There is an artistic mystery that surrounds the shops and studios of Colorado craftspeople, where men and women transform ordinary materials, such as wool, stone and iron, into gorgeous throws, chic alabaster benches and ornate wrought-iron fences. Maybe we’re a little biased, but we believe Colorado produces some of the finest crafted work in the country. Here, a few of our favorites.
We love craftsmen because they remind us to appreciate the value of natural materials and local resources. Steamboat-based Routt County Woolens, LLC produces signature blankets and other items using wool from locally owned sheep (who give us some of the nation’s cleanest wool, thanks to all that high country snow). The American-made blankets “are inspired by the beauty of the Yampa Valley,” says Nancy Mucklow, who co-owns Routt County Woolens with sheep rancher Greg Brown.
Mucklow and Brown aren’t just creating gorgeous blankets; they’re working to promote locally grown products and foster a healthy market for wool, while staving off development that could threaten agriculture. And their small team designs the company’s signature blankets. “Each year is a new, limited-edition design and a new adventure,” Mucklow says. The company also produces wool bedding, kitchen items and more. Routt County Woolens LLC, Steamboat Springs, (970) 871-6363, routtcountywoolens.com
For 15 years, Lafayette-based furniture maker Andrew Macdonald has molded wood and alabaster into furniture and lamps that preserve the materials’ raw beauty. We’re especially fond of his earthy-yet-contemporary alabaster lamps, which would look as beautiful in a rustic mountain cabin as they would in an urban loft.
Macdonald encourages his clients to participate in the creative process by communicating their ideas, responding to his sketches and choosing materials. Macdonald says he relishes his clients’ reactions when they see their visions realized. But they are not the only ones who are intrigued by each creation. “Illumination is the moment that continues to inspire me,” Macdonald says. “I work with this material all day, but when I see all the color and shape together for the first time, the beauty continues to delight and surprise me.” Andrew Macdonald, Furnituremaker LLC, Lafayette, (303) 241-3913, amfurnituremaker.com
When Tucci Jackson was in school at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, her painting teacher tried to dissuade her from working in clay, telling her that painting was real art and “throwing pots” was a craft. Jackson never took that distinction to heart. She stayed with clay, and today, she produces exquisite handmade and painted tiles that are—without question—works of art. “I love the irony,” she laughs.
Tucci has plenty of designs you can choose, but she’s also happy to work with clients to create one-of-a-kind tiles. “I take pleasure in helping people personalize their space,” she says. “I hope they choose designs that lend to their expressions of themselves.” Tucci Jackson, Tucci Tile, Denver, (303) 443-6949, tuccitile.com
Blacksmith Jonathan White, a Western Colorado native, owns Royal Forge in Carbondale, where he and his employees produce high-quality work using traditional blacksmithing methods. White studied at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, then at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. He then apprenticed for two years under the man who had introduced him to blacksmithing: his uncle, a master blacksmith. White has preserved his uncle’s artful approach; for every client, he strives to produce a distinct piece to be enjoyed for its beauty as well as its function. “I want to maintain a level of quality workmanship,” he says. “I hope the clients appreciate it. I hope they perceive it as art.” Jonathan White, Royal Forge, Inc., Carbondale, (970) 963-3376, royal-forge.com