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Sure, art can add beauty to your home, but it can also fulfill a purpose, perform a task, or just bring a little joy to your daily routine. Here, meet six local makers from Colorado’s vibrant and varied artistic community whose creations will make your house sing.
Kazu Oba and Yuka Oba of O’baware
Who: Kazu and Yuka Oba’s romance began with clay. In 2015, Kazu—a Japanese-born Boulderite who apprenticed with Colorado sculptor Jerry Wingren and Japanese potter Takashi Nakazato—was visiting Fukuoka, Japan, and walked into a ceramics studio where Yuka was teaching. (Kazu was on a mission to buy clay for a “guerrilla pot-throwing” performance, during which he sets up a kick wheel on the street and throws pots.) After their fateful meeting, Yuka joined Kazu in Colorado in 2016, they got married, and in 2019, they combined their passions for ceramics by founding O’baware together in their Lafayette studio.
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What: Kazu and Yuka collaborate with clients—individuals and restaurants—to create pieces tailored to specific culinary purposes (such as a soy sauce dish or rice bowl). Their pitchers, vases, plates, and cups have sculptural elegance and simple purpose: “We think the beauty resides in the function of the vessel,” says Kazu, adding that the artists aim to complement the food with their creations. Made from more than 20 varieties of clay, O’baware pieces are glazed in subtle shades ranging from celadon to mustard to pale blue. Yuka also produces a line of modern ceramic jewelry.
Visit the duo’s website for an updated list of restaurant collaborations, details on shops and galleries where O’baware is sold, and access to the online shop.
Laura Goodson of Laura Goodson Art
Who: Growing up in southwest Texas, Laura Goodson was immersed in a culture in which cowboys were prominent community figures known for helping others. Her grandfather taught her to draw a cowboy hat when she was 5 years old, and that remained the sum total of her art experience until 2018, when Goodson landed on the idea of impressing a prospective date with a hand-painted canvas. The subject? A cowboy wearing a hat. The success of that grand gesture led to a whirlwind solo show and launched a whole new career for Goodson, who had originally moved to Denver for an environmental engineering job. Today, she’s the creative force behind Laura Goodson Art, producing paintings, prints, murals, and more. Oh, and that date? Goodson got the girl, and now they’re engaged.
What: Moody and monochromatic, Goodson’s bold cowboy paintings put a fresh spin on traditional Western imagery. “All the cowboys that I paint represent a different version of myself,” she says of the unique characters, which possess such strong personalities, their new owners often give them names. “The piece is now a part of the family,” Goodson says. “When people take it home, I hope it provides good energy, hope, support, loyalty, and confidence in their day.” For her avid followers, Goodson started the online Cowboy Country Club, whose members get early access to new work sold on the website; she also collaborates with hotels and restaurants on custom projects.
Returning to her roots, Goodson bought and renovated a vintage hotel in the Texas Hill Country. The retro-cool, 19-room inn, emblazoned with Goodson’s murals, has its grand opening in November as the Cowboy Motel.
The Glass Artists
Nate Steinbrink and Cortney Boyd of Flux Studio & Gallery
Who: Nate Steinbrink and Cortney Boyd met as undergrad students at Hastings College in Nebraska before each pursuing MFA degrees in glass art. Steinbrink then worked as a museum exhibits curator, while Boyd taught graphic design and glass art. In 2014, they decided to leave those jobs behind and open a community-based studio in Denver’s Clayton neighborhood, inviting glass artists—including beginners—to learn and experiment in their shared space.
What: Steinbrink blows glass into rich clouds of color, creating sculptural drinkware, bowls, and light fixtures that capture a sense of movement. “Glass can be like water suspended in time,” he says. Boyd uses fusing, slumping (shaping glass with the help of a mold), and casting techniques to produce complex kiln-formed dishes and serving platters that often feature intricate color patterns. “Glass can be transparent, translucent, and opaque; glass is fragile and strong, making it a diverse material for creating artworks,” she says. The duo hope their creations for the home bring beauty and calm into everyday life. “Whether it is holding hors d’oeuvres or keys, we want our work to make what it’s holding look good!” Steinbrink says.
Along with custom commissions, Boyd and Steinbrink are working on new lighting designs and planning future outdoor sculpture projects. Check out their work at Flux Studio & Gallery, where you might even catch a glassblower in action.
The Textile Artist
Julie Malone of Julie Peach
Who: Julie Malone had no idea she was laying the groundwork for future success when, at age 11, she started her e-commerce career selling wearable fairy wings on eBay. After business school and a stint as a corporate buyer for brands including Anthropologie and Kmart, she had the confidence to expand her small-time linoleum-block-printing side gig, called Julie Peach, into a full-fledged enterprise.
What: “I stumbled across block-printing somewhere down an internet rabbit hole,” Malone says. “The little blocks made wonderfully whimsical patterns out of abstract markings.” Splashed with sunny patterns in beach-fresh colors, Malone’s hand-printed, natural fiber pillow covers, dinner napkins, table runners, and tea towels add a bounce of energy to the home. Her collections are inspired by her vacation daydreams, such as one recent pattern she based on Ojai’s Pixie tangerines. Aiming to uplift people’s spirits through her work, Malone says her lively prints “raise the vibrations in your home.”
Malone is launching a line of Christmas stockings to add to her Fall/Holiday 2022 collection of table linens and tea towels, with hand-quilted bedding coming in 2023. Malone sells her work online and in boutiques including Lafayette’s Local Goods Colorado and Leadville’s Elevation Goods.