Art Sticks Boulder

Cassie Clusman and Vanessa Kahn joined the show to talk about how Art Sticks, a volunteer-run nonprofit that exists to bring affordable local art to the hands of the Boulder community.

Using stickers as the medium, Art Sticks seeks to create a strong appreciation of art that stimulates healthy conversation and shares diverse opinions in a safe and respectful manner. From the heart of an artist, to a local vending machine, to your hands.

Each Artist Series features limited edition stickers designed by Boulder artists. Their distribution is as analog as art itself: an old school coin-operated vending machine in local businesses.

Listen in to hear how this project got started and what's next for their latest release.

Below is an edited transcript from our conversation with Cassie and Vanessa.

[00:00:36] Andrew: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Stickers on the Mic. Andrew with you once again. Very excited to be dialing in some friends of ours from Art Sticks Boulder, we've got Cassie and Vanessa. Welcome.
[00:00:47] Cassie: Thank you so much for having us, Andrew. We're so excited to be here.
[00:00:50] Vanessa: Yes. Thanks for having us.
[00:00:52] Andrew: You bet. We've been working with y'all for a while. It's a very fun project, but we've got to rewind and just explain: what is Art Sticks in Boulder?
[00:01:03] Cassie: Sure. Art Sticks, we started back in 2017, and the idea we got from our friends out in Fargo. They're called Albino Buffalo and love to give them a little shoutout there too, but they're doing a very similar project out there. Our original story starts there with a teenager who was collecting stickers. We started our own thing doing that here in Boulder. Our purpose is to bring affordable art to our community, and then also to support our local artists and make art more accessible to people. Then from there, we've grown into wanting to be able to have more difficult conversations. We've been having these discussions about how moving to a more digital space, we as a human population, how our skills in discussion and disagreement have decreased. We thought that talking about art in our opinions around stickers would be a really easy way to start doing that. That's a bit of the direction that we're going now.

Art Sticks Boulder Vanessa Cassie

[00:02:09] Andrew: Nice. You've been doing this for years now like you said. You have a theme or a series, and you just got Series 6 is up there. That's cool and that's a neat story to talk a little bit about the present day. What goes into curating this and working with these artists to create this project?
[00:02:32] Cassie: Vanessa, do you want to take that one to talk about our artist selection process at all?
[00:02:38] Vanessa: Absolutely. I would love to. When we first started, we were really focused on the Boulder community artists. As we are located in Boulder, we wanted to start by helping to cultivate that local artists' community. Now, since we've had some interest as we've grown, and Art Sticks has become recognized among the local communities, we've expanded to all of Colorado, which is really exciting. Now, any Colorado local artist can actually submit to be a series artist. I will say a lot of our artists come from referrals from past series artists, which is awesome. We love hearing from them, but anyone could apply. Whether you're doing doodles in meetings, we've all been on too many Zooms. I'm sure there's some doodlers out there that could apply, but we also have some local partnerships. We partner with Boulder High School art classes and they submit artists for every series. That's one way we source artists and that our whole team actually gets together and compiles all the artists that have submitted and we end up selecting sticks for every series.
[00:03:48] Andrew: That's awesome. Then they get the sticker printed and where can people get these stickers, once they've been designed and printed?
[00:03:57] Cassie: We started off just in vending machines. We have three around Boulder. There's one in the Trident Cafe and Bookstore, there's one in Illegal Pete's on Pearl Street, and then we also have one in Celestial Seasonings. We're still closed, unfortunately, due to the pandemic at the moment, but once we're back up and running, you can find it. Then we also have a series packs available at our gallery on Pearl Street as well. The series packs you can get any of the past series that we still have available. In machines, we only have in current series, which should be through 6 right now.
Then we have just launched our virtual machine online since the times we're living in. That's available online for series 6 as well. It's a very similar experience except that you don't actually get to put quarters in.
[00:04:48] Andrew: I was about to say it's very different because it's online. Explain this virtual machine because people understand what a vending machine is. By the way, love the one at Trident. We've done a story with one of the former owners, Andrew Hyde. We did a video there with them. Folks who are listening to podcasts, you might remember that from a few seasons ago. Going to a vending machine is a physical thing and you put it in the money and you get it out, what is a virtual machine and how does it work on the website? I can look at it and see it, but explain it to us.
[00:05:16] Cassie: Sure.
[00:05:17] Vanessa: Go ahead, Cassie.
[00:05:18] Cassie: No, you take it.
[00:05:20] Vanessa: I was just going to say, Andrew, I think you're right. There's a lot of magic in the moment between when you put in your quarters and when you pull up that sticker and not knowing what it was going to be. That's what we tried to recreate on the website. The actual inputs on the website are your full name and your e-mail address and then you physically spin this wheel on the site that will land on an artist. Then we, the Art Sticks team, will pick a sticker from that artist and send it to you via good old snail mail. There's still that component of mystery involved because you do have to wait to see which sticker you got. We did our best to recreate that excitement, but yes, nothing's the same as the tactical feel of putting in quarters into the machine and getting back this piece of local art that you could then stick wherever you want.

