Creative Conversations: Climbing Rope Artist Mick Tresemer

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New products come and go, but some leave a lasting impression. At the end of the month, we’ll be announcing the RANGE Radical by Design awards at Outdoor Retailer Snow Show 2019, celebrating some of our favorite new and innovative products. These “greatest hits” will be displayed at The RANGER Station at Venture Out, and the winning brands will receive a custom Radical by Design award to mark their victory.

Those awards are currently being built inside the studio of artist Mick Tresemer, a Boulder-based artist and environmentalist who repurposes retired rock climbing ropes into colorful mosaics and 3D sculptures. We caught up with Tresemer to discuss his kaleidoscopic sculptures, keeping outdoor gear out of landfills, and why recycling is a radical act.

Give me the top line of your resume — who is Mick Tresemer?

Mick Tresemer is an artist who not only recycles and is inspired to create by reusing, but also lives to reduce.

Catchy! So let’s talk about reuse, specifically of climbing ropes. Where did the first rope you used for an art piece come from?

The inspiration actually came from the retired rope donation pile at the Boulder Sports Recycler (BSR), an outdoor adventure consignment store in Boulder, Colorado. The BSR finds that selling used climbing rope is unethical, so the rope began to pile up. When I took a job there, I immediately wanted to use the ropes, so I started by creating coiled and woven rugs. Once I started splicing the ropes, cutting them up and gluing them, I realized these ropes could be anything. They are like physical pieces of paint.

Where do you source your ropes from now?

The BSR rope flow was depleted rather quickly, so I resorted to making trades with local climbing gyms. I would make them floor rugs and logos to hang on their walls in exchange for a drum of retired ropes. Now, people bring ropes to the BSR — with or without the intention —to donate to my cause.

Did you make a conscious decision to work with recycled materials when you started?

Since 2005, my freshman year in college, I have become deeply concerned with the state of our environment and the catastrophic overproduction of goods our society. Still, being an artist requires the use of a lot of materials, so I knew I had to offset that. In art school I would dumpster dive for materials (and food) and thrift shopping became a weekly activity. I still try to “buy new” as little as possible. This led me to the BSR. I was an employee here for five years and I’ve been an owner now for nearly two. We resell the “excess” produced by our society again and again, almost never buying anything new.

Your climbing rope designs are insane. What are two or three of the trickiest pieces you’ve ever made?

The portraits were definitely the hardest. Jerry, Willie, Trey and Lennon took so much time and accuracy to create. The construction of these pieces really pushed my artistic ability, because I don’t do many portraits in any medium. The 3D objects and mosaics with a lot of pieces take exponentially more time and effort.

Tell me a bit about the inspiration for the RANGE Radical by Design awards.

This year, the Radical by Design award is a 3D representation of the RANGE logo, a geometric prism covered in a symmetric rope design that will stand on a trophy base that reads “Radical by Design”. I really enjoy working in the round with the climbing rope; the sculptures start to give the rope a new life and purpose.

How is what you do radical by design?

Climbing rope is beautiful in its own right, so it’s radical by design already. The magic really happens when you start combining the rope to create something that takes the focus off the rope and puts it on the creation. In my opinion, great art and great products are created with every repercussion in mind, from the source to the finished product. So I’d like to say that by reusing the rope and saving some space in our oceans and landfills, I’m doing my part to leave no trace. I think creative companies and individuals that are in it for more than themselves are Radical by Design.

Who are your favorite artists to follow on IG right now?

I have to shout out to all the artists repurposing anything, but in particular @made_by_scavenger in the UK does great work with climbing rope.

Venture Out Exhibitors interested in consideration for the RANGE Radical by Design Seal of Approval should submit product for evaluation by Wednesday, January 23, 2019. Award finalists will be chosen and notified by a RANGE crew member no later than Friday, January 25, 2019. Submit your product HERE.

Photos courtesy of Mick Tresemer.