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Minnesota-born and Aspen-based, a chance encounter with printmaking in a random college elective course put 27 year-old artist Lauren Poppie on a path she never expected, but somehow, always knew was coming. “I always felt like something was missing”, says Poppie. That same kind of serendipity has guided her to the grand landscapes of the Mountain West in Colorado, where she now calls home, and continues to be a through-line in her artwork that have brought certain dreams to life.
Her penchant for creating intricately-detailed art inspired by the local wildlife and natural world made it an obvious choice for the latest set of graphics for the 2021/2022 ski season. Curious to know more about this unique process and her inspirations, we picked her brain to talk all things printmaking, Colorado, and those fateful moments that might just change everything.
Tell us a little bit about your artistic medium: woodcut relief printmaking. What is it and how does it work?
Printmaking is kind of an older medium, it’s something they used to use for newspapers and books. And the way that I do that is by working with wood. Basically, I’ll start by drawing on the wood, making rough outlines and then I start my carving process.
An easy way to think about what I do is I make a large, hyper-detailed stamp on the wood. So, I carve out all the negative space around the drawing. Once I finish carving everything out, I do my printing process. You use ink and a roller and roll the ink on top of the print, put the paper on and run it through a press. When you pull the paper back the relief impression of the carving is what’s left on the paper.
How did you discover woodcut relief printmaking? And out of everything else, why did this one stick?
I studied at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and had never even heard of printmaking before. I started out as a graphic design major and immediately knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do. So, I changed to Hotel Restaurant and Tourism Management because I love to travel, and as a random elective I took printmaking. Within one week, I decided to stay in school an extra year and get a degree in studio art. I like to paint and draw, but I focus a lot on the detail and textures which is what made me fall in love with it.
You’re currently located in Aspen, Colorado. What brought you there?
I initially moved out here for an internship at the Little Nell Hotel in Aspen. I decided to stay for a year to experience the summer season and winter in the mountains, but now it’s been four years and I’m still here just absolutely loving it. It’s very different from where I grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, so this is a very different lifestyle but I’m having so much fun and loving it every day.
Is skiing or outdoor adventure a big part of your life?
Yes, it’s become a big part of my life. I grew up being outside, but not in the way that I have been since moving here. So, it’s been cool to start skiing and do outdoor sports as an adult. I absolutely love skiing and taking hiking and backpacking trips in the summer.
What is it like to see your art on a pair of skis?
It’s so cool and such a surreal feeling. Since the first season I moved to Aspen, I noticed how excited people were about their new skis, or if they got to do their own customs, and in the back of my mind I thought it would be so cool to do ski design. This is something I wanted to do for a few years and now that it’s actually happening it’s awesome. I’m really excited to spot them on the mountain.
Do you have a favorite piece or something you’d like to do someday but haven’t done yet?
One I’m very proud of right now is called, “Textures of Colorado”, which is a two-part piece, and one half of it is on one of the topsheets. It’s 44 x 38” in total and it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done, it took me forever to finish. To pull the first print and see what it looks like was so cool. Being able to translate the awe I feel about being in the mountains as a hand drawn print felt like a full-circle moment for me. It’s the biggest and most detailed piece I’ve ever done, and I’m really excited. You can see the full piece in the gallery on my website.