Vanessa Kahn Art Sticks Quote[00:06:08] Andrew: It's a cool tool. I noticed it's called the Wheel of Pop-ups. I'm sure you had to find something that worked for you and it's just a neat little plugin and it looks like something different.
[00:06:20] Cassie: Totally. Brought a little bit of fun to this time.
[00:06:22] Andrew: Yes. It's rad. How can folks get connected with Art Sticks? How are you growing this audience in this community? What tools are you using?
[00:06:35] Cassie: We're pretty active on Instagram. We like connecting with artists there, sharing art as well. If you don't follow us already, we'd love to see you there. That's @artsticksco. Then if you're interested in being an artist, we have a page on the website called Connect and there's a form there to submit. We're always accepting submissions, even if they're for future series. We just rounded out our set of applications for this upcoming series, which will come out in September, but I'm always looking to connect with people and you can also sign up for our e-mail newsletter.
We have fun with our e-mail newsletters and do a series that we call Art as Resistance. We share examples of art around the world that we think are a good representation of that. We're always looking for people to share those examples with us too if they feel like they should be shared. Did I miss anything, Vanessa?
[00:07:35] Vanessa: I think that's perfect.
[00:07:37] Andrew: I was trying to get in there. You did a nice job not going there, but I'm like, "What about donations?" How can people, if they don't want to just read a newsletter or buy a sticker, how can they support what y'all are doing?
[00:07:49] Cassie: Thank you for bringing that up. I should be better at that. We are also a nonprofit. Instead of just buying stickers, you can also donate to us. We have a donate page on our website and this is how we run. Outside of the fact that we would not be around if it weren't for StickerGiant because StickerGiant is an amazing sponsor and prints all of our stickers. If you've ever gotten one, you know what amazing quality they are, but outside of StickerGiant, we run off of donations. That would be also a wonderful way to support your local artists so we can continue doing this.
[00:08:24] Andrew: Now, Vanessa.
[00:08:26] Vanessa: Yes.
[00:08:27] Andrew: Then I'm going to get to you, Cassie. Everyone has that sticker that they can remember. They like stickers. I have many now because this is what I want to talk about for years, but before I started working at StickerGiant I'm like, "Are there some stickers that mean a lot to me?" They're on my buckets, or on my bins, or whatever. What's your sticker story?
[00:08:48] Vanessa: What a wonderful question! I did just grab a prop because I could really pick any of the Art Sticks stickers. Our artists are so amazing and really so diverse in the art that they create. I'm just appreciative that when you look at a series, you really get such a broad spectrum, but I will show you. I know this is a podcast. Everyone at home can't see, which is fine, but on my YETI tumbler here, I have this Ryan and I'm going to probably say his name wrong. Cassie help me here.
[00:09:19] Cassie: Kopf maybe.
[00:09:20] Vanessa: Okay. Ryan Kopf. He's a local Boulder tattoo artist. I love his stuff. I've actually purchased from him after Art Sticks, but he created this columbine. I am from Colorado, live in Colorado, and was made to sing songs about columbines when I was in the fifth grade. They have a special place in my heart. This is one of my favorite stickers and Ryan's just such a phenomenal artist. I'm actually looking at another piece of his art. He drew a pet portrait for me and I purchased many sets. Go out and support Ryan at all of our Art Sticks artists for sure.
[00:09:53] Andrew: The last name was K-O-P-F, by the way, folks. Ryan Kopf. I'm looking at his page on their site and he is _ryhno_ on Instagram as well if you're interested in the art she's talking about. Thanks for sharing that. Cassie like I said, we grew up with stickers. They are part of our life. gold star, go to the dentist. Everyone has a sticker story. What is your sticker story? Vanessa picked one from Art Sticks' go figure. What would be your story?
[00:10:21] Cassie: Mine also has to be from Art Sticks. Can't help it. It's more about the artists too. My favorite sticker I can't show you because it's on the back of my computer, but it's front and center. It's hard to choose a favorite but this one I just love so much. It's from Jade Tankersley. I'm sorry, Jade if I messed up your name, but she was at Boulder High School when she was a part of the series. She's now in college and the sticker is of two pandas and they are eating popcorn watching a movie. The story that she told me about her creating the sticker is that the two pandas' names are Bam and Boo.
I just love that. Also, my dog's name is Boo so there's a little connection there but they're just these two fat pandas sitting on the couch eating popcorn. I don't know how you can't love that.
[00:11:10] Andrew: That's awesome. Cool. Yes. Like I said, everyone has a sticker story. Thank you for sharing yours. Lots of cool things going on. You can buy stickers on the site, they're limited edition every various series, you do packs of them. You got the virtual machine. All that stuff is available on You've got the six series. You've got series 7 coming in. You're saying this before we started rolling what does series 7 look like? When's that coming up?
[00:11:38] Cassie: We just picked off series 7. I'll let Vanessa talk about that a little bit. We should be launching in September. [unintelligible 00:11:45] Can you tell them [unintelligible 00:11:48]?
[00:11:51] Vanessa: Yeah, absolutely. I would say the best place to follow along with any of our announcements are on Instagram or on Those are two great places to get updates. I just add to that, I believe what Cassie has already mentioned around the new lens we're looking at through Art as Resistance. That really can mean whatever it means to the artist. We have some artists that are very interested in conservation. What we mean by that can range and it's really up for interpretation as artists.

