Community profile: This year’s Mountain Fair design showcases the artist behind the T-shirt designs |

Community profile: This year’s Mountain Fair design showcases the artist behind the T-shirt designs

Maggie Summers Tarbert works the T-shirt print press at the Live Loud studio in El Jebel.
John Stroud/Post Independent

For six years, Maggie Summers Tarbert has been the person deciding how to best present the winning art on T-shirts for each Mountain Fair.

She determines what order the shirt printing screens go in and how to divide the colors to best illuminate the art. She meticulously mixes the paint to make sure it looks right after printing, and she is one of the last people to review the final product before it ships to be sold at Mountain Fair.

“I’ve always loved building things,” Maggie said. “I always had a lot of fun tinkering around, inventing things and building.”

And just like the last six years, Maggie will be curating that process once again — only this time it’s her art featured on the design for the 51st annual Mountain Fair on July 29-31.

“I tried to keep that in mind. The limitations there are for screen printing and trying to get something that would work well and wouldn’t be too heavy of a thick layer of ink,” Maggie said.

After creating the skeleton of the work via graphic design, she printed the outline on a 12-by-12 wooden canvas and began to paint. She said she started with a black background and then used bold colors while mixing in a lot of blues and purples in order to hone in on the “New Moon Magic” theme of the Mountain Fair this year.

There were certain elements Maggie knew she needed in the art, like having Mt. Sopris and the phases of the moon. She also wanted to add triangles as a metaphor for convergence and divergence, with a juxtaposition of circles to represent cycles and orbiting.

“I included the eye, which was supposed to represent a third eye,” she said. “So basically, that kind of symbolizes enlightenment or wisdom. I thought that kind of went along with the magical theme.”

The eye is both blue and brown to represent the unity of different people forming one community, she said.

“We all come from different backgrounds and all come together as a community in Carbondale or for Mountain Fair, or I guess just as a community in general,” she said. “Then there’s also the divergence part, which basically we all came from the same beginning.”

Maggie Summers Tarbert works to put the finishing touches on her design for the 51st Carbondale Mountain Fair T-shirt and poster design at the Live Loud studio in El Jebel.
John Stroud/Post Independent

One element that was not Maggies’ was adding a moth. She knew that there needed to be something else, and she asked Laura Stover to help collaborate. Stover added the moon face and the moth.

“I think Carbondale is a very collaborative place,” Maggie said. “So I was very open to collaborating with her to finalize the design.”

The moth was a perfect addition for Maggie, she said, because for her the moth symbolized birth and rebirth.

Maggie’s design was a culmination of her passion and her current profession. She received a degree in graphic design but has always been a painter. 

“Actually, it’s kind of funny the way I built the entire thing,” she said. “I originally started out on the computer with graphic design, then I painted it. It went back and forth between physical painting and digital alterations.”

Each new layer gave her an opportunity to reintroduce her to a passion she has less time to enjoy anymore.

“It was fun to get back into I guess you would call it like the flow state,” she said. “I think painting is really what I truly love. More than the graphic design element of it.”

Between getting married and having a son, she isn’t able to create the way she used to. She admitted that she never imagined she would win the contest, she just wanted an excuse to make herself paint again. 

Creating art for as long as she can remember, Maggie comes from generations of artistically gifted people. She grew up using her grandmother’s oil paints that her mother kept around.   

“My mom basically had a whole giant kit of oil paints that belonged to my grandmother, and she would let me kind of play around with it,” she said. “I’d follow along with Bob Ross in the mornings to try and paint whatever he’s painting as an elementary school kid and yeah, that’s really what sparked my love of art in the beginning.”  

Maggie has a talent for seeing the artistry in others around her, referring to both her mother and her husband as artists who would not call themselves such. She possesses a strength to create but a patience to observe the brilliance in others.

“I would consider him (her husband) artistic. He doesn’t think he is, but I think he’s got a streak in him,” she said. “My mom is also sort of an artist. She claims not to be, but she is.”

In high school is when she realized her talent for art, but college is when she decided to pursue graphic design. She went to Fort Lewis College in Durango, where she was given an assignment to create a company. She decided that her dream company would be an eco-friendly clothing brand.

A Roaring Fork Valley native, she grew up in Basalt and moved back to the valley to live in Carbondale after college.

“I think it’s such a fun little town, and there’s such a strong sense of community here. I really liked that the whole town really embraces the arts,” she said. “I would go to Mountain Fair every year growing up, but I never really spent any time in Carbondale other than that. It’s completely different from what I envisioned when I was younger. I think it’s a really cool, special mountain town.”

She knew she wanted to work for a clothing company to better learn the ins-and-outs of the business. She works for Live Loud T-Shirt Co. in Basalt, which turned out to offer a perfect balance between owning her own eco-friendly clothing company and working for a company with the means to produce clothing that doesn’t contradict her moral standing.

Maggie’s boss Mark Campisi is very grateful to have her around, saying she’s hardworking and amazing for the company.

“She keeps our shop running,” he said. “She is like the glue, and she’s just amazing.”

Campisi said Maggie does the research and picks the eco-friendly materials for the company, saving him a lot of time.

“She picks it out; she must spend hours going through all the different shirts,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier for me that she dives into it so much.”

Even the shirts for Mountain Fair are aimed in an eco-friendly direction.

“We try to be really conscious about not being wasteful,” she said. “Laura’s usually the one who picks out the shirts, but she primarily picks brands that are more eco-friendly.”

With a family and a new baby on the way, Maggie is happy at her job for now. 

“Yeah, I think probably not in the near future. But maybe eventually I will dive back into the clothing brand. But I think for now I’m happy where I’m at,” she said.

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