It had rained all the way from Dallas on the day Jennifer Inge rode her motorcycle into Creede, Colorado. She was instantly in love with the raw, rugged mountains and wild spirit of the tiny silver mining town, intoxicated by the scent of aspen and bristlecone pine.
Thinking, "What a great place to live, ride horses…" but fearing that a business could never survive in such a remote place, she first opened Rare Things in her hometown in 1972. But the tug was too strong, so Inge followed her heart to the Rockies. Rare Things Gallery of Treasures was reborn in 1974. These days, excitement is in the air as she prepares to celebrate 45 years of extraordinary treasure hunting in Creede.
The gallery showcases Inge's impressive gemstone and horsehair jewelry, as well as the art of many other talented creatives. A sunlit showroom glimmers with an array of studio jewelry along with paintings, sculpture, photography, architectural antiques, and decorative arts.
Exquisitely carved pearls, ancient coins, and rare stones finely set in silver and gold share space with bat skeletons, fossil ammonite sinks, exotic skulls, geodes, and antlers. It's worth the climb up the bristlecone stairs to the Treasure Loft to explore for shabby chic decor. Melodic wind chimes, soft pillow swings, and gurgling fountains invite you to linger on the enchanting back deck.
There are curiosities, collectibles, and oddities— surprises at every turn.
It's only natural that Rare Things Gallery of Treasures grew into a legendary business. It is the curated result of a lifetime of keen discovery. It now attracts visitors to Creede from around the globe. Recent patrons include Johnny Depp and Jason Momoa.
Behind the scenes of the gallery, there is a whirlwind of other activity.
Inge still explores Mineral County and the San Juan Mountains by horseback, following elk trails above palisades and wandering through remote canyons. It's a fascinating place. Wind, water, and volcanic activity have created otherworldly formations.
With every ride, she brings back a wealth of inspiration and a pack-horse loaded with treasure. Wave of lava flow, texture of wood, silhouette of bristlecone in full moon, streaks of red in skies or cliff face— all swirl in her mind's eye, guiding her hands to tell a story with gemstones, found objects and precious metals, exotic leathers and horsehair.
This treasure trove is squirreled away in her basement studio. It's no ordinary basement. It is a mystical grotto of rhyolite stone walls, gnarly bristlecone posts, stucco, red fir beams, and a massive monk staircase hewn from a single Ponderosa pine.
Cached in retired printers’ trays are thousands of unusual gemstones and mineral specimens. Many of these are no longer mined: Sonoran Sunset, Bumblebee “Jasper”, Bisbee and Manassa turquoise, Sweet Home rhodochrosite…
Each stone is so unique "It's sometimes hard to know where to start. I work like I'm making a puzzle, matching up textures, shapes, colors, history… I play a shell game of move them here, move them there— all of a sudden there's just this physical sensation, energetic sensation that they've been waiting for 30 million years to be side-by-side."
A masterful craftsman in several media, Jenny loves to retreat from the meticulous demands of jewelry making to her backstreet workshop. It was once the County Jail. Now, it’s a creative laboratory.
From the half-acre inventory of iron, weathered wood, rocks and found objects, she and assistants build sculptures, lamps, and furniture. Recently, she trailed down the Rio Grande to Taos, setting up another studio for winter jewelry and design work, pretending to be semi-retired.
Though Jenny's first artistic passion is metal-smithing, she is most known for her fine horsehair braiding. The Inge Horsehair Jewelry Collection is unique in the world. Childhood braiding and macramé, along with college studies in anthropology, lead her to decipher antique patterns and invent new ones. Her work has shown in galleries and museum shops across the country, and memorializes the cherished equine friends of horse lovers.
And she finds time for her community. Inge has played a leadership role in developing the Chamber, town park, Community Center, fairgrounds, rodeo, Creede Sculpture Show and numerous other events. In 2001, she founded the Creede Rock and Mineral Show that now attracts hundreds of visitors. Many of them plan their vacation a year in advance to attend.
Jenny is insatiably, joyously curious, but after decades of gathering, the rich array of materials is both exciting and overwhelming. “In ten lifetimes I could never actually complete all the designs and projects I’ve imagined.”
And she longs for more time with her horses...
Inge speaks wistfully of how Rare Things Gallery of Treasures has grown. "It has come to mean so much to so many, and it's a cool store− a destination in its own right. I am so proud of it, still love it all so much, but it needs to be in younger hands, to become something new. And I am ready to become something new again, as well".
If you've been to Rare Things before, you should come back to see what's new. If you haven't, it’s absolutely worth the trip!