Faculty Spotlight: Olivia Pevec
Blacksmithing Resident Artist Olivia Pevec has a lot of irons in the fire beyond the Colorado Rocky Mountain School forge. From blacksmithing to wood-splitting to the arts and volunteerism, longtime local Pevec is a true Renaissance woman with many talents and interests.
Pevec was born in Denver but spent her childhood in British Columbia, Portugal, and then Canada. Her grandparents were lifelong Carbondale residents, which ultimately drew her to the valley 20 years ago. In her third year at CRMS, Pevec is a relative newcomer to both the school and blacksmithing. She was introduced to blacksmithing while working with a horse farrier who doubled as a hobby blacksmith. She then took a week-long women’s class with an artist from Marble at the CRMS forge and fell in love with it. Before coming to CRMS as the resident blacksmith, Pevec worked as an ornamental blacksmith and as a demonstration blacksmith at the Glenwood Springs Adventure Park as well as with students at CRMS during Interim.
Currently, her service crew students are working to make a short rack for the shop to store materials. Throughout the year, they also make smaller items like hooks as well as items for the annual Coffeehouse silent auction in the fall. Pevec hopes to impress upon her students not only the skills of blacksmithing but also the notion of craftsmanship.
“Blacksmithing is a craft first, and it became an art later on,” says Pevec. “To me, that means taking care with your work, doing your best job, but also caring for the tools and the space. It’s that ethic of craftsmanship and manual capability that you get from any craft that’s asking you to work with a material in a particular way.”
While blacksmithing is rare in high schools, Pevec sees essential takeaways from the process for high school students. Hot steel moves like clay, but the manipulation of it must come from tools, which makes it challenging for students to learn.
“The biggest takeaway students get from the exposure is that they can see how giving a little time and energy and attention to something pays off,” says Pevec. “That you do something that you think you’d never be able to do, and suddenly you discover that actually, you can. If you give it a moment, things start to get better.”
The manual labor of blacksmithing has led directly to Pevec’s success in other arenas. For twenty years, she’s entered the women’s wood-splitting competition at Mountain Fair and come away with five champion titles. With a hearty laugh, she attributes her success not only to the hammer swinging and hand-eye coordination required by blacksmithing but also to the luck of the piece of wood she draws.
When not blacksmithing or chopping wood for an audience, Pevec plays several other vital roles in the community as well. She regularly performs in a 4-piece folk band called Let Them Roar.
“It started as a living room jam session,” she says. “There was real spark and magic from the group, and we’ve been going for ten years now.”
The band has a philanthropic mission and has currently raised $15,000 to support immigrant women living in sanctuary situations in Colorado. The band is moving from straight-up gigs into exploring multimedia performance styles that combine full production elements like film into their shows. While Pevec sings for the band, she also recently picked up the banjo made by her father before she was born.
“It sat in a closet in our house my entire life,” Pevec says. “I’d sneak in and pluck it. About five years ago, I decided it was time to learn how to accompany myself. I’d tried to pick up the guitar but never felt it. As soon as I picked up the banjo, it felt right.”
Her interests also extend to the local arts community. She was instrumental in spearheading the DeRail Park arch in Carbondale, for which CRMS students contributed pieces from their 2018 interim class. She also helps run The Near New thrift store in downtown Carbondale, which is run by the Rebekahs, the women Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
“It’s one of those old fraternal organizations based on service,” says Pevec. “My friends and I were intrigued by the thrift store, so we went in and talked to the ladies holding down the fort. We all joined the organization and are now doing our best to keep the thrift store open.”
Pevec calls the volunteer-run thrift shop a community treasure partly because you can find some of the best thrift shop deals around, but also because every dime raised goes back into the community.
“All you have to do to ask for money is write a letter,” she says. “The sisterhood edict is about widows and orphans, so we look out especially for families in need but also anyone who writes us a letter.”
The New New Thrift Shop has helped everyone from national cancer organizations to Carbondale nonprofits to individuals who need help paying their medical bills.
Although it seems like Pevec has plenty to keep her busy, she still has dreams to materialize. One is to create a new discipline that combines yoga and wood-splitting. Another is to find a home base for Scavenger Industries, a warehouse concept where artists could come shop affordably for repurposed materials and art supplies.
“That’s where art can serve the world, she says, “in re-using trash.”
With so many diverse experiences under her belt, it’s not hard to believe that Pevec will eventually be able to make a difference for the planet as well.