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Creative Pagosa: Jennifer Robinson and Yvonne Rowell

Photo courtesy PACP Yvonne Rowell and Jennifer Robinson do their creative work as a team at Rocky Mountain Skulls. The mother/daughter duo are listed in the Pagosa Arts and Culture project web directory.

Photo courtesy PACP
Yvonne Rowell and Jennifer Robinson do their creative work as a team at Rocky Mountain Skulls. The mother/daughter duo are listed in the Pagosa Arts and Culture project web directory.

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.

To register and be listed in the database, go to http://pagosaacp.org/Register.html.

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 MAKERs are Jennifer Robinson and Yvonne Rowell.

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?

“We are mosaic-obsessed. Everything we see, we wonder, “Could I mosaic that?” And we usually do.

“We are both originally from Louisiana. My mother, Yvonne, is an amazing arts and crafter. I grew up watching her flawlessly execute whatever craft she chose: stained glass, needlework, sewing, quilting, ceramics. I wasn’t interested at the time, but now that I’m older, I appreciate what an impact she had on me growing up. When I decided to start doing glass mosaics, it didn’t seem crazy to me at all because I was already familiar with glass and I wasn’t afraid to experiment, make mistakes, and plunge forward.

“I moved out west about 10 years ago and haven’t looked back since. I absolutely love the mountains, the high desert, the weather, the people and the atmosphere. My parents purchased a home in Pagosa in 2012 (see reasons above) and mom and I established Rocky Mountain Skulls. Prior to that, we were consulting and collaborating long distance on our mosaics. We were constantly sending texts and pics back and forth. It’s so nice to have my best friend and my partner in crime here. Not to mention, our cell phone bills are a whole lot cheaper.”

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

“We create skull mosaics using glass, rocks, minerals, and gems. Each tile is hand cut and individually placed. It’s a very time intensive and tedious process. Each skull takes about two to three months to complete. We’ve worked with bull elk, cow elk, steer, bison, bucks, rams, and various bovine skulls.

“We really like to push ourselves outside the box on what’s considered a traditional mosaic. We are constantly experimenting with paints, minerals, metal leafing, clay, ink-whatever we can get our hands on. We are also incorporating our own custom tiles into our pieces. We try to work the glass in unexpected ways such as vertically or layered glass on glass.”

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

“The skull is obviously integral to the process — the more exotic the better. We’ve actually created some of our best work, I think, from atypical and damaged skulls. When you’re working with a substrate that’s not what you expect it to be, it forces you to work with it in a different way, and that’s a good thing. That’s when innovation happens.

“We try to recycle materials whenever we can. When mom moved here from Louisiana, she brought our old glass front door with her. As soon as we got together in Pagosa, we smashed it out in the garage and it’s become a part of many of our pieces.

“I work with skulls because I like the idea of taking something that has been discarded and merging it, transmogrifying it, into a new and unimagined state. I am fascinated with rocks and minerals and I love to explore the mines along the Alpine Loop. I imagine my skulls somehow, through some geologic force, merging with earth, rock, and mineral.”

Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

“I have two young children at home, so I am the master of the 15-minute crunch. I take advantage of every spare moment. I’ll do short, intense bursts while the kids are napping, before they wake up in the morning, or on the rare occasions when the kids are playing quietly together and not trying to kill each other. Mom is retired, so she has a lot more time to devote to her skulls than I do.”

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

“This quote keeps me going in moments of self-doubt and uncertainty: ‘Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.’” — Andy Warhol.’

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

“We love jeeping, ATVing and hiking. We are both interested in geology and do a little rock hounding. We find a lot of great stuff for our skulls at gem and mineral shows. I think you can definitely see the interest in geology reflected in our work.”

What are your goals for the coming year?

“I think the main goal for Rocky Mountain Skulls is simply to get our skulls out of the studio and get them seen. We just participated in the Pagosa MAKERS Expo and Tour and got so much great feedback; we are really excited about what the future might hold for us. We are hoping to be able to do some commissioned pieces. We also want to get the word out to hunters and guides that a skull mosaic is another option for their trophy rather than the traditional shoulder mount or European mount.

“We just launched a Kickstarter campaign, you can find the link on our website www.rockymountainskulls.com, and I hope to raise enough funds to complete my geologic abstract series and purchase a booth. Having our own booth would enable us to participate in regional festivals and events, so that’s our immediate goal.”

What is your dream project?

“We would absolutely love to do a public art piece and/or community mosaic one day in the future.”

This story was posted on October 17, 2013.