Aspen Times Weekly cover story Part 1: A decade of craft |

Aspen Times Weekly cover story Part 1: A decade of craft

Amanda Charles
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado
Cover by Afton GroepperPhoto by Scott Simontacchi

ASPEN – Ten years ago, a man by the name of Howard Alan came to town carrying with him hundreds of artists and crafters from around the country. Naming it the Aspen Arts Festival, he occupied the grounds at Wagner Park, arranging artists in rows with customized tents and wooden booths as he encouraged them to display and sell their work to locals who passed by.

Today, Alan’s art festival has become a staple in Aspen’s summer calendar, inviting buyers from all over the state to come and peruse the work hundreds of artists have crafted in their homes and studios throughout the year. Painting, sculpture, ceramic, glass, clothing and jewelry – only a fraction of the festival’s offerings – engage the interests of all ages and demographics with a two-day event that is both free and open to the public.

On July 28 and 29, the Aspen Arts Festival will join us once again, this time celebrating its 10th anniversary in a soiree of food, music and a collection of art so distinguished it will send even the most banal of sorts on a weekend hunt for more. And perhaps what makes the festival even more anticipated than the average run-of-the-mill craft show is the handpicked, juried selection of roughly 300 local and nationwide artists who will be in attendance – a lineup so finely tuned it won’t be released to the public until the day before the festival.

But we can go ahead and wait on the others because Aspen already has its share of prominent artists who have secured their spots in this year’s festival – three who willingly took time away from their studios to discuss the roots of their art, the inspiring work that unfolds and their individual pathways for discovering success.

Amanda Charles: Not everyone can say they get excited about the job they do. As an artist, it is quite the contrary. How does the passion fuel the work?

Tammie Lane: If I am working, you can guarantee I am happy. The ever-changing aspect of my work is the driving force for new creation. When one answer is satisfied, another five questions surface, keeping my work like an endless series of interrogations.

AC: I suppose an overarching fear for any artist is to become stagnant. How do you escape this?

TL: There is always room for new ideas, and if you can’t find them here, then you must not be looking.

AC: Your collection of watercolor paintings and Raku pottery seem to lie on opposite ends of the medium. What made you combine the two forms?

TL: Watercolors and Raku are a nice complement to one another. With watercolor, you have to let the medium do what it wants, offering the mystery of the unknown. Same with Raku. The fire has the final say. I couldn’t make two of the same pots if I tried.

AC: You were one of 12 participating in the Aspen Plein Air Festival, which encourages artists to paint in the moment. How would you describe “the moment”?

TL: It is a beautiful place we remember as somewhere we would like to linger a little longer – a fall day in the woods or an interesting, old, run-down farm. The moment is small, and the memory is everlasting.

Amanda charles: You were formally educated as an illustrator and worked for the L.A. Times right out of school. What does illustration have in common with the work you do now?

Cindy hansen: Being an illustrator, I have always felt a need for a story behind everything regardless of how abstract my work can be. In every medium, my work usually has no less than six layers of building and sometimes removing to achieve the story I want with the individual piece.

AC: You work with encaustics, one of the oldest painting mediums recorded. How has your work evolved to perhaps contemporize the form?

CH: I make my own medium up by melting beeswax and darmar resin and then pouring it into muffin tins to set. I then remelt individual containers and add oil paint as my pigment. My paintings are layered with rice paper containing ink-drawn symbols and objects and various textures that are scraped on to add further dimension.

AC: Your work seems to fit under an umbrella of abstract landscape, and the uneven lines and layers provide plenty of room for imagination. What specific subject matter do you look for to bring your work to life?

CH: It varies from backcountry landscapes to urban road series, to the feminine influence with gardens and energy, to an inner journey to the soul and the struggles we go through to get there. I start with an idea, and in the end it usually comes to the surface on its own.

AC: You have spent years in your work, traveling to art festivals and attending residency programs. In your experience, what stands out as most important in the life of an inspiring artist?

CH: It is crucial to have an idea and work consistently with it until it comes around. Don’t set your expectations too high, or you will be left disappointed. Live openly and avoid placing too many restrictions on the form, and the art will always come through.

Amanda Charles: All artists seem to have different reasons for why or how they entered the art world. What are yours?

Michael bonds: It’s not so much a reason as it is a really enjoyable hobby. I am a graphic designer by trade, a ceramic artist by pastime.

AC: And a pastime for some is all the further it goes. At what point did you realize you could start making a living out of your hobby?

MB: About four years ago when I walked into my daughter’s high school ceramic class. I started volunteering, and it dawned on me

the profound effect my work had on others. Having my own studio at the Red Brick since last November has been the best of all worlds, as

it allows me to do something different every day and continue to


AC: Different is perhaps the most essential aspect of an artist’s world. What is different about your pottery?

MB: Most of my efforts revolve around Raku pottery. The method is different in that it is performed using a metal trashcan filled with newspaper, allowing the pot to absorb carbon and take on many designs that come out unlike one another. My Raku pottery is similar to opening a present on Christmas morning.

AC: It is nice to see such a wide collection of cooking-ware and design-ware that is both sophisticated and affordable. What kind of reaction do you expect to have at the festival?

MB: It will be my first time at an event with such national caliber. My usual outlet is the famers market in Basalt on Sundays, so it will be interesting to see how my work stands out among the rest.

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