BreckCreate: Elise Brewster brings woven orbs to streets of Breckenridge |

BreckCreate: Elise Brewster brings woven orbs to streets of Breckenridge

Krista Driscoll /

Elise Brewster

2-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25 — Demonstration: Open Studio at the Tin Shop, free

Noon to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26 — Exhibit: Woven Illumination Installation, Tin Shop, free

Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27 — Exhibit: Woven Illumination Installation, Tin Shop, free

9-11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27 — Dance party with DJ Cyn, featuring Brewster’s woven willow firefly costumes, Ceramic Studio, free

Noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28 — Exhibit: Woven Illumination Installation, Tin Shop, free

More information: Email

Berkeley, California, artist Elise Brewster is in residence at the Tin Shop on Washington Avenue in the Breckenridge Arts District this weekend, creating illuminated natural sculptures to light the pathways into the district’s preview event, Thursday, Sept. 25, through Sunday, Sept. 28.

The idea for Brewster’s installation came from a conversation with Arts District manager Jenn Cram, who suggested an environmental piece for the event.

“I like to work from the site, be able to collaborate with the land and the site and the people,” Brewster said. “She said, ‘Let’s do something that demarcates the Arts District and helps highlight where it is and the fact that it really links the Riverwalk Center up Washington into this campus.’”


The two women settled on the idea of woven illuminations, like a dozen dots that march up the street and into the campus, Brewster said, but the artist wasn’t quite sure how it would all come together. Serendipity did its thing to provide her with materials.

“I got here and I said, ‘I hope I can have some willow cuttings,’” Brewster said. “I walked down the Riverwalk my first day here and found a pile of willow cuttings.”

A collaborative effort among members of the parks department and other town employees resulted in the cuttings being bundled and moved to the Tin Shop and freshly sharpened cutters and clippers being procured for the artist to trim and begin shaping the branches. Beetle-kill lodgepole pines will supply the supports to hang the finished pieces.

“I wanted everything to kind of be harvested from here,” Brewster said. “It’s about climate, about minimizing our impact, harvesting local, so to make a piece, these are all right here. I think this is Rocky Mountain willow, growing right in the Blue River, harvested by the town.

“I’m so impressed by the collaboration and generosity and supportive energy for making art in this town. For someone like me to come into a town like that and to be so supported is just wonderful.”


Brewster has been an artist since her earliest memory, she said, long before pursuing dual master’s degrees in landscape architecture and sculpture from the University of California, Berkeley.

“My first memory as a child was carving, taking a fake piece of jewelry and carving the antique headboard of my bed,” she said. “You can imagine that was a memorable event. It’s interesting to me that it combines sculpture and drawing, which are the prime modes of my work. I go back and forth between the two.”

Brewster came to Breckenridge in 1996 as one of the town’s first public artists commissioned to paint the utility boxes along the Riverwalk. She said many of the elements that she pursued with those first pieces, such as seeking community involvement, have become part of the public art tradition in Breckenridge.

“I learned a lot as an artist because I was asked to come back and explain myself and defend and explain my work,” she said. “My theme was to follow the history of Breckenridge through these boxes, so the last, the 1996 box, was all about language from different times, based on a series of interviews with fourth-graders about the local language, so it was very collaborative.”


Brewster’s three-week residency leading up to the Arts District campus preview began with a week of harvesting, soaking and training the willow branches into curves for her orbs. She’s also been creating woven willow costumes in the shape of fireflies that will be hung with solar lanterns for dancers at the Saturday-night dance party at the Ceramic Studio.

“I’ve used every single second trying to get this ready,” she said. “Now I’m spending the second week starting the costumes and getting that defined and then starting to shape the willows. They were bound in circles, so I’m taking them and making the lanterns, weaving them. And then we’ll start installing them on Thursday, hopefully.

“They’re going to have lights within them, and the lights we’re trying to do as much as we can with solar, battery-operated, more sustainable lighting.”

Brewster said creating from what already exists and allowing its inherent “whateverness” to emerge is really powerful and important and needs to be more supported.

“These are where the creative solutions for our future will come, out of that process, so I’m grateful, really grateful, and hopefully I won’t disappoint them or myself,” she said.

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