Vail Arts Festival attracts new artists to Lionshead Village, June 24-26 |

Vail Arts Festival attracts new artists to Lionshead Village, June 24-26

Marvin Blackmore's pots are created using multiple layers of colored clay slip. Once the various layers have been achieved, the artist blackens the entire piece and etches through the layers to bring out the desired colors.
Marvin Blackmore | Special to the Daily |

If you go …

What: 32nd annual Vail Arts Festival.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, June 24, and Saturday, June 25; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 26.

Where: Lionshead Village, Vail.

Cost: Admission is free.

More information: Visit

VAIL — The 32nd annual Vail Arts Festival opens today in Lionshead Village, with more than 80 artists showcasing digital art, drawing, fiber, glass, graphics and print making, metal works, wood, mixed media, ceramics, paintings, photography, sculpture, jewelry and fashion.

Though the festival is the longest-running event of its kind in Vail, the attending artists and their repertoire are constantly growing and changing, so there’s always something new or unique to be found.


Durango artist Marvin Blackmore grew up in the southwest corner of Colorado, where pottery is very prevalent, but he was determined to make his mark on the medium with his own type of ceramic works.

“I had this idea that I could do the traditional black-on-black method but do super intricate etching with it,” he said. “I started developing that technique, and now I sell to collectors all over the world.”

Blackmore’s pots are created using multiple layers of colored clay slip. Once the various layers have been achieved, the artist blackens the entire piece and etches through the layers to bring out the desired colors. The interiors of the technical, complex pieces are carved as intricately as the exteriors, meaning that a smaller bowl could represent 90 hours of work, and more than 400 hours could be invested in a larger piece.

Lately, Blackmore has been coaxing new designs through the fire, carving all the way through the pots between the elaborate designs to create peek holes. These experimental pieces will be displayed for the first time at the Vail Arts Festival, and he hopes they will evoke a reaction from the obvious amount of time and effort put into each pot.

“I’ve got some ideas that I’ve been thinking about for years that I just fired and made it through the firing. They’re really hard to describe, it’s something you just have to see, but I think people are going to be really amazed,” he said.

Mixed media

Before Colin Schroeder quit his job, he was a representative for a welding manufacturer, “driving a truck all over the country getting 12 miles to the gallon.”

“It tore me up inside,” said the artist, who now works with reclaimed and recycled materials, including repurposed steel, reclaimed wood and beetle-kill pine, in an effort to avoid doing further environmental harm.

“The combination of the steel and the wood just kind of came natural to me,” he said. “I grew up doing woodworking with my father for years, I had some basic woodworking skills, and I wanted to combine the two into functional pieces of art.”

The Denver artist crafts custom, sustainable furniture that marries his background in metal fabrication with his passion for protecting and preserving, rather than depleting, the earth’s beautiful places.

“I don’t really think of myself as an artist; I’m a maker, I like to make stuff,” Schroeder said. “Functional art would be something that’s very aesthetically pleasing but also has a purpose. It doesn’t just sit on a wall. My pieces would be functional, whether it’s a dining table or coffee table or unique shelving system. It’s an art piece, but it’s got a purpose.”

Among the work he’s bringing to the Vail Arts Festival is a reclaimed cottonwood slab coffee table, his popular magnetic bottle openers made from Colorado-sourced beetle-killed pine and a desk made from a 5-foot chunk of urban-reclaimed walnut.

“Urban reclaimed means the city had to cut it down because it posed a threat to fall on a power line or to fall on a street or a house and the city has to cut it down,” Schroeder said. “I will only use that material that has to be cut down.”

Schroeder is attending the Vail festival for the first time and hopes to capitalize on the recent popularity of mountain modern design, a deviation from the traditional mountain look of rough-hewn log furniture.

“You remain somewhat rustic with the beetle kill, but you make it more industrial with the use of steel and clean lines,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of potential for business to be had in the Vail area with dining tables and coffee tables in those new mountain modern-style homes.”


Spokane, Washington, artist Denny Carson sources burl wood to create the handles of his fly-fishing nets and the faces of his fly boxes. A burl, also called a bur, is a particular type of tree growth that creates a very rare, asymmetrical grain pattern.

“We know very little about it: We don’t know what causes it, we can’t make it happen; it just happens,” he said of the burls. “They think it’s usually as a result of an injury and then it’s a repair process that the tree undergoes over a period of 10 or 20 years. It creates a grain pattern on just the burl part that’s just amazingly beautiful and intricate.”

Further complexity is found in wood that is spalted, meaning it has natural color variations caused by fungi decay. Spalting creates hues that are “out of this world — blues, purples, yellows, anything you can imagine,” Carson said.

To make the nets and boxes fully functional, Carson starts with traditional woodworking joinery and techniques and then stabilizes his pieces with acrylic.

“The problem with working with burl is that it’s unstable. It expands and contracts in every direction,” he said. “Most wood expands and contracts across the grain, but with a burl, the grain doesn’t really have a direction.

“So what I do is I soak the wood in an acrylic fluid in a vacuum, and when I let the pressure back in, the acrylic goes where the wood was. It hardens the plastic in the wood, so all the pores in the wood are plasticized. It makes it completely waterproof.”

Like Schroeder, Carson is new to the Vail Arts Festival, and he’s bringing his wife and one of his children along to do some mountain biking and take advantage of what the area has to offer.

“We look forward to coming here for the show and the recreation and beauty of the place,” he said.

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