We had the good fortune of connecting with Caitlin Zeller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Caitlin, what inspires you?
My art is inspired by the intricate details and diversity found in the natural world. I have had the opportunity to both live and travel around the world and I am continuously in awe of the often overlooked and fragile beauty which I have encountered. Whether seeking to capture the texture in a clump of alpine moss, or the colors in a small patch of reef, I want to draw attention to these elements which are so often taken for granted. Standing on a mountain, caught up in the view, it is easy to forget about the wonders right at your feet. What we fail to notice we undervalue. And we run the risk of loosing them forever if protective measures are not taken. In my work, I aim to draw viewers in so they stop and linger, searching for these hidden details. I hope to inspire awe and respect for these splendid ecosystems that are rapidly disappearing.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I decided to pursue a career in art because creating has always been a part of who I am. Even when I was little I was always making gifts for friends and family, or working on my own self-assigned projects in the backyard. In college I decided to take my love of creating further, so I majored in Fine Arts with concentrations in metalsmithing and ceramics. After completing college there were a number of years where I didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on my art, due to limited time, equipment, and resources, however, I was still creating, just on a smaller scale. During this time I completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I lived in both Australia, and New Orleans before moving to Denver. I was also able to travel both around the United States, and the world where I saw and learned so much. These experiences taught me a great deal about myself, and allowed me to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life moving forward. At the beginning of 2019 I joined a community art studio, and was able to once again start metalsmithing. It was rough at first, coming up with ideas and brushing up on my skills. I also faced a decision of what direction to take my metalsmithing. I had never had a unified style or brand. I had always just made pieces that spoke to me at the time, or were driven by the new skill we had learned in class. I commonly worked in series, but there wasn’t a particularly common thread running throughout all of them. Should I change what and how I created? In the end I decided that I would continue to make what spoke to me. I was just getting back into metalsmithing after all so there was no point in burning myself out before I even got started. I was doing this because it was something I loved, so I would create original works which spoke to me and my experiences. Hopefully they would speak to others as well. I would try to make work which was wearable/sellable, but I would not make this my primary focus. Instead I would take time to explore, and see where it all went. During this time I started experimenting with fibers and embroidery as well. In some pieces I wove the two mediums together, and in others I kept them separate. As always my work has gone in various directions, but through it all it feels like me. In these 2 years since re-focusing on my artwork I have had opportunities to show and share it with others. I have been so encouraged by the positive feedback, support, and sales that I have received. My work does resonates with people. I am still in the early stages of figuring it out, who knows what the future holds. But despite that I am glad that I have stayed true to creating what I love. As it isn’t my full-time job, there is less pressure on any immediate success so I am able to explore and play and see how it goes. My work reflects both who I am and where I have been – thus a whole series of coral reefs made in landlocked Colorado, followed by alpine moss, followed by gas cans and teapots. The work is time consuming and tedious, but I love it. If I am going to put so much of myself into a project I want it to feel like me, and life’s just too short to not enjoy what you do.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
-Hiking in the mountains, possibly a couple times if they’re here long enough. Depending on their fitness level either to an alpine lake or a thirteener. Thirteeners are my favorite because I feel they are often passed over as they do not have the same prestige as a fourteener. However the views are just as amazing, they are less crowded so you see more wildlife, and you can often get the summit to yourself. Being able to hike in the mountains with such a short drive is one of my favorite things about living in Denver, and is how I spend a lot of my free time. Some of my favorites: Bob, Betty, and King Lakes, Echo Lake to Summit Lake, James Peak, Grizzly D Peak, South Arapahoe Peak from Rainbow Lakes TH, Berthoud Pass to Mt. Bancroft along the CDT. If the hike is anywhere close to I-70 and 40W we will be stopping at Dairy King in Empire for milkshakes! -By no means have I explored all the breweries in the city, but my favorite is Cerebral Brewing. I love IPAs and they always have fun new ones to try out along with a good selection of other styles. It is also only a couple of miles from where I live so it is a nice walk, therefore justifying the beer consumed. I love sitting outside on their patio having a beer or two, chatting, and trying out the different food trucks. -I love being able to walk to eat out, some places close to me that I love are Blue Pan Pizza, Fork and Spoon, Onefold, and Shells and Sauce. I am also not opposed to driving for food in which case we can add Himchuli, Findley’s Pub, Wong Way Veg food truck, and Uncle to the list. -Going for a bike ride in the city. I love how the trails spread out from downtown and you can get to so many places without riding in the streets. One favorite rides is along Bear Creek out to the reservoir and back. The views are fantastic from Mt Carbon and you can stop at Andi’s for concretes on the way back. Another favorite is along Clear Creek Trail out to Golden with a stop at the Windy Saddle Cafe for coffee and a berry bar before heading back. The good thing about both of these rides is they are downhill on the way back. -Having a picnic in the park. In my first apartment I lived near Wash Park and I now live close to Cheeseman Park. I love being able to pack a picnic and head out to just relax there for an afternoon. Playing frisbee, reading, napping, chatting and eating in the sunshine.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people whose support, knowledge, and guidance have helped be get to where I am today. However, without the initial support I received from my parents, Nancy and Ed Zeller, I would never have even started down this path. Not only did they first introduce me to the wonders of the natural world, but they always encouraged me to pursue a career in the arts. My parents were both conservation majors, and from an early age instilled a respect and appreciation for the environment in all of their children. Family vacations involved camping, hiking, and exploring. If there was botanical-focused hike, you could be sure we were doing it, reading all the signs, and learning about the local flora. Wherever we were, I was encouraged to seek out and appreciate the small and beautiful details that new environment had to offer. I was also taught to not take for any of these wonders for granted. Whether it was by picking up garbage on our hikes, or volunteering to weed invasive garlic mustard from our local metro parks, my parents led by example. It is all of our’s responsibility to do our part and help protect the environment. Furthermore, they always encouraged me to do what I loved, and if that was pursuing a degree/career in art, then to go for it. Finishing up high school I had good grades, so I had options as to what career path I could pursue in college. Many people, all well meaning, tried to convince me to make a ‘sensible’ choice, something with secure job prospects. Art was a nice hobby, but that was all. My parents never did this. They didn’t tell me it would be easy, but if its what I really wanted to do, then I should do it. Their support never faltered. They are always interested in whatever project I’m working on, attending show openings when they can, and offering feedback and advice. They are there for me through both the ups and the downs. I have known people who were not so lucky, they didn’t have the same support. I am forever grateful that this was never the case for me. Thanks so much mom and dad, for all you have done and continue to do!