Artist Spotlight Q&A : Elise Holmes, Vela Apparel Artist + Co-Owner

Last Updated: December 3, 2018By

Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2019 issue

Elise Holmes has been drawing her whole life. Now, you can see her art on clothing that is popping up all over Colorado and beyond.  

“I always knew I wanted to be an artist,” shares Elise, “even through the doubts of society and the practicality talkers that said ‘you can’t make a career out of it. ’Ha.

In college Elise studied photography, graphic design and art history.

“After college I worked at a screen printing shop in Asheville, North Carolina,” she explains. “I feel like this is where I really found my love for graphic design in a style that can just be for me. I learned the ropes of how to create for clothing, how to use color simply and effectively in designs, and how to do everything from design, to make the screens, to print them all by hand.”

Elise says she loved working in this world, and she knew she wanted to do something with it at some point.

“During this period in my life I became a yoga teacher, and studied yoga and meditation,” she shares. “This combination forged a deep desire to follow my heart in what I wanted out of life.”

In a meditation, she says she found that she really wanted to move back to Colorado.

“So I started searching, and with a bit of serendipity, I got a job as the graphic designer for Warren Miller Entertainment in Boulder,” she says. “This job allowed me to really hone in on being simple, being clear, and working with a team for designs. I designed everything from the logos to posters, to the shirt designs for each season along with all the ads and signage in between. I have treated every job since as a way to grow my skills in business, understanding of bigger industries, and during down times continue to work on my style.”

When Elise and her now husband, Matt, moved up to Vail six years ago, she stopped working for others as a designer, and began moving into the business development and management at a local agency, 970 Design.

“This move created such an opening in my creativity and from there I began to explore more of my current style of line art and colorful watercolor,” says Elise. “Once the iPad Pro came out, everything took off for my designs. I was able to combine my style with my design skills in a new way. Everything I create now is either drawn on my iPad Pro, or finished in it if it is a watercolor to add some of the stronger lines and such in the paintings.”  

When and why did you start Vela Apparel and creating the designs for your products?

My husband and business partner were traveling in Italy on a particularly rainy stint two years ago. We would have wonderful nights in our Airbnb’s and in coffee shops where I would draw. The first drawing that started Vela Apparel was the whale drawing. This piece combined my line art, the ocean and the mountains in the body, and from there Matt and I knew we had to do something with this particular drawing along with the other five I created on the trip. Where most people may go out to a club and explore more of the city life in Italy, Matt and I then worked on our business plan, explored names, and worked on figuring out this new business that could combine my artwork with my skills of screen printing, and color theory.

The name Vela comes from the constellation. Vela is the sales on a ship of a larger constellation called Argo Navis. This can be seen sailing across the Mediterranean in the summer. We felt it only apropos to name our company after this. 

What inspires your art?

Travel, mountains, nature, adventure. Inspirations have come from trips to huts with good friends, hikes through aspens, camping in Iceland, walks to waterfalls in Hawaii. Every piece I create is a mini meditation on what I have experienced, loved, admired, or become in awe by.

Does your yoga practice contribute to or enhance your creativity at all?

Absolutely. Through my practice of yoga and meditation I find those moments that are calm and peaceful to allow inspiration to come up. Sometimes I will have an idea for a drawing, but until it fully surfaces through movement or meditation it can sit as a sketch and not become finished for weeks or months.

What else can we start to look forward to from VELA in 2019?  

We are opening a store in the Vail Valley in Eagle Vail! We are thrilled to make a permanent place to house all of our fun designs and creations. We are also working on some custom designed yoga pants, and a baby line of products now that we have our little one here.


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