We had the good fortune of connecting with Maura Gramzinski and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maura, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
This question strikes a pretty deep note for me. This topic has literally been an internal struggle for most of my life. I was born creative. Drawing, writing, building, photographing, cooking and working with a variety of crafts from a very, very young age. In contemplating my career choices coming out of high school I felt shame in my creativity though, as if it were a weakness not a strength, and choose a “practical” form of creativity by pursuing a degree in Architecture. I made it half way through the program when through a series of events I changed course to Fine Art Photography where I graduated with a BFA. Upon graduation I again sought to find the most practical application of my newly gained art degree and dove into photo lab management, then professional photographic equipment rental and training, to eventually land in a small start up focused on CD-ROM and website development for the hospitality industry. I worked as an office manager initially. My left brain tendencies adapted to the tasks needed of organizing a new company and planning projects to eventually leading a team of designers and programmers while working as a liaison between this team and the client side. I had a lot of responsibility and opportunity to build something from nothing. But I ached to do the creative work myself, I was only directing others to do so. I maintained a personal practice of creating artwork but I was pretty miserable at work. Feeling like I was living a lie about who I was, what drove me.
In 2001 both of my paternal grandparents, world travelers who had a huge influence on me, passed away within 2 months of one another and I inherited their collection of 35mm slides that were made during a lifetime of documenting their travels. This reminder of life’s finite duration, and the arrival of these precious images prompted me to rethink my own path and I set out to start a company celebrating travel, storytelling and art that would allow me to nourish that thirst within me to be authentic to who I am. I very actively pursued not being creative for nearly 15 years and was miserable, why not try to pursue being creative. Here it is 2021, 20 years later and I’m still learning how best to balance the creative with the non creative aspects of running a business.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
RedCamper has had a windy road full of road hazards, speeding tickets, road side stands, rest stops and plenty of detours. Started in the early 2000’s making handbags out of 35mm slides we have had a rich and varied history of product making from soft goods to luggage to paper goods we now focus on making specialty foods for celebrating place and creating sharable experiences.
Our gourmet specialty fruit condiment line, Deliciousness, and its brother Mostarda, are premier cheese accompaniments that are handcrafted in small batches from region specific fruits, spices and often local spirits. We take great care to create unique and inspiring flavor combinations that speak of place and are intended for any use but really make cheeseboards and cocktails something special.
Locality in ingredients, fair trade spices, and sustainability and naturally grown fruits are part of the recipes that we are the most proud of. We work directly with local farms for many of our flavors and consider our suppliers true partners in creating a superior taste. Sunshine, fruit, an adventurous spirit and a longing for honest experiences with integrity are who we are, what we are about.
In addition to our newest product the Colorado Bourbon Cocktail Cherries, which just won another Good Food Award we have recently opened up a small retail shop called the RedCamper Picnic Supply & Mercantile that allows us to connect more directly with our community and to bring together a trunkful of picnic appropriate goods for creating experiences. We are featuring other small makers that we have been fortunate enough to befriend over the years and are excited about what this summer will bring.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to? I also host Airbnb guests in my home so I give a lot of tips out on where to go, with Covid changing our lives for the last year though I have to admit, this is a tougher question. The landscape of metro Denver has changed pretty significantly and we have lost some very iconic and important places that really reflected the soul of Denver to me. I’d say my new list has become much shorter but here are some musts for out of town visitors.
RedRocks – of course. But really this single location no matter what the time of year, or time in history, still stands proudly iconic. Even if you can’t see a show here, or Film on the Rocks, you can still walk up the stairs, see the city to the east and spend some time meandering around the very easy but very beautiful foottrails that go in and around this magnificent geological wonder.
Stowaway for Breakfast or lunch – A relative newcomer to the scene (I’ve lived in Denver for 21 years so anything newer than 10 years feels like a newcomer) this restaurant is perfection. Beautiful open bright and peaceful environment filled with light, plants, art and incredible food. A mashup of Japanese, new American and other genre’s I’m probably not getting, the food is delicious, ethically sourced and phenomenally presented. I love this place so much. Owner Hayden is mighty sweet too.
Winter Sessions workshop on Steele or their tiny shop in The Source Hotel. Roy and Tanya have put their heart and soul into building a company around making quality canvas and leather goods. Bags, home goods, etc. There has been a rise and fall of the American made good small craft business and Winter Session has weathered it all being truly authentic to who they are.Their work shop is open by appointment only, but worth viewing to see where it all happens.
Domo for lunch in the summer. If I ever leave this town, I will sorely miss this stunning oasis in the heart of industrial Denver. The Japanese garden in the summer is truly magical and the food is always outstanding. The interior dining is great in the winter.
Ruby Hill Park for a sunset, or once it starts again..a concert at Levitt Pavillion. Such a gem this park is. Stunning view of the entire city and the mountains.
Sacred Thistle for shopping for gifts for others, or yourself. Walking in the door of this place is like falling into a safe place filled with beauty. Plants and plant tending items, jewelry, art pieces, candles, books and flowers. It is divine.
I’ll stop there with covering the hiking, concerts, local small business and restaurants and public parks. Denver has changed a lot, but there is still a lot to love.
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?
Over the years there have been so, so many people who have supported me through their words, purchases, referrals and encouragement. From friends, to customers, to family members, to fellow makers, to employees even. There are two people I’d like to give a hearty shoutout and thank you to. First, my coach/advisor Charles VonThun. He has been such a steady source of encouragement and advice. He is both a cheerleader and a light in the dark when I can’t seem to see what to do next. The second is my former kitchen mate and fellow food maker Kelly Schexnaildre. This girl is a pistol and inspires me frequently with her fire and energy and never give up attitude. She is a problem solver and one with such panache it’s awing to be around.
Ross Evertson, Maura Gramzinski