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Handmade in Boulder County

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An Ongoing Series

By Lisa Truesdale

It’s no secret that Boulder County is a supremely creative place that attracts talented artisans of all types, not to mention performers, activists, athletes and academics. And it’s likely Mother Nature’s doing, for she painted our breathtaking scenery with such masterful skill that one can’t help but be inspired by one’s surroundings.

For our new ongoing series, we’ll be profiling a handful of dedicated makers in each issue—highly skilled artists from all over the county who create high-quality, noncommercial, handcrafted functional goods that you can find at local artisan shows and small, independent boutiques and galleries. We’re amazed by their creativity and dedication to their craft, and we know you will be, too.

If you know of a maker we should profile in an upcoming issue, please email Mary Jarrett.

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photo courtesy Erin DeLargy

11 Erin DeLargy Jewelry and Designs

Although Erin DeLargy knew from a very young age that she would one day be an artist, she’s thrilled that being a jewelry designer also allows her to nurture her “inner geologist.”

“I love geeking out over all the cool rocks I get to use in my work,” she laughs.
She’s obsessed, she admits, with incorporating colorful stones—like agate, pyrite, chalcedony, jasper and turquoise—into the striking, often asymmetrical earrings, pendants and rings that she makes in her Longmont studio. She used to design leather jewelry, but after taking a metalsmithing class several years ago, she became “hooked” on incorporating sterling silver, copper and brass into her personalized and made-to-order pieces.

In her “spare time,” DeLargy says, she’s an energy healer, a practice that has crossed over into her design work.

She likes to stamp uplifting or silly messages on the backs of her pieces, like “dream wildly” on a feather-and-turquoise pendant, or “yes” on a heart-shaped pendant (“because it’s great to say yes to your heart”).

“I want the messages to make the wearer feel good, and to smile. It’s also makes me laugh while I’m working, and laughter inspires my creativity.”

DeLargy’s jewelry is available on Etsy (shop name: ErinDeLargy); in select Boulder County locations like pARTiculars in Lafayette and the Arts Longmont Gallery; and at the numerous art shows she travels to throughout Colorado and sometimes out of state.

1. Erin DeLargy Jewelry and Designs
Michael Romero, Jaxy Blue (photo courtesy Jaxy Blue)

22 Jaxy Blue

Michael Romero’s designer leather handbags are the stuff dreams are made of—literally. He’s had clients come back to him days or weeks after they first saw his bags at an artisan show, explaining that they just had to have one because the bags showed up in their dreams.

“I’ve also had ladies tell me they’ve waited their entire life to find a bag like mine,” he says, “and I’ve had clients buy more than one at a time because they just can’t decide.”

So, what type of training is needed to create leather bags and accessories like these? For Romero, it started with going to shoe school. “I learned how to make shoes,” he says, “but shortly after that, I decided to expand into leather accessories of all types.”

He purchased a few hides of leather, practiced and practiced, and eventually taught himself how to create the high-quality, limited-edition Jaxy Blue bags he’s known for today. His handbags are different, he explains, because they’re completely hand-stitched.
“No electricity of any kind touches these bags,” he says. In fact, every single component is done exclusively by hand—from the rivets and snaps to the tassel, fringe and fur accents—taking at least three hours per bag in his Lafayette studio.

And his philosophy is simple: He wants his clients to connect with their new bag. “I want them to feel connected the minute they hit the ‘Buy it now’ button, stay connected while waiting for their bag to arrive, get reconnected when they pull their bag out of the box and put it on their shoulder for the first time, and remain connected for life.”
Jaxy Blue leather handbags are available at www.jaxyblue.com.

2. Jaxy Blue
Ann Raabe, BoldOver Belts (photo by Gerri Walsh)

33 BoldOver Belts

 

“Thin, hard, mean strips of leather.” That’s how Boulder designer Ann Raabe describes traditional, mass-manufactured belts.

“Regular belts are made for men, even though they’re marketed to women,” Raabe explains. “But they’re so uncomfortable on women, and they slither around as a cumbersome nuisance that one must constantly adjust.”

Growing up in Africa, Raabe noticed that sash belts there were synonymous with women and femininity. “Sash belts show off the female form in all of its glorious shapes and sizes, as they create the desired hourglass effect,” she says. And belts, she adds, are also a popular accessory because of their power to change the tone of an outfit.

So Raabe and her friend and business partner Lynn Thrale—who works long-distance from her home studio in London— created BoldOver Belts in 2015. They’re handmade just for
women, with a design that was carefully developed by Raabe and Thrale to arc upward to fit the female form. They’re comfortable and ergonomically sensible—“to fit like a second skin,” Raabe says—and they can be made for wearing either at the waist or the hip, depending on personal preference. Each one-of-a-kind buckle (in a swirl, paper-clip or squiggle design) is hand-hammered and hand-riveted from lightweight aluminum that won’t tarnish, while the belts are crafted from leather or repurposed bicycle innertubes.

“Lynn and I meet every year for a couple of weeks to tweak and further develop our product line,” says Raabe, who also handcrafts sculptural wall hangings, masks and transom portals on the side. The partners’ latest meeting led to an expansion of the product line to include pendants, earrings, cross-body purses, scarf buckles and hair buckles.

“It is our desire that women who wear BoldOver products feel beautiful, confident, and as original as our craft.”

BoldOver products can be purchased at www.boldoverbelts.com, at pARTiculars in Lafayette, and at local maker fairs like the Longmont Farmers’ Market craft show on the last Saturday of each month.

3. BoldOver Belts
Shari Moraga, Leo’s Dry Goods (photo courtesy Leos Dry Goods)

44 Leo’s Dry Goods

 

As a child, Shari Moraga would often hang out at her grandfather’s dry-goods store in New Jersey, sitting on an old wooden stool and helping customers. She still remembers how, back then, everything was made with natural materials and high-quality workmanship.

Today, Moraga carries on those traditions, right down to the name of her business, which honors both her grandfather and the past.

In her Boulder studio, she creates one-of-a-kind home textiles from all-natural fabrics like 100 percent cotton and 100 percent linen, decorated with what she calls “illustrations in thread.” She taps into her education and training as a decorative painter to create the simple but elegant free-motion embroidered designs featured on her pillows, aprons, tea towels, napkins and more. Many of her designs, like monogrammed towels and state-map pillows, are personalized to order.

“My machines are not the programmable kind, and thread is my ink,” she explains. “The designs are ‘drawn by hand’ using the machines, so the embroidery isn’t a machine-looking satin stitch like on a commercial item.” People often mistake her embroidery for screen-printing, so she always invites them to look closer so they can see the truth.
Moraga originally began by making small items as gifts, but then a friend suggested she apply to Firefly Handmade. She was accepted, sold almost everything in her booth, and never looked back.

“Hopefully I am making a difference, supplying people with handmade goods, modern with a nod to vintage,” she says. “They’re all made with love and nostalgia.”
Leo’s Dry Goods’ products are sold on www.leosdrygoods.com, at Eleanor in Louisville, and at Firefly Handmade markets (the next one is July 15-16 at Twenty Ninth Street).

4. Leo’s Dry Goods
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