a commission from the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival to create their awards. That not only sparked an interest in designing awards and recognition projects, but Issenberg's time in Telluride also taught her that she has an affinity for the outdoors.
Graduate school and brief stints on both the East and West Coasts taught Issenberg how far she could push design, but the mountains of Colorado ultimately called her back.
In 2012, Issenberg rebranded her studio and her work to focus solely on awards and recognition materials — crafting medals, trophies, plaques and more for various organizations. She's created medals and awards for the UCLA swim and dive team, Vacheron Constantin Snow Golf Cup Aspen, Aspen's Audi Power of Four, and more. Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn and more have won awards designed by Issenberg.
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Issenberg herself is passionate about the mountains and environmentalism, so she tries to emulate that in her work, often working with clients that are also very aware of and advocate for environmentalism.
The rebrand and focus on environmentalism led to Issenberg's introduction to the Vail Valley Foundation in 2013, when she was commissioned to make the medals for the women's Raptor course in 2013, followed by an offer to create the medals for Birds of Prey the following year.
For this year's competition, 12 medals were crafted; a gold, silver and bronze for each of the three events, and an extra set in case of a tie.
Part of the appeal for Issenberg to work with the Vail Valley Foundation was their focus on environmental sustainability — a value that influences her work greatly, and that she shares with the organizations she works with.
"(Working with the Vail Valley Foundation) is the perfect synthesis of what I like to do and who I like to work with and where I like to be," Issenberg said. "I'm a Colorado gal, so I appreciate working with organizations … that value the outdoors."
A one-woman show, Issenberg's work stretches from the design phase to the end of production, a process that takes from four to eight weeks. The process includes both industrial and handcrafted elements.
"I love the precision of industrial processes and what they can do that you can't do by hand," Issenberg said. "You'll get perfect dimensions, and then do the rest by hand."
This year's Birds of Prey medals will feature the same design as the 2017 competition, one that Issenberg refers to as "minimal, classic and more sophisticated."
Issenberg also currently owns and operates a metal art studio called Kiittella, a Finnish word for "to thank, applaud and praise."
The word was also chosen partially because Scandinavian design has a strong influence on Issenberg's work, as she calls it "aesthetically beautiful," and also appreciates Scandinavian designers' appreciation for minimalism and their natural resources, a guiding force in her own work.
Issenberg's metals will be given out to the first-, second- and third-place athletes in the super-G, downhill and giant slalom races on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Beaver Creek.
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