Updated: Oct 20, 2019
A re-cap of my two months as an artist-in-residence at Elsewhere Studios
in the glorious town of Paonia, Colorado.
They say there is a place where the streets are paved in apricots.
And if you visit Paonia in August during a particularly fertile year when just the right set of circumstances have come into play, you’ll be stepping right into that place. And potentially stepping right into a lot of sidewalk apricot goop.
Having spent the past several years rolling in year-round citrus and avocados and every other imaginable kind of produce known to mankind in the ever-bountiful land of coastal California, I doubted I’d be impressed with any other land’s harvest. Then I arrived smack dab in the middle of summer in the North Fork Valley, where cherries rain down upon your face and apricots literally do line the streets.
Stone fruit! My experience at Elsewhere Studios, multi-faceted in practically every way possible, seems in memory to be mostly punctuated by the flow of various sweet-tart fleshy orbs coming into season—arriving in boxes and buckets and backpacks from the multitude of generous hands stopping by to look after this place and its revolving residents. My fellow artists and I turned these gifts into counter-top displays piled into the Elsewhere kitchen’s various chipped-and-cracked collection of handmade bowls, destined for endless possibilities.
And indeed, my two glorious months at Elsewhere carried this same feeling of daily abundance: a Gingerbread House all to myself, quiet mornings in the studio with my cup of coffee, dinners of elk and farm-fresh vegetables on the grill, afternoon tea with my fellow residents, long chats about the artist life. The many Bens of town: one Ben scooping me up for impromptu adventures to gorgeous viewpoints, another Ben spinning me across the dance floor at the Wednesday Backporch Blues Jam. Drying apricots in the sun and learning to forage wild mushrooms. Wildflower and aspen viewings over Kebler Pass. Outrageous hikes to blue lakes through rolling meadows. Paddling down the Gunnison River along peach-scented orchards. Jumping in the ditch on a hot afternoon; then, root beer floats. Breakfast pizza at Breadworks and nightcaps at Linda’s. Opening my studio window on Saturday evenings to let in the sultry sounds of Jazz Night from the restaurant next door—whilst sketching out ideas for new illustrations. Weeding the carrot patch and sorting garlic at Small Potatoes Farm, and being sent away with all the vegetables and all the flowers. Flowers! So many flowers. So many everythings.
Endlessness—that is the feeling I was fortunate enough to revel in during my experience at Elsewhere. Although I always felt I could be doing MORE of EVERYTHING—MORE ART, especially!—I also felt a great sense of accomplishment at the set of creative endeavors I was able to fit in between the nooks and crannies of these magnificent adventures. For example, it had taken me 2 years to complete half the drawings for a book project which was my main focus during this residency, and just a month to complete the other half at Elsewhere! I left with a printed first edition of my story, which was more than I had hoped for. I also came with the notion of doing a local/foraged food project and the hope to collaborate with another artist, and sure enough both of these wishes fell into my world—as well as the outrageously helpful folks at Clayworks who made it possible for me to build/fire/glaze a last-minute tea set in time for our event! The open-ended, freeing structure of the residency allowed me to make space for anything that felt important to me, and to invite what I wanted into my experience.
They say all good things must come to an end. Even the Endlessness! Even the stone fruits. And so…
Many pies, galettes, syrups, shrubs, salsas, salads, cakes, teas, smoothies, cocktails, and juicy mouthfuls of fresh cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, and plums later…tongue puckered, I loaded up my art supplies, my hiking gear, my new tea set, and my last two peaches—and left Paonia.
Some say they noticed a dribble of peach juice sliding down my left cheek as I headed through the orchards out of town. But I’m willing to admit the truth: I’m not NOT crying.