Carbondale Painter Sarah Uhl Invites Discussion Through Wearable Art
Like many behind bars, Sarah Uhl bides her time seeking. She pursues the answers to Big Questions, finds moments of geological ecstasy, and relishes opportunities for unadulterated joy. As an artist, she documents all of these with whimsical exaltation.
Uhl works out of the historic Carbondale jail, where she’s created a stylish, welcoming studio. Stacks of originals, prints, cards, brushes, paints, and product are a colorful contrast to dusty old brick walls; her string lights and lo-fi add warmth to a diggable scene. Rigorous discipline and the creative life are evident. The drive Uhl once applied as a world champion bike racer has shifted gears; nowadays she’s finding balance and purpose through art and environmental conservation work.
“I think right now, in the outdoor industry, I have a really great opportunity to develop a career as a storyteller with art as my primary message,” she says. “Brands are realizing how art can crack people open and invite curiosity.”
Her work is everywhere, from community walls to ads to apparel.
On Style and Motivation
“When I think about style, I think about the causes we associate ourselves with and the beat of the drum we march to. So, that’s how I think about my art: What do I want to say to the world? And what’s the story behind the way it looks? The way it looks is just a lure into a bigger question, curiosity, or consciousness,” Uhl says. “Everything I do is related to conservation—whether it’s public land conservation, water conservation or just the joy we can find in nature. So I hope that my art, whether it’s a trucker hat or a painting, is another in-road for people to spend more time outside.”
“I’ve not done too much merchandise because I like to tell stories more so than sell goods,” Uhl reveals. “But when I have partnered up to [develop] wearable items, I have to resonate really well with who they are and what they’re about, as well.”
Of the women’s brand Coalition Snow, which approached Uhl to develop topsheets for their premier skis, she says that “seeing my artwork leave the computer screen or a piece of paper—I love the energy of my work taking on these new shapes and being carried into the world on functional goods.”
Free Range Equipment crafts sport-specific, streamlined packs. Uhl is one of several mountain artists with whom founder Tosch Roy has collaborated.
“I really like working with him. He’s from Bend, Oregon. He dropped out of college and started a sewing company,” she says. “He’s really connected in Bend, and what he’s done has created a real community of mountain-themed artists. We all then find out about each other. It’s sort of like a weird online club through social media…community, versus competition.”
As a storyteller, stories are important to Uhl and working with Blowfish Hats speaks to that. With origins in the Roaring Fork Valley, Blowfish wants “hats to connect people to each other and to the wild world around them,” says owner-partner, Erin Erickson. Uhl often encounters her own artwork on Blowfish trucker hats throughout the valley and backcountry.
“It happens quite a bit and it’s always a fun experience of telling people ‘Hey, I made your hat, I painted that,’” Uhl says. “I enjoy taking those opportunities because they’re chances to make the world feel smaller and more personal.”
Her Current Passion?
A watercolor map of the Roaring Fork watershed!
“This was a really special project because it’s a study of my own back yard,” Uhl notes. “My task was to glorify our watershed, and articulate what a watershed is.” The artist’s original will hang in Basalt’s new Roaring Fork Conservancy River Center, where prints are also available for purchase. Visit SarahUhl.com to learn more about her artwork and environmental advocacy—and to snag a trucker hat.