published: February 2017

Blue Earth Designs: A touch of the world economy in Crestone

There’s a little wood shop out on T Road doing big things.

Co-owners Adam and Cristina Cabeza-Kinney put together a remarkable team of local residents, including Peter Van Horn, Travis Rinaldis, and Julian Wade. Together they have taken on the seemingly impossible task of designing and building 300 maple spice dispensers for the Sprouts Farmers Market chain.

It all started one year ago when Adam drove out to Iowa to meet with a new client, Frontier Co-Op. The meeting was a success. Several months of design work and prototyping resulted in a contract to manufacture these custom laser-engraved units for a private label contract with Sprouts.

As Rinaldis once said, between endless rounds of sanding and lacquer, “To get to be part of the world economy and live here in the San Luis Valley is living the dream.” This contract has enabled the Blue Earth team to create and maintain up to five winter time jobs for young families and to move a substantial sum of outside money through our local economy. Sourcing jobs like this may prove to be essential to the future growth and stability of such a rural economy.

It hasn’t all been a walk in the park though. Besides the sheer magnitude of organizing, planning, ordering materials, boxes, pallets, stain, lacquer, glue; all the cutting, sanding, and assembling of over 15,000 pieces in total, one could add to this the innate challenge of living in Crestone. Getting materials here takes a lot of forethought. Negative temperatures freeze the compressor lines and sometimes even the lacquer as it sprays from the gun.

And there’s the work itself. The team has essentially put in seven days a week for the last two and a half months.

These difficult aspects are what really make this such a beautiful undertaking. Each and every person involved played a crucial role in the process. And through the insurmountable odds, they each displayed a level of perseverance and commitment that is hard to come by in times like these. The result is something this crew can stand behind, even feel proud of, and certainly know that they are a part of something bigger than just having a job. And even more important, they never stopped laughing, and they never stopped learning from their mistakes, which only goes to show that, with just the right amount of hard work and dedication, almost any error can be remedied.

Cristina expressed this when she said,  “This whole process has made me less afraid to mess up.” She also noted, “Imperfections are the things that get noticed and the things that bring the most beauty.”

This perspective is the result of the hands-on touch and sight of thousands of pieces of maple, and the Blue Earth team wishes to express their deep gratitude and acknowledgement for the beautiful nature of this tree and the gift of being able to work with it in this way.

So, it may be safe to say that there are great things in store for Blue Earth Design. With the completion of this job, they have successfully leveled up to the next round and are ready for just about anything. Keep your eye out for new LED-lit signs popping up around town, and maybe even a local retail gift shop that specializes in Crestone souvenirs.

Sometimes, when the world gets too strange, and everything is up in the air and unknown, all you can do is get together with a couple of good friends and make beautiful things . . .  as many as you can. And really try to make the most of the days off.