Creative Pagosa: Mary Walls

Photo courtesy Mary Walls Pagosa artist, Mary Walls, right, explains some of her work to a visitor at a recent bead show. Walls, a member of the Pagosa Arts and Culture Project, traveled 5,000 miles last year to display her work.

Photo courtesy Mary Walls
Pagosa artist, Mary Walls, right, explains some of her work to a visitor at a recent bead show. Walls, a member of the Pagosa Arts and Culture Project, traveled 5,000 miles last year to display her 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.

At present, 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 Mary Walls.

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 graduated from the University of Wisconsin after being raised in the Midwest, and left for New York City and then California (where Ray and I met and married). After more moves, we landed in Grand Junction in 1984 and had our daughter, Julie. Beginning in 1974, I taught spinning and natural dye classes through the West, won awards for basketry utilizing native plant materials, taught pit-fired ceramics from hand-dug clay and made clothing from antique fabrics. I am largely self-taught, although I took classes along the way and have benefited from some amazing mentors, too. Shortly after arriving in Colorado, my veteran husband became ill and I returned to a human services career. I worked with adolescent offenders and later with foster children, their methamphetamine-addicted parents, and domestic violence cases. As the meth epidemic got more violent in Grand Junction, I chose to leave my job.”

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

“After a long hiatus of about two years to recuperate in Pagosa and soak in the hot springs, I started playing around with felting sweaters in the washing machine, dyeing and embellishing handmade hats and arm warmers. I named my business Pagosa Peak Fiberworks. I took a few pieces downtown to a shop and they sold! I sat at my worktable each morning and asked the Lord to tell me what to make and how to make it. At first, I named each piece, like you would a painting. After a couple hundred, I stopped. I thought, ‘I can’t wait to see where I’m at in a couple of years.’ My tag line has been, ‘treasures from resurrected materials.’ I make one-of-a-kind wearables, incorporating up-cycled materials. I learned to felt and make laminated and cobweb felt scarves and bags, incorporating horse take; I dye silk, do simple shibori and renovate hats, paint on some and embellish them with silver, felts, etc. I have always been a yard sale-thrift store/treasurer hunter and my background in the fiber arts and clothes making all came back to me and fit.

“Over the last couple years, I have become a beadmaker, much to my surprise. I make hand-painted, one-of-a-kind fabric beads and, more recently, scarf beads that work with felted, knit and medium weight silk scarves. They are currently at the Denver Art Museum in their gift shop as part of their ‘Spun’ fiber arts show this summer.

“My best ‘tool’ for education is the Internet and YouTube.”

Q: Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

“My career was an overwhelming routine, carrying a cell phone 24/7, attending parental rights trials, etc., so, no, I don’t look at a watch. My best time is early morning to mid-afternoon. I seem to work well under pressure prior to shows and festivals. But, I’m supposed to be ‘retired,’ so I also take time to smell the roses; even more so since my husband’s heart valve replacement last March.”

Q: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

“I took a seminar a few years ago at Convergence, an international fiber arts conference in Albuquerque, and the owner of the Santa Fe Weaving Gallery said, ‘Don’t make ugly stuff,’ and ‘You have to keep evolving.’

“I also like the quote by Aaron Kramer of Santa Monica, a recycle artist, which says, ‘Trash is the failure of imagination.’”

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

“We still soak a lot in the healing waters. We’ve lived in a number of locations, but Pagosa and the mountain ranges is one of the most beautiful spots. We love Williams Reservoir, the foxes that roam around Hatcher, the storms (winter and summer) and the friendly folks that call Pagosa home. To steal a term from Karl Isberg: ‘Siberia with a View’ is pretty great!

“I went back to Grand Junction and one of my best friends asked me if I thought I would be doing this if I had stayed there, as I was hauling out my ‘stuff.’ When I got home and thought about that … the answer is ‘no, I would have probably gotten another job.’ The solitude and slower pace and beauty of the surroundings certainly support creativity for me.”

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

“Last year, I traveled about 5,000 miles; this year, I got a representative in Denver, so I am cutting the travel and the number of festivals. I have been moving toward bigger and fewer shows. I will be a vendor at the Tucson Bead Show at the Windmill, Booth No. 230, in February 2014, a juried show.

“I also wholesale beads to weaving stores, galleries, bead stores and individual artists. My clients range from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, to Nova Scotia, Canada and Iowa. I have been thinking about establishing one good outlet in Pagosa for my art, and I think I just found it.”

Q: What is your dream project?

“The act of birthing this business in prayer, I believe, has resulted in success that is greater than anything I anticipated in my feeble little brain at the start. I will remain in awe of where He will most likely take me next, whether I deserve it or not! Retiring to Pagosa has not been so retiring; I’m not exactly sure what happened. Thank you, Lord. Also, thank you to the PACP for promoting Pagosa’s artists.”

This story was posted on September 5, 2013.