Laura Vallo Artist Feature

Landmark Presents exists to amplify artists whose work encourages 

inclusivity and stewardship of our public lands.

Laura is an artist and avid skier living in Telluride, Colorado. During the pandemic lockdown, she discovered a new craft—making rope rugs! Laura repurposes old climbing ropes to create beautiful landscapes, and as a result, she has received an overwhelming number of commissions. Her gorgeous pieces draw much-needed attention to repurposing wasteful materials.

The Landmark Project reached out to Laura to learn more about her craft, inspiration, and how she personally cares for the environment.

Is art a side hustle or hobby for you, or is it your day job? How has your career evolved?

Art is a side hustle! I never expected my art to gain such traction. After a big accident involving my dominant hand I took a big step back from doing anything artistic. I surprised myself getting back into it when COVID hit! I’ve been able to find mediums that are a little more gentle on my hand. I have a long line of commissions and I reach out when I’m wanting to make more pieces.

Where does your passion for art and the environment come from?

I’ve always loved running on trails! In college I studied Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. During this time I intensified my running and my love grew deeper. I loved taking notice of the little things. The impact of social trails, vegetation changes near different surfaces, etc. I took classes studying fluvial geomorphology, environmental ethics, and natural systems. With art, I think I’ve always been naturally inclined to doodle and create. And my love for rope art correlates a lot to my passion for building architectural models.

What's something you've done that you're really proud of?

I really pushed myself on my thesis to explore a somewhat foreign topic. I looked at stress recovery in virtual reality environments. I based my study on research conducted by Rachel and Stephan Kaplan and Roger Ulrich. I designed two virtual environments with different degrees of naturalness for people to explore. The study showed a positive correlation for stress recovery in these environments versus the baseline.

How did you get started creating rope rugs? Where do you source your materials?

I want to say that I am not the original rope artist! There are many incredible artists before me. I started during COVID after I saw Hailey Elise Art and her work and asked about it so I could make a gift for someone. It kind of spiraled interest from there! I live in such a small community that ropes now just show up. I went to the doctor the other day and when I got to the room I was in there was a rope waiting for me! People give them to my friends. The guide companies always offer to donate. And occasionally I’ll get tagged in a post on our local Facebook page with something along the lines of “looking for the rug lady.”

What are some simple things people can do to better care for the environment?

There are so many little things that can make an impact. Reusing, buying in bulk, purchasing second hand, and picking up trash. I also am a big advocate for responsible consumerism. I use an Australian site that tracks down the environmental ethics of different companies before making a big purchase. Any smaller purchases I try to do so second hand on Poshmark or at thrift stores. A lot of people are turned off by buying second hand but you can find things on Poshmark in very good condition.

Additionally, buying in bulk. I usually make my own teas by buying bulk leaves and try to buy everything else in larger quantities to prevent waste. Take time to educate yourself about recycling plastic. There’s an awesome Planet Money podcast on this. I use reusable sandwich and food bags, Beeswax wraps, and period cups. Cut where you can. Also know you always have room for improvement and taking baby steps is great.

I learned about the proper disposal of acrylic paints from Dayna ( I honestly had no idea! This inspired me to understand more about what I’m using, as well as trying to be better about not dumping plastic down the sink. I’ve learned a lot about ropes too. I reached out to an environmental specialist to help understand the impact of burning the rope versus recycling, who basically explained that burning nylon produces ammonia, carbon monoxide, and trace amounts of other gases . . . so not great. However, because a rope is made out of nylon (plastic), it won’t break down in a landfill. She explained that you can recycle rope, but recycling plastic has its negatives, such as the consumption of freshwater. Additionally, the rope has to get sorted through a shredder. Ropes often get wrapped around the machinery which then requires an employee to go untangle it. This can be very dangerous. It’s hard not to feel guilty when I have too many ropes now! Basically the message here is reuse and repurpose whatever you can. Cradle to cradle!

What’s your all time favorite outdoor space and why?

I really love the summit of Ajax. I’ve been up there 4 times now, and each time it’s just been myself and whoever I’m with and it’s always been insanely peaceful. It's good to remove yourself from the crazy touristy town below you and have views that humble you with the vast unending views of the mountains surrounding.

Thanks, Laura, for sharing your work and passion for Mother Nature with us! We look forward to adopting some of your tips and seeing what you produce next!

Give her a follow on Instagram!

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