Featured Artist, Elise Wehle
Orem, Utah, United States
Q & A with Jeff
Tell us who you are, your background and if you came from a family that was artistic.
My name is Jeff Lambert. I grew up in Scottsdale Arizona for most my life, but moved to Colorado in 2009 for school and have been here ever since! Ever since a young age I’ve loved exploring and being outside doing fun activities including climbing. My cousin brought my buddy and I bouldering outside for the first time to Camelback Mountain when we were in middle school and it’s been amazing ever since! I love to be creative through music and have been writing tunes and playing in bands since I was 15. Growing up, my older brother Drew was always doing something creative and had awesome artistic skills, always making something different and unique, and still uses those skills today. I got a lot of inspiration from that and realized I could do a similar thing! I told myself from an early age that a full time job is not for me and I could find ways to make a suitable income by doing the things that I love while giving myself the freedom to travel and explore; In my opinion, traveling is one of the best forms of education! Aside from playing writing music and making art pieces, I also own and operate a kayak tour business out on Cape Cod for the summer time called “Great Marsh Kayak Tours".
Where did your art story begin and how has creating art impacted and shaped your life?
I always hate to throw out stuff that is still useful and love to find a way to up-cycle stuff that’s destined for the landfill. At an old residence of mine, a roommate who worked at a climbing gym had a bunch of old retired ropes that were not suitable for climbing anymore, but still good colorful rope. I took a few of them mainly because I didn't want to throw them away and I'd find a use for them eventually. Fast forward two years, in the early stages of the pandemic when we all had to quarantine and realized this is more than just a little flu going around, I needed something to keep me busy otherwise I’d go insane sitting still all day. Then it hit me that I had all those ropes and I could turn them into some sort of art piece. I picked a yellow and blue rope I had and chose something simple to start off, a blue anchor with a yellow background. I pulled out a pair of dull scissors, a hot glue gun, a lighter and a piece of cardboard and got to work. I drew out the anchor and started cutting the ½ inch thick rope to length, burning the frayed ends and gluing it to the cardboard until I had a legitimate shape forming. I chose to make it on a square background and made which I realized took up way too much rope for negative space, so for the next piece I made the object and put a colored border around it so it kept the shape of the object. Half way through my hand was killing me using a pair of dull scissors and I had a blister on my thumb from using the lighter so I immediately went out and bought a heated rope cutting gun which cuts and melts the end of the rope in one go!
From there I made a few small pieces like a guitar, an elephant, a mountain scape, a butterfly and a tree. The cool thing is that it’s attractive to the outdoorsy folks who climb, but also just a cool means of an art piece for any type of person. I posted them on facebook because I was proud of how they turned out and I thought it was a unique idea, but had no intention of selling them or anything. I got a lot of positive feedback and a few of my friends separately reached out saying how they loved them and how they would buy one from me. Then it hit me. I could turn this into a business, make some money during the pandemic and keep myself entertained during quarantine!
Once I realized I wanted to expand, I realized I needed more colors and more rope. I reached out to all the climbing gyms and was able to take their retired ropes off their hands. I also went onto facebook and posted in outdoor/climbing groups based in the Boulder/Denver area to see if i could get other climbers retired ropes which worked out well! I still use both of those methods to gather ropes and now has a stacked garage of retired climbing ropes with every color imaginable.
Where did you learn your craft for creating artworks out of climbing rope?
It just kinda came to be out of boredom. I knew people made climbing rope rugs and things like that, but I had never seen hanging wall art pieces made from climbing rope. I had a bunch of rope and knew I could up-cycle it into something cool! One awesome thing about climbing rope as an art medium is that most every rope is made up of different blends of colors and rarely do I ever get the exact same colored rope twice; there are so many possibilities.
How would you describe your style of art?
I try to make it unique and different from something you have seen before. I started off making objects that I enjoy such as a guitar or a tree, but then I started taking commissions and will customize an idea someone may have, so that forced me to make really cool things I normally wouldn’t have thought of myself. I love music as well so I started making band logos or mascots such as the dancing bear from The Grateful Dead or the Phish logo which have caught the eye of a lot of deadheads!
Take us into your art studio and describe step by step on how your ideas formulate into physical work.
Almost all my pieces start with a client having an idea or an image they are excited on me making. After that, I'll take a blank canvas and free hand draw that idea on the canvas as a guide of where to place the rope. Most times it goes smoothly, other times, not so much. I'll follow the lines as best as possible but sometimes once I start laying the rope down, the design changes from the sketch. I have a lot of different shades of most all colors, so as I start, I'll look through all my ropes that I have separated out by color and pick the best color version to fit the piece. Sometimes, I'll lay down the whole piece, look at it, and it looks off, so i'll tear half of it apart and rebuild until it looks better!
Sometimes I'll recreate a piece I've already made, in which case, I'll usually freehand it as I have the picture of the previous piece as a guide. I also have a mandala piece that I created on a blank canvas that I completely made up as I went along from start to finish to really give it the free spirit look a mandala should have. Once a piece is all finished and I'm psyched on it, I'll cut it out from the backing, find the center balance point and add the small rope fixture on the back so it can hang evenly on a wall. I send a picture of the final product to the client before I mail it to make sure they are psyched on it as well. Sometimes folks have some critiques on colors or positioning of rope that they want me to change. I welcome these critiques as I want every piece to be something the client is excited to hang on their wall and look at every time they walk past it!
I create because...
Every piece is different and I'm always excited to see how it may turn out. It keeps me busy and gets my creative side of my brain working and gives me excitement to see the finished product. It’s a cool feeling to know that people have a one of a kind unique piece of art made by myself that they cherish. Social media is a great means to get the word out on my art, and so far I have made and delivered pieces all over the United States, Italy, Switzerland, Canada and England!
What is your favorite art tool to use when creating?
Not exactly a tool, but the reason I love making art from retired climbing rope is every rope has its own unspoken stories behind it. Most ropes have seen lots of climbs; maybe a climber's first ascent, their hardest climbing, up a multi pitch multiple day climb, an epic fall, or simply just great memories at a special climbing spot with their best friends. When folks give me their retired ropes, I offer to make them a piece using their special ropes so it will live on as a piece of art!
Are you available for commissioned works? If so, what can you create?
As of now, all my pieces are custom commissioned pieces made to order. Folks will send me a message on either my instagram or facebook to discuss a design. I enjoy doing it this way as it gives people the freedom to pick a color scheme and design they are psyched on and it also gives me the opportunity to make a bunch of cool pieces I normally wouldn't think of making. It presents me with a fun challenge to see if I can even pull it off, and as of now, luckily there hasn't been a custom piece that I wasn't able to pull off!
What new projects or collections are you working on right now?
I have a few cool ideas I'm going to work on and inspirations/heroes I want to try to reach out to for some collaborations.