Crafting is a term that, for many, conjures images of Pinterest tutorials explaining ways of turning toilet paper rolls into small colorful desk organizers. Maybe It evokes a memory of middle school home ec and woodshop classes in which pajamas pants and birdhouses were tirelessly labored over. This vague stereotype of crafting is almost universal in its simplicity; it is accepted at face value as something that is only casually pursued by hobbyists and non-professional tinkerers. Something that is misconceived as juvenile when placed next to more traditional artistic pursuits (when the scope of crafting far exceeds the confines of colorful toilet paper rolls). Seen here, Alyssa of Heritage & Bloom, at work in her studio in Eerie, Colorado.
Perhaps this misconception is also perpetuated by the fact that, in the U.S., the arts are slowly being drained from public schools. With ever decreasing budgets in areas like music, fine arts and many other types of art classes, coupled with the declining availability of high school level art teachers means that less and less children have access to these creative pursuits. With this diminishing exposure to art in our school age population it’s safe to assume that crafting has fallen victim to perils of our dulling sensitivities to the different ways art can be expressed.
So, where does this leave the concept of craft in our creative communities? The emergence of major marketplaces such as Etsy, Amazon handmade, and Kickstarter points to a growing interest in the world of entrepreneurship and homespun goods. Enter a concept originating from a collective culture of modern crafters setting in motion a new artistic and social movement appropriately coined the “makers movement”. This fairly new movement boasts admirable objectives: to alter the current landscape of how ideas and creativity are transposed using both traditional and modern technologies to do so.
The umbrella of the makers movement covers a convergence of not only crafters and DIY-ers but also creative dabblers in the world STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The seemingly underground campaign has its own online magazine “Make:”, and a physical incarnation – the Makers Faire - which launched in 2006 in the San Francisco Bay Area (and drew crowds in the hundreds of thousands) was helmed by one of the maker movements’ most prominent figures: Dale Dougherty. Dougherty, with the organization of the Makers Faires, wanted to democratize the way that people were able to create – something that was, and still is, almost exclusive to largely overseas factories or businesses with access to expensive equipment and supplies (as well as cheap labor). Simply put, the makers movement aims to push people from consuming to creating – something that will in turn foster innovation, boost creativity, and stimulate local economies. So how is this movement leaving its mark on Denver? Colorado is a buzzing hub for makerspaces with its driving force being the Colorado Maker Hub – an educational non-profit collection of Colorado makers who have produced and operated the NoCo and Denver Mini Maker Faires since 2013.
Denver and surrounding areas are filling to the brim with spaces for creatives of all backgrounds to innovate- which introduces to our story a small retail space, tucked inside a Denver hotel, bringing consumers and makers together under one roof. Eyes Open Project, nestled within Denver’s River North Art District (RINO for short), offers something that not a lot of traditional retailers can – the opportunity to encounter independent makers and the unique beautiful and interesting things they make.
Eyes Open is home to a myriad of different curios, clothing and other goods with an emphasis on one thing- to introduce thoughtfully produced goods to the Denver public. The makers movement comprises an essential component to the workings here at Eyes Open as we aim to provide an outlet where small designers, artisans and various other makers can showcase their work. Names that have made a home within our walls include Winter Session (a Denver Based leather and canvas goods operation that you can see in the image here on the left at work in their studio in Denver, Colorado), Mur by Ayca – scarves featuring hand-drawn artwork, and various other small makers like High Society Jewelry, Hygge Life, and Wooly Wax candles.
Eyes Open plans to further our collection of small designers as well. American based textile company Artex (Based in Westfield, N.J) has been manufacturing knitwear like scarves and beanies in the U.S. since 1926 and is one of the largest producers of knit hats in America. Artex began its operation by producing trimming goods for the fast-growing Philadelphia apparel industry and soon after In the 60’s moved to producing cotton and wool ties. As the knit ties trend faded out of style, Artex moved to producing knit hats which, to this day, remains to be their specialty. Eyes Open is excited to carry Artex knitwear in the near future.
Rachel of Wooly Wax, in her studio in Denver, Colorado.
Mosser Glass will be another future addition to Eyes Open. Mosser’s story goes back more than half a century with a young glassmaker, Tom Mosser, and his drive to follow in his father’s footsteps. He created his own glassware business - for which he began collecting various supplies and equipment - a process that took him over 5 years- and officially opened in 1971. Using traditional techniques that he learned from his father Tom began creating unique and modern designs. Today Mosser Glass remains a family run operation that blends style, function, and tradition
The Makers Movement wouldn’t be complete without its social and communal nature however, and neither are we at Eyes Open Project. In addition to our more retail focused space we will be introducing various workshops and panels that are meant to highlight our makers. Our Maker’s Series, which will launch in March of this year, will host some of our very own Colorado based artisans like embroiderer Carly Owens, Rachel of Wooly Wax candles, Alyssa of Heritage & Bloom, and Emily of Pazful Designs. On the right is work by Carly Owens. Her Goldwork Eye Brooch w/ Pearls + Crystals is delicately goldwork embroidered by hand, stitched onto a merino wool blend backing.
At Eyes Open Project we are dedicated to our makers – people that challenge our oftentimes mass-produced consumer culture through creativity, innovation, and unrelenting passion for their craft.
Written by maker and artist, Megan Rohrberg