There are few Colorado towns quite as iconic as Crested Butte; from spectacular alpine panoramas to 19th century charm, this little mountain town is bursting with character. While in more recent history Crested Butte is often referenced for its status as one of Colorado’s best ski towns, the area can trace its roots to mining activity in the 1800s. In tribute to the town’s storied past, Crested Butte local, Sarah Van Dyk, uses relics of Crested Butte’s mining days in order to create jewelry that speaks to the mountain culture that inspired the design.
From Mountain to Medallion
Van Dyk, founder and owner of Caldo Designs, came upon the idea of working with vintage glass from mining sites while hiking with her husband in the area. “With all the mining that used to be around the town, I kept finding pieces of glass lying on the trails,” she explains, “Once I started looking at the pieces, I realized that they were really interesting and unique.” Much of the glass Van Dyk started noticing along the mountain trails is very reminiscent of beach glass because it has been exposed to the elements for years. She had been shipping in sea glass to use for her designs, but realized that with all the broken glass lying around the surrounding hillsides, she had found a new niche to build upon. Similarly, when the town dump was excavated, Van Dyk used the opportunity to salvage bottles that date back to the 1800s, and recognized the unique opportunity she had to incorporate vintage glass from the area to create new designs.
A trained glass blower, Van Dyk made the transition to fused glass several years ago, and now uses it exclusively for her work. Similarly, she switched from designing housewares and lighting fixtures to focus more on jewelry, as it’s less resource intensive and she found that it complements her want to use upcycled glass from the area. Fusing glass is much different from glass blowing, which primarily relies on torch work to give unique shape to the glass pieces. Explains Van Dyk, “With fusing glass, most of the work happens before and after it goes into the kiln. The cold working process, or what happens after it comes out of the kiln, is the part where the glass is ground, polished, and sand blasted.” While many glass artists have been moving away from working with fused glass because of the popularity of glass blowing, Van Dyk seems to have found a new inspiration with the technique and the found glass, “It’s created a renewed focus working with fused glass and the shattered pieces I kept finding; it’s a chance for me to work with unique elements from the area and create my own style.”
As a side note on conservation, Van Dyk emphasizes the leave-no-trace philosophy and guidelines by only hiking on trails that grant public access, and sourcing glass that she finds in these public areas. Visit Caldo Design’s website, or follow her on her Instagram handle @caldodesigns. Additionally, you can find Sarah every Sunday at the Crested Butte Farmer’s Market to check out her high mountain designs.