Firefly Handmade Fall Market Artisan Profile - Vela Apparel
The excitement and wonder of the journey is infused into every piece of clothing made by Vela Apparel. They’ve somehow managed to capture the joie de vivre of balmy summer nights, long hikes throughout the Rockies and the importance of deep belly laughs in all the beautiful t-shirts, tanks, hats and baby gear they create. Their carefully hand-crafted pieces are clothes you can feel good about: body, soul and mind. Drawn by hand, screen-printed and saturated with just the right amount of wanderlust, these goods keep sustainability in mind.
We’re delighted to have this powerhouse of positive energy at the Firefly Handmade Fall Market and wanted to learn more about their creative process. We’ll let Elise Reynolds, one half of this fearless duo, explain.
We love the explanation of your company name on your website. Can you tell us more about your love of the stars? How did you land upon this constellation's name?
My husband and business partner, Matt, and I love to travel. We both adore getting lost in a culture, and the way of life wherever we travel to. After a few days, we actually settle in and can relax without the normal routine of life. From there, my mind starts creating. Wherever we are, ideas come. Both of us will take time out of each day and sit in a coffee shop and he will work on the website or next plan for growth, and I will draw my next creation. These travels are what feed our love for each other, and our passions of creating.
When we were in Italy a little over a year ago, we were on the Mediterranean in the northern part of the country and it was downpouring for a couple days. This may ruin some vacations, but we were both thrilled. Our Airbnb overlooked the Mediterranean and was cozy and comfortable, so I started drawing our Whale that you will see on a couple shirts, and if I am wearing a tank top, you will see it on the back of my arm as well. This style and the combination of animal and environment came out of this place. The rest of the trip was spent being excited about what we could do with this design and the other few I made during the trip. When we were working on a name, we wanted something that had meaning, and ideally could be easily spelled ;). The name came out of the constellations that were seen while we were there. There is a large constellation called Argo Navis which is a big ship that floats across the Mediterranean, and Vela is the sails on this ship. It felt so serendipitous. Not only is this where we were, but we are always driven forward in our lives when we travel, and we always travel to the sea since we are landlocked in Colorado. As a bonus, we live in the Vail Valley, so it felt very appropriate.
Your drawings are incredible! Are you a classically trained artist?
I went to school for fine art. I studied mostly graphic design, but painting played a huge part in my education. I have always drawn, ever since I was a kid, and especially animals, so seeing all of these things come together makes my heart sing.
Can you tell us more about Matt?
He is my rock. Matt is my husband and my business partner. He always tells me we wouldn't be a company without me, but we wouldn't be one without him either. He designs our website, he makes me food when I am enveloped in a drawing, and he helps with all of our screen printing. On top of that, he is the one that does all the shipping and is working on our wholesale growth.
Could you talk to us more about sustainably made clothing? What does that mean? Why is it important?
As we start to grow, an important piece for us is being able to have sustainability. We want to have products that are made with the environment in mind when possible so that in our way we can give back. This winter we are introducing products made from recycled plastic bottles which we are thrilled about.
All of your work is handmade in Colorado. Could you please share more about the screen printing process?
I used to work in screen printing at the beginning of my graphic design career. I have always loved the process of finding the right design along with color combinations to create a beautiful shirt. When we moved up to the Vail area, we became friends with a local screen printing company. Through this evolved a partnership with them to print our shirts. On top of it, Matt has gotten to learn the process and has gotten to print a lot of our shirts himself by hand.
How do you want your audience to interact with your art?
What makes my day is when people feel connected to our products and our art. I see people find their spirit animal in them. Then when they are out in nature and share photos of themselves and loved ones rocking their Vela, I feel elated!
What is your favorite item right now in your line? Why?
Oy, that is a hard one. I think right now I am loving the deer. I made this deer for my sister in law. She feels drawn to the deer as her animal, and so I took that, and her love for the mountains and tequila...yes tequila and added in some flowers from the mountains along with an agave plant. There are also added trees and flourishes that remind me of her in the design. The final part is the moon. The moon for her beautiful pup, Moonshadow. This is how I think of all of my designs. Each one comes from someone and somewhere.
Why are you proud to be a Firefly Handmade Artisan?
To be amongst a community of other awesome makers...how could I not be proud? I love this opportunity to meet other creative folks, and in the town where we met??? Perfection!
Vela Apparel joins Firefly Handmade Fall Market at the Downtown Boulder Fall Fest - Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17. Be sure to save the date and join us! In the meantime you can connect here: