Creative Pagosa: Chad Haspels

Photo courtesy Chad Haspels Pagosa sculptor Chad Haspels has spent a great deal of time in the wilderness and backcountry and his experiences observing wolves and other wildlife have been a big influence in determining the subject matter for his work.

Photo courtesy Chad Haspels
Pagosa sculptor Chad Haspels has spent a great deal of time in the wilderness and backcountry and his experiences observing wolves and other wildlife have been a big influence in determining the subject matter for his work.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is building a web-based directory of all the creative people and businesses in the community. By creating this website, it will make these MAKERS easier to find in online search engines and help share the wealth of innovative and talented individuals that call our small town home.

This sort of database is called “cultural mapping” and is being done by communities around the country in order to realize and recognize the value of their creative assets.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is establishing the groundwork for continued collaboration and cooperation and promotional efforts of the combined community. The goal of the project is to establish a solid foundation of cultural and creative individuals and businesses, to create a viable plan for promoting these assets and to promote the Pagosa area as a worthy place of residence for creative people, a productive place for creative business ventures and a desirable destination for arts tourism.

The PACP is also planning an event for fall 2013. The event, the MAKERS Expo and Tour, is set for Oct. 12-13.

To register and be listed in the database, go to

In order to highlight the MAKERS in Pagosa, the PACP will profile its members, giving readers of The PREVIEW a sense of the depth and breadth of the creative community.

This week’s MAKER is Chad Haspels, sculptor.

Q: Tell us a little about who you are, where you were born, educated, your family, growing up and how you came to be doing your creative work?

I was raised in Cortez, Colo. I began creating art at a young age and continued it with a passion through school. I had several artist mentors in my developmental years that made an impression on me with both their quality of work and creative outlook on life. I attended Rocky Mountain College in Billings Mont., a liberal arts school, where I majored in fine art and minored in environmental studies. Both the art and the environmental studies aspects of my education have played a strong roll in what I am doing today.

Halfway through my studies, I began to be drawn to three-dimensional art, initially through working with bronze and stone. I worked part time at a bronze foundry while in school and I spent a semester studying West African art in Ghana. With my school’s close proximity to Yellowstone, most of my environmental studies courses were centered on the park, including the recent reintroduction of wolves and the social and environmental impacts that resulted. I spent a lot of time in the winters from 1998 to 2000 in Lamar Valley observing the wolves while on cross country skis, both with my school and with my future wife, Jennifer. These experiences would have a big influence in my later turning to wildlife, in particular the predator species, as my most common subject matter.

After I graduated in 2000, I worked a couple of years for the BLM in Dolores, Colo., doing biology work in the high desert on the western edge of the state, while Jennifer worked as a park ranger for Natural Bridges National Monument in a remote portion of southeastern Utah. This allowed for a couple of years of developing an intimate relationship with the beauty of the Colorado Plateau and it’s canyon country that influenced my art in a naturalistic way. In 2002, I had a broad enough interest in my work to allow me to take the leap and create art full time. In 2004, Jennifer and I moved to the Pagosa area, and in 2010, we opened a studio in town.

Q: Describe the objects you make or the creative work you do.

My sculpture includes impressionistic, representational wildlife, stylized feminine figures, and free form contemporary work. With my wildlife sculptures, I primarily emphasize the predator species to stress their importance within our ecosystem. I primarily use local woods to create my work, and I occasionally sculpt local volcanic stone. A portfolio of my works can be seen on my website:

Q: What is your favorite tool or material used in making your work? Why?

My favorite tools are my chisels and gouges. I enjoy the direct connection to the material that it offers, which takes me back to the primal connection of why I work with wood. The tool I use that draws the most attention is the chainsaw. What I like about the chainsaw is that it allows me to work in a spontaneous improvisational manner. What drives me nuts about it is the inevitable “chainsaw carving” label. That is an industry that I don’t connect with. There are a number of artists that work in other mediums that I feel my work is more connected to. I have always believed that it is the artist’s responsibility to master the appropriate tools to create his or her art, and this includes the chainsaw among other tools as well. I also believe that a work of art should be judged on it’s own merit, not by the tool that was used to create it. As a case in point, my stone sculptures are never referred to as “chisel and grinder carvings.”

Q: Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

I work seven to 10 hours a day. I don’t have a set routine within that schedule because each project I am working on requires something different. Since we opened up our studio three years ago, my schedule has changed a bit to work with being open to the public. Officially, we are open by appointment, but I try to work as much as I can with the door open to drop-ins. When I need to work without interruptions to allow for creative focus, I work with the doors shut.

Q: When you’re not making art, what is your favorite thing to do in Pagosa Country?

I love spending time in the backcountry with Jennifer more than anything. Whether that means exploring the Weminuche in our own backyard, or backpacking into a remote canyon in southeast Utah, nature always has a way of inspiring me. We are also both avid trail runners and mountain bikers.

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

I’ve been exploring negative space more with my sculpture lately through fragmented and suggestive forms. I have a number of ideas in my head that I want to develop with this theme in the near future.

Q: What is your dream project?

I don’t have a singular dream project. There are so many ideas that I want to express; some have been developing in my head for years, others come spontaneously. My biggest goal would be to have the opportunity to create for years to come to allow me to bring all of these ideas to fruition.

This story was posted on July 11, 2013.