Off the Hill: Karats Vail has been creating heirlooms since 1970 (video) | VailDaily.com

Off the Hill: Karats Vail has been creating heirlooms since 1970 (video)

Jewelry designer Dan Telleen of Karats Vail says he's a victim of opportunity.

Telleen started out teaching elementary school art classes in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One summer, he was in Estes Park selling the jewelry he had made during the winter months. One of his customers told Telleen he should check out Vail, which was just a fledgling little town back then. "She said it had only 6 shops. Well, it actually had 12, and I was lucky enough to come upon an empty storefront and moved out the very next year. I'm glad that opportunity came up," Telleen said.

That was in 1970 and Telleen says he's been creating heirlooms ever since. His one-of-a-kind designs offer a fresh take on traditional pieces. "Most of my training was in ceramics and I really approach making jewelry like clay, like ceramics, so that is one reason why my jewelry looks a lot different than most jewelry that you see," Telleen said.

For Telleen, the collaboration with his clients is what he enjoys most about the job. "I love listening to their stories and then creating something that we've envisioned. I am at the point now where I am designing jewelry for my original clients' grandkids. It's great to develop those lasting relationships," Telleen said.

Telleen and his team designs jewelry on site at their gallery in Vail Village. "I like the excitement of coming up with a really new idea. Creating things is meditative, it is just so focused and quiet. It's a nice way to make a living," Telleen said.

In addition to his own designs, Telleen carries the work of 15 other designers. Holiday trunk shows are scheduled with pearl expert, Koji Kawamoto Friday, Dec. 22 to Sunday, Dec. 24 and Carolyn Tyler and her 22-karat gold jewelry designs will be on display from Tuesday, Dec. 26 through Sunday, Dec. 31. For more information, visit http://www.karatsvail.com.