There was never any question that Jeff Sailors and Patricia Carroll were going to open an art gallery. The only question was where.
Patricia grew up on California beaches until she moved to Casper, Wyo., in her late 20s. As much as she loved the ocean, she fell hard for the wild west and soon she found herself in Sedona, Ariz., where she painted and managed art galleries.
Jeff is a Colorado native who escaped Denver, then spent most of his life managing ranches in rural Colorado, Nebraska and Montana until he wandered into the red rocks of Sedona and noticed Patricia at an art show. They talked. He traded one of his hand-crafted horsehair inlaid vests for her oil painting of a cowboy and then, like a true son of the west, he moseyed on.
That was 20 years ago. She was married; he was footloose.
One day he was surfing (the internet) and came across another of Patricia's paintings. He checked the signature on his Sedona artwork and, sure enough, they matched. A flurry of emails later the couple reconnected.
It only took one trip to Cedaredge for Jeff and Patricia to fall in love with the rural Delta County community at the foot of Grand Mesa. It was just the sort of small western town they were seeking and they purchased a spread at 145 North Grand Mesa Drive. The property sits back from Highway 65 with spacious grounds, a historic house that dates back to 1897, and a rustic garage and poultry barn. It took a year and a week to create their Enchanted Mesa Gallery by converting the outbuildings to a gallery and working studio.
"I promised her a studio with light," smiled Jeff, "Her old studio was a windowless basement." And just in case you don't believe their old barn was once used to raise poultry, he'll proudly show you the turkey tracks embedded in the concrete -- they're one thing he didn't change in the renovation. "I'm keeping these," he said.
So the couple has settled into Cedaredge. Patricia paints, producing mostly western themes and pet portraits. And Jeff continues to create horsehair art. He also hand-carves intricate wax designs which are cast in sterling silver jewelry.
The couple also crafts facsimile "arborglyphs" resembling the designs historically carved into the bark of live aspen trees by western sheepherders. "We don't use real trees," Patricia noted. What looks like tree bark is really a thin plaster cast. The result is a translucent cylinder that makes a dramatic lamp shade or sconce.
Another specialty of the gallery is handcrafted horse masks which also function as lamp shades and sconces. Fashioned to resemble the ceremonial and conflict masks once worn by Native Americans, two of the masks are on display at the newly opened Grand Mesa Arts & Events Center (GMAEC).
The GMAEC is just around the corner from their gallery and both artists plan to teach classes there. Patricia will teach gourd decoration and Jeff will pass on the horsehair techniques. It's a skill he learned from an elderly ex-convict who in turn learned it while the old fellow was serving time in a western prison. The horsehair comes from China where Mongolian herds are raised exclusively to supply horsehair artists. "No horses are harmed," assured Jeff.
The couple's unique artwork was recently accepted into the juried show for the prestigious Western Design Conference that takes place every September in Jackson Hole, Wyo. They are currently working on a monumental horse mask chandelier for the competition.
The Enchanted Mesa Gallery is open Friday through Tuesday from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Call 970-852-9440 for information.