We had the good fortune of connecting with Liz Heller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Liz, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I used to think artists lived and breathed their creative practice, that a proper artist had no “hobbies”. We are pursuing our passion after all and that took a special amount of dedication. When I first moved to Colorado five years ago, I was working 80-100hr studio weeks. I was a year out of grad school, had just settled down into my first long term residency program and buried myself into my studio practice. It’s so odd to think about who I was back then, I don’t identify with her anymore at all. The Roaring Fork Valley is a very special place. It turned an urban indoor kid into a hiker, climber, skier and endurance triathlete. I have come to value balance in my life above all else. It helps me to avoid burn out, which I am prone to, allows me to enjoy this amazing place I am lucky to call home, get fresh air, be in nature, raise my heart rate, release endorphins, try new things, cultivate relationships and build a business.
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.
I love process and learning new things. When I first went back to school for art, I thought I wanted to be a painter, then a professor put a torch in my hand and it was all about sculpting the 3d object after that. I was interested in making things I never thought I could, welding, blacksmithing, building larger than life installations, blowing glass, making neon signs, working in a foundry, etc. I wanted to try everything, nothing stuck until I started working in 3d printing, mold making and slip casting ceramics. 3d modeling is a huge challenge for me. I have come across people who have a fundamental understanding of the software, I however, fumble through it. I can get it done, but it might take me 20 extra steps. I love my creation process because it’s a combination of critical thinking and problem solving on the front end and traditional ceramics practices on the back end, working with my hands and getting into a state of flow. I start by 3d modeling my design and printing in a biodegradable plastic. Using the digital fabrication processes allow me to get hard lined geometry not commonly found in ceramics. Then I make a plaster mold of the print, which can be tricky. Every object needs to be molded in a specific way. Once the mold is made, I have to wait a week before I can cast it for the first time. There is nothing more satisfying than getting that first cast out and having your vision realized. I have failed many times and will fail many more, but that just means that I am challenging myself and that I continue to learn, which is why ceramics has held my attention for so long.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would take guests to my first two hikes ever, The Maroon Bells Crater Lake in Aspen and Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs. We also have some beautiful Alpine Lakes, American Lake and Cathedral Lake, both fun, challenging hikes. The Rio Grande Trail starts in Aspen and ends in Glenwood Springs, its a great trail to walk, run or bike, we can stop by the Woody Creek Tavern for a cold beer or Margarita on the way up and down valley. Great climbing up Independence Pass. White water rafting down Aspen’s Slaughterhouse, a class 5 rapid. And of course star gazing, anywhere. Snowmass Village has recently updated their plaza with lots of great restaurants and places to get drinks. A locals favorite is bbq at Slow Groovin and grabbing an aprés ski beer at The Ranger Station outside by the fire. Aspen is a whole other animal… Great Italian food at L’Hosteria, Vietnamese at The Bamboo Bear, delicious Mac ‘n Cheese, Burgers and S’mores at Hops Culture, delicious sandwiches from The Grateful Deli and Paradise Bakery is the perfect place for sweet treats, I love going to the Living Room bar at the Jerome Hotel for the best Old Fashioned in the Valley. I would also take friends to my studio in the Red Brick Center for the Arts, which houses 12 artist studios, a gallery, a shop and lots of the Valley’s non-profit organizations.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Wow, so many people and organizations! I received my Post Bac BFA at Columbia College Chicago and completed my MFA in Sculpture at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, both experiences were challenging, fun and extremely rewarding. I am lucky to have attended residency programs at institutions like The Anderson Ranch Arts Center, The Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Campos de Gutierrez, The Red Brick Center for the Arts and Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. All were transformative in their own way and have a very special place in my heart. My fellow artists here in the RFV continue to inspire and amaze me. Dave Kodama, Kate Flynn and Megan Wussow, who I love collaborating with, my studiomates Molly Peacock and Michael Bonds and the art community as a whole. For a rural community, there is an extremely high caliber of artist here. The community is so talented and supportive. We lift each other up every chance we get. We have great non-profit institutions dedicated to sharing knowledge and supporting local artists with exhibition opportunities like The Carbondale Clay Center, The Launchpad, The Art Base, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, The Red Brick Center for the Arts and the Aspen Chapel Gallery. My family is also very supportive of me pursuing a creative career and building a lifestyle alternative to the 9-5, 40hr work week. I am so grateful for their love and support.
Olivia Emmer Brent Moss (last pic only)