I was one of those people who decided to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday week. I isolated for 14 days before I left (this was not much of a sacrifice because we seriously hardly ever see anyone. Whatever the criteria is, I think we qualify as hermits). I drove 535 miles in one day to Paonia, Colorado to stay with my mom. It took 9.5 hours, definitely a long day for a lone driver.
Here on the western slope in Colorado, the pandemic isn’t as rampant as it is on the more populated Front Range, but it is still very much a part of life. Yesterday they announced that Colorado’s Governor, Jared Polis, and his partner, First Gentleman Marlon Reis, have been diagnosed with COVID. It hit home that anyone can get it, since he has been a huge proponent of following safety protocols. Mom and I have created our own little bubble in her home. My sister and her family have visited, but the air purifiers are turned on and everyone wears masks. Oh, 2020, you strange bitch.
Paonia is a funky and wonderful little mountain town situated in a valley that opens to a dry desert plateau to the west. There are a mix of ranchers, miners and newer transplants from more populated parts of the state and beyond. It draws creatives, free-spirits and nature-loving hippies. The difference in cultures does create some tension, but it seems that people have found ways to co-exist peacefully. There is a very strong community vibe. For example, yesterday, Mom ordered some items from a local (but regionally distributed) company, Dancing Goats. (Goats milk soaps, lotions and more.) We expected shipment by the end of the week. The next day, the doorbell rang and a lady in a cowboy hat and a mask was standing there with a bag, asking for Mom. It was Loretta Small, one of the owners of the company. She said that since we were ordering from town, she figured she’d just deliver it. She had thrown in a few extra items, and a HAND MADE, HAND WRITTEN thank you card. I was just blown away. Please support them and buy their products (they are natural and awesome, BTW).
The first creative I’ve run into on my travels is Graphic Designer Teresa Shishim. She, her husband, and daughter are all very active in this tight-knit community. Her products range from typographical fonts to original artwork to graphic design. She does design work and creative consultation for private clients and local and state organizations. I sat down with her the other day to ask about her work.
Me: “What is your favorite color, and why?”
Teresa: “The gradient that runs from fuchsia pink to bright marigold. I have a pleasant physical reaction when I see those colors. It’s almost like a taste in my mouth.”
Me: “What do you do?”
Teresa: “I interpret my clients’ marketing and graphic needs, and try to use my style to help them connect with their clients. But it’s not about my tastes, or their tastes, but what their potential clients will be attracted to. It’s a marketing game.”
Me: “Do you feel like you can remain true to yourself as an artist even though you’re working in a commercial field?”
Teresa: “On most projects, yes. I feel like I try to anticipate what their clients will be drawn to, but sometimes my clients want something that I don’t feel great about. In extreme cases I just have to tell them I can’t meet their needs. But in the best case scenarios, their feedback fuels the best design. The result is better because of their input and feedback.”
Me: “So how do you manifest creativity in your life?”
Teresa: “I dabble a lot in different media and subject matter. I still haven’t quite found a media that I would stick to. I just love to play around and different things inspire me. I also spend a lot of time looking at other peoples’ art. Museums and galleries served that purpose in the past, but now we have Instagram and Pinterest, and I LOVE looking at other peoples’ artwork on those platforms.”
Me: “As you and I are sitting here at the kitchen table chatting on this nice sunny afternoon, what are you working on?”
Teresa: “I’m painting glaze on fused glass to make a mosaic for my bathroom.”
(I feel that, at this point, I should disclose that Teresa is my sister. And as I sat at the opposite end of the table, I kept accidentally bumping the legs under the table as she tried to paint. She was very patient with me.)
You can see examples of Teresa’s work, follow her, or contact her on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest @yokadesign. Her website is yokadesign.com.
(a few examples of Yoka Design artwork below)
Paonia River Park
I always like to go down to the river and see what cool new additions have been made to this area since my last visit. Teresa designed interpretive signage for the walkway along the riverfront. Local artist Ira Houseweart created some truly phenomenal sculptures that blend in beautifully with the nature there.