Art Sticks Boulder Cassie Clusman Quote[00:12:21] Andrew: Nice. Art as Resistance series 7 coming out, we're going to try to feature some of those artists when that comes together later this summer. I'm excited to preview that today and have you all on the show chatting a little bit about Art Sticks. Then we're going to promote some Art Sticks in Boulder. I can't wait. That's going to be super fun. Thank you for joining us. Best of luck with the project as it goes and everything else you do. Thank you for being here both of you.
[00:12:52] Cassie: Thank you so much for having us. It's such a fun opportunity. We're so excited to talk again.
[00:12:57] Andrew: Yes, that's right. You heard it here first. Vanessa, do you have any parting words?
[00:13:00] Vanessa: No, just appreciate everything StickerGiant does for Art Sticks. It's been such a wonderful partnership for us. I appreciate you all.
[00:13:09] Andrew: Very novel. Very cool. Before we go actually the thing you were talking about where you took inspiration, what is the name of the group who had the vending machine stickers?
[00:13:18] Cassie: Albino Buffalo.
[00:13:19] Andrew: Albino Buffalo. What is their deal?
[00:13:23] Cassie: They're out of Fargo. The story comes from our founder and his daughter. They were doing a road trip back and they had these limited edition series and they were missing some and so they went to go get them and the machine was empty. It was all out. It was like icecream dropped moment. I'm just like, "No. All the stickers gone."
[00:13:49] Andrew: I see. It's That's really rad. They're doing that up there and y'all are doing it down here. I saw it's quite a fun little subculture of stickers.
[00:14:02] Cassie: Totally. They have a really cool thing going. Of course, we reached out to them and talked to them before we started making sure it was okay. I think he was pretty excited that we were bringing it out to Colorado too. Now maybe it'll catch on.
[00:14:14] Andrew: The last thing I wanted, actually, this is the most important perhaps, is you have a sticker and there's a logo. Who designed that and what's the background on the sticker itself, the logo of Art Sticks?
[00:14:26] Cassie: Sure. I designed that back in 2017. Art Sticks is a little side passion project of Room 214 which is a marketing growth studio agency in Boulder. We have a small team at Room 214 that works Art Sticks, all volunteers are spending their time during work, Room 214 letting them do that. As a team, we worked to brainstorm around that and obviously wanted it to look like a sticker.
[00:15:01] Andrew: You're the designer. We even got the creative inspiration on the show. Thank you for that. Like I said, everybody out there in pod land, we will be circling back to this conversation and doing another mini-series of designers when we get back into the fall here to promote the Art Sticks project. I look forward to that. We'll see you next time. Like we say every sticker has a story. Today is Cassie's Art Sticks sticker and the Art as Resistance project that is going to be going forward here in the summer, so keep watching this space. I'll see you next time.

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