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Kiitella Design Studio

Made in the Uncompahgre Valley and seen by the world, Lisa Issenberg’s design studio Kiitella has been creating unique awards for over 20 years. This winter will see her latest creation draped around the necks of those who make it to the podium of the Vail Valley Foundation’s Birds of Prey FIS Ski World Cup this December.

As a design student, Lisa Issenberg developed a close friendship with a Finnish woman who introduced her to Scandinavian design concepts — being in touch with nature, having a sense of minimalism and producing less waste. Working with metals to produce objects large and small, Issenberg kept her focus on melding nature into her welded designs, and never straying from the fundamentals she learned through her friend. “It’s an essence — less is more,” said Issenberg.

She named her custom awards company Kiitella — a Finnish word that means “to thank, applaud, or praise” — because it accurately describes her work. Based in Ridgway, Issenberg produces the medals awarded to the World Cup ski racers who reach the podium at the Birds of Prey events each year. Sleek, elegant and made of materials primarily recycled and sourced in Colorado, the medals are a celebration of the design concepts Issenberg embraces.

“The awards were the most satisfying,” she said of her work producing medals for athletic events, film and arts festivals, and other recognitions, all part of a larger portfolio that includes bear-proof trash containers for Telluride. “It’s fulfilling a need — creating a piece that both recognizes someone for their great accomplishments and creatively reflects the client’s branding.”

Issenberg was tasked with creating a new design for the 2021 Birds of Prey medals, an opportunity she welcomed with open arms.

“It keeps what I do interesting and fun,” she said. “It also seemed like the perfect time to make a shift, given the pandemic-forced two-year break between events. It makes sense to go fresh.”

For the 2021 edition of the Birds of Prey FIS Ski World Cup, Issenberg has made 12 medals, a process that typically takes more than two months from design to fabrication, although they will live on the shelves of the winning athletes forever.

Issenberg is a master craftswoman and, appropriately given what she named her company, deserves thanks, applause, and praise for her work.


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