It seems fitting today that I’d planned to share Artifact Uprising, a Colorado-based photo book company inspired by “the disappearing beauty of the tangible” – especially poignant given the recent destruction of all things tangible in Oklahoma’s tornado tragedy yesterday. Their story is one that reverberates the exploring and shifting and re-building of dreams; one that I hope the Oklahoma creatives – and all of us – can hold dear.
To be fair, sisters Katie Thurmes and Jenna Walker founded Artifact Uprising on accident. The pair were running a successful photography businesses and, as Katie writes, had “arrived to a place we could have stayed.” Instead, they felt a whisper of more – a quiet pull to do better and learn more and aim higher. “I think it’s part of the creative process,” Katie writes. “To always be thinking about that ‘next thing’ you want for your life – that thing that seems congruous with who you want to become, that thing that challenges you and keeps you learning.”
Still, the sisters tuned out the whisper and, instead, Katie set out on a life-changing trip to Ethiopia. (This part of their story touched me in a particularly unique way, as I’m headed there myself in a few short months.) “Returning back to the daily grind, I couldn’t shake that feeling of how right things felt abroad,” Katie writes. “I had fears that maybe I had missed my calling.” It’s a fear and doubt that I think every creative – every person – can relate to. Did I focus on the wrong art medium? Should I have launched this blog? Am I devoting my time to the right passions?
“Like any good journey, we threw a little time at it and kept coming back to our idea for a photo book company,” Katie writes. “Technology will always be evolving and the preferred method of digital archiving will evolve just as well. But the printed photo – like the handwritten letter – will always have a place as the keeper of our stories.”
And so, they jumped into the idea, creating a brand that values design and community and change – a brand that focuses on truth and honesty and – above all – a responsibility to our environment. What began as a commitment to recycled papers has grown into environmental impact assessments of each product, finding ways to make a net positive contribution to the resources they deplete. Most recently, the sisters planted a tree for every order received. “All cliches aside, we want to make every day Earth Day.”
Their latest product, a wood block photo holder, is handcrafted from the sea of Colorado’s fallen grey trees – beetle-kill pine – scattering waste across more than four million acres. “We see this as a pretty cool reminder of an otherwise storied past – and the markings of a new future,” writes Katie.
I see such a beautiful picture in this story. Like the wood scraps rescued from America’s Rocky Mountains, the Artifact Uprising sisters have allowed themselves to be plucked into the unfamiliar territory of business-building and growth – carved into something new entirely. “We’re not natural-born big-time business moguls,” Katie writes. “We don’t drive fancy cars and wear fancy suits. Truth is, we’re a group of people who believe you can make a difference from the very spot you’re standing.”
(To make a difference in Oklahoma, here’s how to help.)
p.s. The magazine with a similar mission.
p.p.s. Katie’s sage advice to creatives: Creativity on command is the most difficult kind to summon, yet it’s the very art expected from the working creative. So put space between it. Get out there and live a life away from that art, find spaces that widen your world. Let creativity be the symptom of a life well-lived.