I get bored easily. I mean, really way too easily. Doing the same thing day in and day out, living in the same place…. its always made me restless. I thought that as I got older, the endless need to satiate my curiosity and for novelty would wane. Hasn’t happened yet. I am really lucky to finally have a lifestyle that keeps me busy and stimulated (and for the most part out of trouble). We bust our butts for most of the summer working in an Ag-based business, which gives us the rest of the year to do other things. Like exploring and playing, which I consider to be work for an artist. Maybe not work that makes me rich, but really essential to the artistic process.
And now it's that time once again to pack up and head out for the winter. The farm and businesses get buttoned up and everything that we can’t live without for the next five months is packed into campers. Going from 170 acres and several buildings to spread out in to living in a tiny house on wheels is a change. I switch from having a big studio to a few square feet with limited space to store supplies and to work. It challenges me to be organized and resourceful.
All the artwork I produced this year has been packed and either shipped or is ready to go when I get back in the spring for next year's events and shows. Time to switch gears from big paintings and ceramic sculptures to watercolor, pastels and things that don't require much space. Hopefully I'll discover something that I don't even know exists yet. I love it when that happens!
I'm on a quest to find inspiration and creativity out in that big world. This year I'm making a point to search people out and connect with them so I can share what I find with you. Keep checking in with me and leaving comments. If you want to do something special to feed your creative self this winter, I'd love to hear about it!
Well, introductions are always a bit awkward. Welcome to my blog! Here you’ll find my creative journeys on my prairie homestead and wintertime travel adventures. It took a lifetime of dreams and intention to arrive here. It all started when I moved to a remote rural Nebraska farmstead from suburban Colorado, finally living in the country and ‘being an artist’. My daughters had grown and fledged the nest, so it was time to spread my own wings. I had met someone who was as creative, driven and unconventional as I was in his own way, and after several years of hard work we built our home, business, and homestead where he grew up. We’ve cultivated a life where we can do and be what we want. It’s an isolated but infinite world out here.
As great as it’s been in a lot of ways, it’s been really hard to find community because of the remoteness of this location. After years of trying, I realized that community is more expansive than a physical location. I have to be honest with you, being an introvert has made me reluctant to try very hard. I’m pretty darn comfortable spending most of my day alone. I love my solitude, but I miss human interaction. Being so extremely isolated this year because of the pandemic brought me face to face with some new parts of myself. For the first time in my life, I missed being around people. I missed talking about ideas. Sharing food and funny stories. Touch. I don’t see people very often but when I do, I find myself smiling like an idiot and wanting more than anything to just reach out and gently touch their arm, or their hand. Under normal circumstances that might be a little weird. It’s a really basic human need that I was never really aware of in myself before.
Over time I’ve realized that I’m not content with just any company. I need ‘my people’, the ones who live outside of binary boundaries. I mean binary as a perspective and mindset, which of course can include gender. I think of “Either/or” and black and white thinking as binary and confining. The nuanced world outside of that is colorful, multidimensional and it’s magic to connect with people who get that. People who live, think and act outside of boundaries- those are my people. Artists, creators, makers, dreamers. You know who you are.
I am ridiculously excited to connect and share with the BFF community! I hope to inspire while I share my projects, places I go and people I meet. I also hope that this will be an interactive experience. Give me feedback, ask questions, call me out (gently) if you think I’m misguided. I want to understand your experiences, and I want to give you insights into mine. Even though I’ll be ensconced in my little home, studio or camper or wherever I may be furiously typing away, I want to connect with you. Let’s be real, honest, authentic, compassionate and kind with each other. Welcome to my world!
a gallery of random photos
Artist, homesteader, teacher and adventurer. Turning over every literal and figurative rock that I can find, living curiously and creatively outside of the conventions of the common world.
facebook: Karrie Steely Fine Art and Creative Services
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