Artist Residency — Breckenridge, Colorado

Cathy Wycliff (Luvswool) shares her experience of her recent artist residency in Breckenridge,  Colorado.

Just about one year ago, I started thinking about artist residencies and how much I would like to be granted one.

I had lots of ideas in mind about where I wanted to go, and all of the ideas had to do with nature in all its beauty.

That could mean the ocean, the mountains or anyplace naturally beautiful. I started thinking about the National Parks in America and how much I have enjoyed visiting them over the years, beginning when I was just a child and the family packed up in the station wagon to begin the journey from Chicago to Colorado. We sometimes went to Wyoming and Montana as well, but we always started in Colorado.

There are many artist residencies available around the world, but I had my sights set close to home–that is, the USA.  Although I have enjoyed foreign travel over the years, I decided local would be a good start. I applied to three different organizations, and two of them came through for me (huge surprise!) and offered 2 weeks to one month artist residencies.

I completed my two weeks in the Arkansas Ozarks during April (you can see my previous post about natural dyeing on the Studio blog here   https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2015/05/09/dyeing-with-plants/ ).  I was thrilled when I received the Breckenridge, CO artist residency offer for the full month of June, but because of obligations at home, I accepted a two-week residency.

I flew into Denver from Chicago, and then shared a Colorado Mountain van with several other passengers, arriving in Breckenridge late afternoon. The mountains greeted me in all their splendor, and after meeting the director of the Arts Council, I tucked into my studio/living space at the old Tin Shop.  Yes, you may notice from the photos that the shop looks old, and it is–from the mid-1800’s when this was a mining town. Many of the “downtown” buildings have been saved, preserved and restored–and many of them have been turned into artist studios and classrooms for the arts.

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The first thing I did besides unpacking was to begin decorating the downstairs studio portion of my little house. But that would have to wait until morning, as I was struck with altitude sickness. Breckenridge is 10,000 feet and most well-known today for skiing, so that’s pretty high in the sky. I had read about this before leaving Chicago, so I was prepared with Advil, and I knew there was an Oxygen Bar in town. Some of the symptoms of A.S. include headache, fatigue, nausea, bloody nose, shortness of breath; and yes, I experienced all of them most of the time I was there.

So my art decor was not perhaps as good as it should or could have been (and neither were the photos taken with my I-phone), but I managed to spruce the place up a bit.  My main goal was to have a comfortable felting table table set-up facing the door so I could view folks as they walked in during “studio time.”

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I would have loved to have brought my framed landscapes with me, but it was physically impossible; however, I did have business cards with my portfolio weblink available to all studio visitors.  I brought as many “soft” and light, unstructured items as I could stuff into a box which I previously shipped ahead of my arrival. Since I would be teaching a class, I also stuffed in as much fiber as I could in my carry-on duffel!

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The terms of the residency were very generous, with open studio time a requirement, as well as teaching one class. The rest of the time was my own.

Some of the wet-felted items I made while in Colorado include a mountain landscape, a vessel I named, “The Colors of Breckenridge,” and a large panel inspired by the Nebraska crop circles we flew over enroute to Denver.

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I also crafted a few nesting “balls” for the birds.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my artist residency in Breckenridge! People seemed genuinely interested in hearing about the process of wet-felting. The town of Breckenridge has done an amazing job of making the arts visible and accessible to all residents, including children. There is a full calendar of art classes, open studios, music and fun events throughout the summer. The downside was the altitude sickness which prevailed even with the help of Advil, the Oxygen Bar, and liters and liters of water. But the scenery, fresh mountain air, and the many friendly visitors I met made it all worthwhile.

Thanks Cathy for sharing this wonderful experience with us!

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16 Responses to Artist Residency — Breckenridge, Colorado

  1. zedster66 says:

    I’d heard about ‘Artist Residencies’ but didn’t know they were something you applied for. Well done on being accepted! It does look like a gorgeous place and you seem to have struggled through the altitude sickness remarkably well, it sounds awful.

  2. luvswool says:

    Yes, it was a great experience and a truly gorgeous place. In general, you must apply for an artist residency, but I suppose if you are REALLY famous, you might get invited.

  3. Leonor says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time, Cathy, despite the altitude sickness (which sounds gruelling). I’d love to get to apply to an artist residency some day, it sounds like a lot of fun, and getting to educate people about what you love making is surely a heartwarming experience.

    And doing all this in such a beautiful place! Lucky, lucky you 🙂

    • luvswool says:

      It was great, thanks, Leonor. You are right about the education process–so many folks had not heard of felting. I explained wet, nuno and needle and the visitors sounded genuinely interested.

    • Leonor says:

      I’m getting ready to explain needle felting in a month’s time to my fellow spinning guild members and I’m a little terrified! Here’s hoping my public will be as interested as yours 🙂

  4. Teri Berry says:

    Wow – this sounds like an amazing experience Cathy (except for the altitude sickness) what did you get to teach? What sort of visitors did you receive? were they holiday makers or locals?

    • luvswool says:

      It was amazing, Teri, and would have been REALLY amazing without the altitude issues.
      There were a good number of visitors, about 2/3 tourists and 1/3 locals. I was asked to teach one class, and I chose basic wet-felting. So we made large flat pieces. I know, I should have taken pics.

  5. Lyn says:

    You did well to overcome the effects of the altitude sickness and ‘carry on regardless’. You made your felting area look very inviting!
    It’ll be something good to look back on won’t it.

    The way the wind has caught the bird nesting ball, it looks like a green-armed blue man riding a camel.

    • luvswool says:

      Thanks, Lyn. I really enjoyed being there and have many fond memories, in spite of the difficulties. Would have loved to make those cute round nesting balls with grapevines as a base, but instead I picked up fallen aspen branches to tie together.

  6. luvswool says:

    Ahhh, I do see the man on the camel now!

  7. What a lovely way to share your art form.

  8. luvswool says:

    Thanks, Gail. Truly a lovely experience.

  9. ruthlane says:

    I’m glad you’re residency was a success despite the altitude. It is great that you got to share felting making with people who don’t know anything about felting. Always good to spread the word. Are you planning on applying for more residencies?

    • luvswool says:

      You asked a great question, Ruth, and the answer is–I really don’t know at this point whether or not I will apply for other residencies. I am trying to be thoughtful about the travel, value and time spent. I will keep you all posted!

  10. What a great sounding experience, except for the altitude sickness. You will have to go to the ocean next time. Did you have to teach at the earlier residency as well?

  11. luvswool says:

    Ann, the residencies were very different. In Arkansas (the earlier residency), I did not teach and there was no open studio time. Very quiet and private. So maybe something in-between the two experiences. And the ocean, oh yes!

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