Backwoods Fellowship: Artist John Fellows partners with Colorado companies to support tree planting efforts
Goal is to plant 40,000 trees through sales of Weston skis/snowboards, Zeal goggles and Smartwool socks
It’s a classic collab in the making.
This season, Colorado companies Smartwool, Zeal Optics and Weston will connect their products through a collaboration with artist John Fellows in an effort to see more trees planted in the U.S.
Fellows has created a series of mountain-themed prints which will adorn Zeal’s goggle straps, Smartwool’s socks and Weston’s skis and snowboards.
Fellows uses and old medium, block printing, but brings his contemporary style to the practice with mountain themed art featuring a distinctive bear.
Weston’s ski is called the Grizzly, but Fellows said he just thinks of it as a bear, be it a grizzly, a black bear that’s brown in color, or perhaps even the fabled Ghost Grizzly. One thing’s for certain, “The bear is attacking the snow,” Fellows said.
Seeing the art on the ski, Fellows reminisces on a time when it wasn’t as common to see mountain-themed art from artists like him on a skis.
“For the longest time, you would see that the snowboard world was really accepting of art, you would see it on their boards for ages, there would be snowboard/art shows, and all these snowboard events that incorporated art, but you never would see that in the ski world,” Fellows said. “I always loved skateboarding, and the culture of the surf and skateboarding world, and see that translate to snowboarding so well, as a skier I’d get a little jealous, and I think that drove me to want to create a more contemporary look and style that would appeal to the younger generation.”
For Fellows, now 47, that all changed in 2008 with Rossignol’s Seven Artistic Sins project. Rossignol’s director of sports marketing and promotion at the time, Jason Newell, said Rossignol provided a loose direction in giving each artist a sin to design.
“And then we stepped back and we let them bring everything they have to the table of their particular form or style,” Newell said. “And we’re just going to lay it on the skis.”
Fellows remembers it vividly.
“They got all these contemporary artists to create this awesome line of graphics for all the skis, younger contemporary painters to do these amazing designs, I saw it for the first time and thought, OK, this is it,” Fellows said. “They were embracing it, taking it and running with it and doing art shows in Europe with all these artists. That’s why I kept trying to do it myself.”
Supporting public lands
Fellows said as people like Newell took positions like director of sports marketing at companies like Rossignol, things began to change, which gets us to a point where, today, his art creates a connection between Weston, Zeal Optics and Smartwool, to be used for a higher purpose than sales.
Fellows points to the Mission School art movement of the 1990s and its incorporation of surf and skateboard culture as an important component of that history.
“It was an awakening of the art world to start embracing all of these people that came from skateboarding and surfing,” Fellows said.
Flash forward to today. “All the heads of these marketing departments, and the creative directors of these global brands, they’re all the skaters and surfers that were growing up in a time when this was happening, and they value that,” Fellows said.
Many of those people also care about the environment, said Sean Eno, who is Weston’s director of marketing.
Based in Eagle County, Weston has undergone costly changes in recent years to reduce the carbon footprint of its manufacturing and distribution process, and in donating a portion of the company’s proceeds to efforts undertaken in National Forest areas of the U.S., Eno said its learnings in that area helped company officials hone in on the exact goal they want a portion of the profits to help: planting trees.
“The collaboration was largely started as a mutual love of Fellows’ art between us and Zeal,” Eno said.
Fellows had already been working with Smartwool and, being that Weston and Zeal are also Colorado companies, the collaboration between the three companies made sense. All three companies are concerned about national forest issues and want to see more trees planted.
“To spread a message of supporting public lands, we sat down and said how can we spread this message farther?” Fellows said. “It made sense … something unique and creative that also helps the forest.”
Zeal Optics will plant five trees for every goggle sold, Weston will plant 10 trees for each board and ski, and Smartwool has committed to plant 10 thousand trees through the National Forest Foundation.
The complete collection is available at REI and online, and the hardgoods and accessories are available at select retailers including Backcountry.com, EVO, REI, Christy Sports, Backcountry Experience, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Mountain Chalet and Jagged Edge.