Meet the Makers 1

Let us introduce you to some of Colorado’s many creative souls and their unique fields of work.

Mario Zoots


Ten years ago, a little problem solving sparked Mario Zoots passion for modern photographic collage and appropriation.

With no more room for paintings in his Capitol Hill apartment, Zoots began making small collages with images he found in discounted and damaged books, abandoned photographs and old magazines.

Initially, he liked how he could work small and keep pieces compact, but eventually this medium became his main voice of artistic expression. He explores the Pop Era through reproduction, duplication and multiples, while incorporating reoccurring themes of surrealism.

Zoots received his BFA from Metropolitan State University and MA from the University of Denver. He is now an adjunct professor at Metropolitan State University in the fine art foundations department.

“Psychology, mythology and the paranormal are influential to my appropriation based works,” Zoots says. “Re-imagination is my signature style.”

Where Wood Meets Steel

Ryan Dirksen & Marina Chotzinoff

Founders, Designers and Makers

Creativity can be expressed in many forms, and for co-founders Ryan Dirksen and Marina Chotzinoff, their old careers in cooking and web design were put on the backburner so they could carve their own path.

That path involved their favorite material to work with – wood. They design and build beautiful and functional pieces of furniture inspired by trees themselves.

Dirksen, the main founder, is a self-taught artist who began collecting tools and learning the woodworking trade until they opened Where Wood Meets Steel in 2007. Eventually Dirksen and Chotzinoff bought their own space in 2011 and now have three full-time employees helping with local and national (plus a few global) projects for individuals and businesses.

Their favorite pieces are those highlighting the unique quality of each slab with minimal, clean lines that are timeless in style and build.

“As we mill and process our own trees into slabs and lumber, we are fortunate to be able to decide how to optimize each tree,” Chotzinoff says. “Once opened, every slab is different and often spectacular in its own way.”

Blackbird and The Snow

Owner & Designer

Marie – Juliette Bird

The best way to describe Blackbird and The Snow’s jewelry is en vogue. In fact, Marie – Juliette Bird’s star earrings even donned the cover of Vogue.

The Boulder-based jewelry maker’s inspiration is nature’s symbolism and the challenge of creating handmade, artisanal pieces instead of the more common machine-made methods prevailing the last decade.

Juliette Bird discovered the pre-industrial era techniques for jewelry making while living in London and apprenticing with master jeweler David Courts.

Originally, Juliette Bird moved to the United Kingdom to work on an album with her band, Blackbird and The Storm. It was while she collected charms from an antique market that her path changed to creating jewelry. These old Victorian era charms remain the heart of her collection.

“I love the inception of an idea, and the journey from that seed to a finished talisman,” Juliette Bird says. “I also love working with luminous elements from the natural world; staring at opals and moonstones is transformative.”


Owners & Makers

Steve Stanton & Preston Utley

Two photographers had one simple goal: If something doesn’t exist on the market for their cameras that they want, they’ll make it happen.

That’s how Artisan Obscura, founded by Steve Stanton and Preston Utley, first began. Since they’ve opened their doors in 2012 they’ve been covering a niche market that allows people to personalize their cameras.

The co-founders both have something to offer: Stanton has a long family line of woodworkers and has shown Utley the ropes. On the other hand, Utley is a professionally trained photographer and provides guidance to Stanton and his photography.

Combining their two passions has resulted in one-of-a-kind soft release buttons and hot shoe covers. It all started with wood, but the makers are now dabbling in other materials like silver, bronze and black ionized bronze.

“Money follows passion, so seek your passion with everything you have,” Stanton says. “And, if possible, share it with the world.”

HIM Clothing

Founders & Designers

Hugh Hartigan & Chris Reynders

Hugh Hartigan and Chris Reynders, artists and self-taught tailors based in Denver, are both part owner, designers and creative directors of HIM Clothing, a locally-sourced, handmade menswear line.

Hartigan and Reynders are childhood friends who taught themselves how to design ties, pocket squares and bow ties. Their main tool of the trade are two 1950s Singer sewing machines.

Thanks to a handbook on how to make neckties by David Coffin and a whole lot of trial and error, the duo now design custom-printed accessories meant to last as heirlooms.

Their artistic training in everything from drawing and ceramics, to lithography and painting, fueled the creativity needed for fashion design. A strong personal sense of style also helped. Each design starts out as a simple sketch and the process begins from there.

“Artists have the privilege of creating something out of nothing,” Hartigan says. “It’s a special talent that not everyone has and something I have never taken for granted.”

Winter Session

Tanya Fleisher & Roy Katz

Founders, Designers and Makers

Winter Session’s roots weren’t always in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver. The now well-known shop originally started as a side project in the storefront of Tanya Fleisher and Roy Katz’s shop in Chicago.

“We bought a couple of old Singer sewing machines and started playing around with some basic bag and apron shapes made from materials we found at the thrift store,” Fleisher says.

One thing that has remained the same is Fleisher and Katz’s interest (and experience) in sewing. Katz learned his sewing technique from his mother and integrated this technique into projects during his years at art school, and later, in architecture school. Fleisher learned how to sew during school and also used sewing in her sculptural projects.

The husband-and-wife duo draws inspiration from all over the world, their two years spent living in Mumbai, India being the biggest influence. Mumbai happens to be where they first heard the cryptic phrase “winter session” from a lone businessman’s short interaction.

“To us it signified — and still signifies — shift and change,” says Fleisher.

“Leather is a natural, living material that we’ve come to greatly respect,” Fleisher says. “Each hide is unique and to work with it properly you need to develop a sensitive, almost intuitive touch.”