Father-daughter team in Steamboat collaborates on sculptures | SteamboatToday.com

Father-daughter team in Steamboat collaborates on sculptures

Nicole Inglis

Siara Atkinson and her dad, Leo, cut a piece of granite in their Steamboat Springs studio. Leo, who has been a fixture in the Steamboat Springs art community for years, has begun to collaborate with his daughter. The artists will be featured at the Artists' Gallery of Steamboat as part of December's First Friday Artwalk.

— In the west Steamboat birthplace of artist Leo Atkinson's mineral sculpture creations, cartoon posters hang from the wall and all of the clocks are stuck at a different time.

Over a case filled with small minerals and crystals hangs a handwritten message in black marker on a paper towel, covered with a layer of dust:

"Don't forget to eat!" reads the note. It was written by a then-college-age Siara Atkinson.

Now 23, Siara is a fixture in the studio — and on the road at mineral shows and deliveries — as an apprentice to her father.

"It's amazing," Leo said Friday in his studio as the two worked on drilling stones and ogling some new acquisitions: fossilized coral from Florida. "I've never had anyone like that to help me out. She makes me eat and do all the things I need to do."

The pair collaborate on the final products, and the pieces on display this month at the Artists' Gallery of Steamboat bear the marks of father and daughter.

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These works will be on display as part of the show "Terra Firma: Above and Below," which complements the work of new gallery member and photographer Dana Stoner. Stoner's photography of animals represents the goings on above the ground while the Atkinsons' minerals signify the below.

The show opens as part of First Friday Artwalk from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 7.

Leo and Siara collaborated on pieces Leo calls "small and beautiful — just like my daughter."

His career of 30 years surrounded Siara throughout her childhood, and for the past 10 years, she's been on the road with her brother Dusty and Leo cracking geodes at art shows and Renaissance fairs as the Geode Guys.

Siara went to the University of Colorado Boulder to study sociology and psychology. Still, she took a few geology classes here and there. Her love of rocks was magnified as she learned the science behind how they're created.

And ever since graduation 1 1/2 years ago, her full-time gig is drilling into granite, crystals, minerals and fossils with her father, helping to conceive the art pieces, balance them, shape them and finish them so they can be sold at shows across the country.

The work in "Terra Firma" is distinctly Atkinson, with exotic minerals and fossils mounted on granite bases rigged to rotate in circles to show off the intricacies of the rocks.

And Siara's eye has had an influence: She recently had her father mount a piece 90 degrees from the angle he originally envisioned. He said it works.

"That's what's neat about this team we have going here," Siara said. "It's all discussion."

"It's not like she's a laborer you're just paying on an hourly basis," he said. "She's in here helping with the creations."

Leo said that if aliens come and get him tomorrow, he'll be satisfied knowing he passed on his one-of-a-kind process and craft to someone in his family.

Siara said that she's not sure she wants to take on the mineral sculptures as a full-time job one day but that she finds immense joy in the work and learning about all of the heart and soul that goes into it.

"As long as he's on this Earth, we'll be close, and I'll be working with him," Siara said.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com