Meeting locals, asking their advice, chatting with craftsmen and women and artisan food and wine producers, not to mention craft beer brewers, is one of my favourite aspects of travelling. I love stumbling across communities where such businesses thrive from a glass sculptor in Puglia to a balsamic vinegar producer in Modena.
Breckenridge in Summit County in the heart of the USA is just such a community. I recently had the chance to catch-up with local craftswoman Louise Denny, from the Glass Art Company, to find out more about her work and life in this beautiful region of Colorado.
Louise, originally from England, moved to Breckenridge in 2013 with her American husband. I was curious what brought them to Summit County and led them to starting their own business.
Louise explained “My husband Jesse and I moved to Breckenridge in December 2013. After spending the winter here we knew we wanted to make it our home. The inspiration for opening a glass-etching studio came from Iowa where Jesse’s Dad had been engraving wine bottles for a number of years, as gifts for weddings, birthdays and anniversaries.”
“Ultimately we wanted a business where we could be creative and have fun. And all our hard work is rewarded with snowboarding on powders days, sunset hikes and Colorado craft beer, which is plentiful in Breck’s bars and restaurants.”
The designs from the Glass Art Company can be bold and cheerful or exquisitely detailed and I was interested in finding out more about the techniques involved and the inspiration behind the finished pieces.
“There are different techniques to use depending on the shape of the glass and the type of finish you want. One of the more unique things we have mastered is how to etch photographs into glass. This is a more complex process but the result is an etched picture that will never fade.”
I asked if they took inspiration from the area when creating new designs.
“Absolutely. Some of our most popular designs are ones that incorporate the mountain range or elements of our surroundings such as aspen trees and the local wildlife – foxes, bears and moose.”
“Visitors love to take home a unique souvenir and we love being able to design something that includes elements of their holiday, such as hiking or skiing and snowboarding.”
Louise clearly loves her work. Her passion shines through. When I asked “What do you love most about the running The Glass Art Company?” She didn’t hesitate.
“Every day is different. We get to meet people from all walks of life and interpret their ideas and wishes to create truly personalized gifts and keepsakes. Customers can watch us engrave their order too. The design process is very collaborative and we love trying new things.”
“In the summer we etch lots of wedding gifts, with our specialty being keepsake wine bottles, on which we etch and hand paint the bride and groom’s wedding invitation. We are told time and time again, that this gift was ‘the best ever’ and that is always a great feeling. The very best part is word of mouth recommendations, and the customers who you get to see every time they are here on holiday, sometimes a few times a year.”
I was curious to know more about the town they had chosen to settle in – it sounds a wonderful place to visit – and asked “What do you think most draws visitors to Breckenridge?”
“It’s full of character, and is bustling with unique shops, restaurants and museums. It is a relatively short but scenic drive from Denver and once you are here you can do as little or as much as you like. In the winter the main draw is undoubtedly the amazing snow, and a mountain suitable for all ages and abilities. But really Breckenridge is a year-round destination and in the summer visitors love the being outside, exploring the town and relaxing to the slower pace of mountain life.”
Louise is as passionate about Breckenridge as she is her company so I was eager to know what else she enjoys doing in the area.
“During the summer, my absolute favourite thing is hiking. The scenery and wildflowers are nothing short of spectacular. Nearby is Quandary Mountain – which is one of Colorado’s mountains with a peak elevation of over 14,000 feet, and climbing that is on my to-do list for this summer.”
“There are plenty of other outdoor activities, such as horse riding, mountain biking and golf, but sometimes I just like to sit by the Blue River, or after a busy day, enjoy happy hour drinks on one of the town’s many bar patios!” Sounds good to me, I thought.
What makes places like Breckenridge so special though isn’t just one person or business but rather the whole community. And I was interested to know what other arts and crafts businesses might a visitor to Breckenridge find.
“Breckenridge has an abundance of fine art galleries, and many artisan shops where you’ll find handmade jewellery, clothing and crafts. Wandering Daisy is one of my favourites and just a few doors down from our shop, you’ll find The Fresh Soap Company where Kim hand makes all her (soap and body) products on site. If you want to do something creative, Ready Paint Fire is the place to go. There you can paint your own canvas or pottery and even make fused glass art.”
Louise also had some more great tips to share for first time visitors to the Breckenridge and Summit County.
“Stop by the Welcome Center on Main Street by Blue River Plaza when you arrive. Here you can pick up a town map and find out about special events and offers. You can also join a walking tour which is a really fun way to see the town and hear about its eventful history.”
She also added “If you want to go further afield and don’t have a car, the town and county bus system is free, so you can visit places like the neighbouring town of Frisco or go down to the Breckenridge Distillery on Airport Road. Don’t forget that Breckenridge is at an elevation of 9600ft, so to avoid altitude sickness it can help to drink plenty of water in the few days leading up to your visit, and while you are here.”
Lastly I asked Louise what she most enjoy about living in Summit County.
“When I moved to America from England, I really didn’t want to live in a big city with five-lane highways, so Summit County is the perfect size. Breckenridge is small enough that you will always see someone you know in the supermarket, but big enough to always have something going on. The town’s calendar of events is always jam-packed and being able to get involved with things like farmers markets, and food festivals is so much fun.”
“The best thing I would say however, is the climate and the four distinct seasons. While the winter lasts the longest (snow in May!), the spring sunshine, summer flowers and autumn colours are probably the things I enjoy the most.”
Louise and Jesse were bold enough to make the decision to move to Summit County and establish their own much longed for business. Chasing their dreams has clearly paid off. If you are ever in their neck of the woods be sure to pop by and maybe commission a glass etching of your own. Whether as a souvenir of a memorable holiday or something more significant, their designs make beautiful gifts and keepsakes. Be sure to check out the other arts and craft shops, the local farmer’s market, Colorado’s craft beers and don’t forget the Breckenridge Distillery. And what better way to work up a thirst then hiking through the stunning local countryside. Breckenridge is my kind of town.
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Photography courtesy of the Glass Art Company and Breckenridge tourism. Image credits: Foxes by Jenise Jenson, Horse riders by Gary Soles, Golf course with distant snow-capped mountains by Carl Scofield.
Brought to you in association with Breckenridge tourism.