In 2004, as a recent college graduate, Co-Founder Jenna Walker found spending money was hard to come by. Her husband Matty was getting his elementary teaching license and they lived paycheck to paycheck, finding happiness camping almost every weekend. Rafting down the Green River that summer, a family of otters followed them for five days. Jenna struggled to get a good picture of them; she was determined to come home from that trip and learn how to use a real camera. However, funds were short–and saving for such a toy was going to take time.
Three days after this trip, Jenna told her father-in-law that she wanted to learn photography. The next day he found a camera sitting next to a dumpster in a shiny metal case–lenses and all. The abandoned camera — it turns out — had once belonged to a local hospital. No longer a part of their inventory, they said it was theirs to keep.
One year later, Jenna quit her job to become a professional photographer. Six months later her sister Katie and husband Matt joined her.
It's something we kept coming back to — ‘What are we leaving behind?’
Together they worked as professional photographers for 8 years — making permanence of experiences that move minds and hearts. As one click of the shutter turned to another turned to hundreds of thousands of photos, they realized their documented lives were sitting on phones and computers with no true place to live on. As Jenna explains: “It’s something we kept coming back to — what are we leaving behind?“
This question spiraled into experiments that included baking photo books in their oven and eventually into dreams of a photo book business.
Staying the Course
The three spent the next two years ideating, prototyping, failing and beginning again. They scrapped everything and started over. Again and again.
Somehow — with a kind of serendipity much like finding that first camera - doors opened where there might have otherwise been dead ends. They continued to create an authentic, creativity-driven business, knowing their choices needed to sit right in their hearts and with the wild places they love so much. And so they focused on creating products that were congruent with their beliefs - sourcing recycled papers for book pages and wood products made from locally-sourced fallen beetle-kill pine. They wanted to give good materials a second life.
With gratitude in their hearts and nervous energy running through their bones, Artifact Uprising launched on October 9th, 2012.
The team will never forget the first order that came through by photographer Jeff Gleason, or when Holly Becker at Decor8 shared Artifact Uprising’s photo books on her blog and changed the course of the company. To the first day when over 7,000 people visited the site – to the first 1 million images uploaded into the databases. The response was humbling.
Since that day, we've gone from a basement to our own office in downtown Denver – yet the roots remain the same. We pride ourselves on being an authentic company that stays true to its eco-conscious roots, and we think that matters. This is why we surround ourselves with people who challenge us to think differently and show up to do the hard work. We believe some of the best ideas are sparked outside the four corners of a desk and creativity requires that we get out and find connection away from our screens. At the end of the day, we want to build great things with great people.
Today, we continue to listen to the whispers that point us on our path and to listen to the community we’ve found in you. We spend our days coming up with new product designs and making sure our customer experience remains one worth having. We work - every single day - to create a better company: one that empowers the creative in everyone, one that remains true to its eco-conscious roots, one that never forgets where it came from or what it first believed…
We work — every single day — to create a better company: one that empowers the creative in everyone...
We believe that doing good is more important than doing well – and that kindness makes the world right. We believe in travel and the things you can learn from getting lost. And we believe the best lessons come from the listening. We try to laugh when light is needed and persist when the path requires it. We love wide open spaces and campfires and the kind of quiet that allows you to hear the snow crunching below your feet. We believe in those who wake up every day to choose joy. And we believe in the underdog. We believe in always remembering where you came from. We believe each of us will - in time - do something really, really nice for the world.
And we believe we are only as great as the people behind us. Thank you for supporting our company and the choices we think matter. You are the movers and shakers that inspire us daily.
Everyone has a story to tell. Tell on.
- The Artifact Uprising Team