We had the good fortune of connecting with Jess Ellis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jess, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I have not historically been a big risk taker. That changed pretty quickly a few years ago when I was laid off due to structural changes at a steady job I’d had for two years. I suppose before that, I kind of took for granted the fact that I had a stable income at a job I felt secure in. I always knew I wanted to build a business with my art, but wasn’t sure when the right time was or if I could really make it work. When I didn’t have that steady job anymore, I knew if I didn’t work on my dream right then, I may never again have the right opportunity. I poured myself into building up my business and the momentum just kept building. It was a risk to dedicate most of my energy into my artwork. I knew I would need to eventually find a “regular” job as well, and in a roundabout way, the energy I put into my art and building a business also helped me find the job I have today. I view risk taking a lot differently today. Since that layoff, I have seen how much my business can grow if I step outside my comfort zone. I have made multiple solo road trips across the country to sell my work at large venues. I have taught classes and helped educate others on the things I am most passionate about. I have reached out to people to build partnerships that I never thought possible. There is a balance between risk and security, but I firmly believe that true success and growth is not possible without taking calculated risks. Using your intuition, you can feel out when it is time to take a gamble on something. You may make mistakes, I certainly have, but that is one of the best ways to understand your limits and gain real valuable experience.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Art has always been the easiest way for me to communicate what I am most passionate about. I’ve been creating art since I can remember and it always felt like the only career path that might fulfill my deep need to be constantly creating and working with new ideas. I have also become more and more passionate over the last several years about science, conservation, and educating others about the importance of reconnecting with the natural world. To me, art feels like the most effective way for me to help communicate these ideas. I can use composition and aesthetics to help the viewer see some of these organisms as beautiful and important, that they might otherwise consider a nuisance or something to fear. By incorporating ideas of magic and the spiritual realm, I can help to elevate these creatures and expand the way others may view them. I recently went through a re-branding, changing my business name from Curioscape Designs to Atropos Curios. My work has been evolving a lot over the last couple of years and I have expanded the ideas and concepts that I work with. The old name just didn’t seem to fit anymore, so it was time for a change. Atropos is one of the Moirai (Three Fates) in Greek Mythology. Clotho spins the thread of life, it is measured out by Lachesis, and Atropos is the one who cuts the thread. She is there at the end of life. In a way, I see my work as the final destination for the creatures who reside within. It is the continuation of the story, a renewal after the thread has been cut. It has certainly been a bumpy road getting to where my business is now, and I feel like I am still just beginning to take my art to where I would like it to be. Balance is one of those things I am still working on. I am lucky enough to have a job that I love in addition to creating art as a business. It is often difficult for me to stop working. Rest and fun typically take a back seat, but I have been working hard on making those things a priority. It is wonderful to love what you do and to enjoy working, but burnout is real and we all have to take breaks to recharge or we risk no longer loving what we do. I am excited about some new opportunities coming my way and can’t wait to continue growing, learning, and taking my art to new places.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I certainly can’t wait to be able to do a lot of these things again! I’ll be honest here, I am quite a homebody and even without a pandemic I don’t really get out too often… but I do have a lot of favorite spots in town that I try to get to when I can. One of my favorite areas for spending a day is still down on South Broadway. Trve Brewing Co. is one of my favorite spots to grab a great beer and listen to some metal. I also always love making a trip to Mutiny Information Cafe to check out used books and records. They have a great selection of independent zines and a coffee bar… I could spend hours there digging through books and other treasures. Nooch is an excellent place to find tasty vegan snacks and groceries. They have food I have never been able to find anywhere else, plus lots of merch and other vegan goodies. Just outside of Denver, over in Wheat Ridge, Ritualcravt is my favorite place to be. I do work there, but even if I didn’t, I would be there all the time. It’s the best place to find spiritual tools, gifts, home decor, and really amazing plants. The library is stocked with books I’ve never been able to find anywhere else, and there are dressed candles, a large apothecary, and filled with goods that are made in small batches, by hand from small independent makers and businesses. Just down the street from Ritualcravt is one of my new favorite spots for antiques and vintage treasures. Found Antique & Artisan Mall is larger than it looks from the outside and packed with lots of unexpected finds. For food, City O City is always one of my favorites. They’ve always been just about the best spot in town for delicious vegan and vegetarian food. I also love Hops and Pie and Vital Root over on Tennyson. Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant is some of the best food I’ve ever had and if I lived closer I’d spend all my money there. If you want to get out of town a little, I recently stayed in the Black Monarch Hotel down in Victor, CO. It is a really amazing space, renovated from a historic casino and brothel. The hotel is reported to be haunted and has rooms themed around H.H. Holmes, Elizabeth Bathory, and Nikola Tesla.
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 I could list here that I never could have found success without… but one of the most important groups of people in the story of growing my business, and truly finding myself, is my family at Ritualcravt. When I was laid off and feeling adrift, trying to build something with my art and experience, Missy and the other wonderful witches at Ritualcravt welcomed me in with open arms. I had been a customer for a while and thought it might be a great place to teach and show my work, but it ended up being so much more. I was invited to help the shop vend at a big market and went on a big road trip to Los Angeles with them. During this trip, I knew I had found some really special people who made me feel right at home. This one opportunity grew into a position helping at the counter, and as Ritualcravt grew, so did I. Missy welcomed my work into the shop and has been instrumental in supporting and promoting me as an artist. I now work at Ritualcravt full time, but it is so much more than a job. I have found a whole family there. A group of people who care deeply about one another and who go out of their way to support community. I have felt so supported, seen, and loved here and the way Missy goes above and beyond for all of us is incredible. I have gone through big and difficult life and personal changes and could not have done it without this family.