Artist Information

Vincent Tolpo and Carolyn Lee Tolpo background information:


      Vincent was born into a family of artists. At age ten he started art studies with his artist parents. Tolpo graduated from Barrington High School in Illinois as an All-State baseball pitcher, cello player in community orchestras, and student of many art media.  He attended University of Wyoming on a baseball scholarship. Later he attended Chicago Academy of Art while working at American National Bank and HFC. He continued orchestra work with Chicago Civic Symphony and other orchestrasTolpo moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to study art at Arizona State University (Grad BFA 1974) and to paint the Grand Canyon. Vincent appeared in the first group show of local artists at the opening of the Scottsdale Arts Center in 1973. He sold his work through Suzanne Brown Gallery. He also painted a portrait of Pablo Casals for ASU music library.


     Carolyn Lee Tolpo enjoyed growing up in Detroit, Michigan, with parents who were craftpersons. She excelled in swimming winning the citywide backstroke competition. Carolyn participated in student politics and graduated with honors from Cody High School. With academic scholarships Carolyn graduated from Wayne State University as an art educator. She taught art in the Detroit public schools. In 1963 Michael Inglesh was born to Carolyn. They moved to Freeport in 1969 where Carolyn continued teaching and coordinated the art program in the Aquin Catholic school system. She also taught guitar privately. Carolyn and Michael then planned a move to Door County, Wisconsin.

      Meanwhile, Vincent returned to Stockton, Illinois, to help his father, Carl Tolpo, with the 11foot bronze statue of Senator Everett Dirksen for the State Capitol of Illinois. Vincent taught art part-time at Highland College in Freeport, Illinois. In 1975 he founded the Highland Area Arts Council and the Freeport Art Museum with the W.T. Rawleigh Art Collection. He began work as an arts administrator and a part-time artist.


     Vincent and Carolyn Lee met and married in 1976. From 1977-81 he continued arts administration as executive director of Quad City Arts Council, Rock Island, Illinois, and Carolyn began a full-time art career.


     In 1981, after Michael, their son, graduated high school and began video classes at Columbia College in Chicago, they moved to the Rocky Mountains to begin full-time art careers. 

     Vincent and Carolyn Lee opened Shawnee Mountain Gallery in Shawnee, Colorado. Their first large commission was for the First National Bank at Perryton, Texas with Claus Heppner Design. 

     Through the years other bank commissions were with: First National Bank of Parker, Platte Valley Bank of Brighton, Mega Bank of Englewood, and Commercial Bank of Buena Vista. 

     Building Lobbies: Alamo Center, DT Building, Marriot Hotel, Hamilton Standard, Holly Sugar, Elkhorn Conference Center, all in Colorado Springs. In Denver, Adams Mark Hotel, Glenarm Building, Cyprus Minerals Board Room, Kraft/Westman, Qwest, Waste Tech, Auto Nation Auto Showrooms, Tower Colorado, Outrigger Hotels, Coors Ceramicon, Sheridan Center, Beaumont at Southfield, 8801 & 8811 E. Hampden, Union Tower, Porter Hospital, Littleton Hospital, Digital Corporation, Kim Tech. 

     Many local patrons have ordered custom art for many private collection. 

     Nationally, art has been made for hotels, corporations and individuals from New York to California such as: Marriot Hotels in Washington and Ft. Lauderdale, Regal Riverfront Hotel in St. Louis, Beartooth Lodge Montana, Charles Schwab Phoenix. 


     Vincent was awarded a co-vision grant from the Colorado Arts Council in 1992. Carolyn continues to play guitar and Vincent continues cello practicing, occasionally performing chamber music and jazz-blues.


Current Art Statement:


     Living in the Platte River Mountains, nestled in a valley at an altitude of 8300 feet, within Pike National Forest, ideas about art have evolved from specific to general ideas. Like the forest environment, art ideas have become more varied and eclectic. They are part of the natural environment and their art reflects the abundance of textures, colors and compositions. 

     Art is created to express energy, inspiration, and peace. Implied realism, pure abstraction, abstractions of natural themes, and expressionism are stylistic descriptions of the Tolpo's definitive and contemplative art. The Tolpos work in many media: metal, fiber, painting and prints, sculpture, ceramics, and jewelry.


Personal Discoveries:

      Landscape without wildlife is about land shapes and light, 1967.  Wrapping and constructing fiber art occurred in 1982. Thermal shock glazing techniques found in 1985.

     Hand-dug local clay slips applied as glaze on pottery found in 1982. Mixed metal sculpture and the braze welding of copper with brass and stainless steel with brass. 

     The combination of ceramic tiles and stone with metal utilizes jewelry techniques on a large scale. 

      After these many years we know that every day somewhere in the world someone is enjoying the results of our creative endeavors.



Shawnee Mountain Pottery

     Shawnee Mountain Pottery is handcrafted by artists Vincent and Carolyn Lee Tolpo. Vincent and Carolyn began making art pottery in Illinois in 1975.  In 1981, the Tolpos founded Shawnee Mountain Pottery and Shawnee Mountain Gallery in the Rock Mountains of Colorado.

     Each piece of pottery begins with a ball of clay that is individually hand-thrown on the wheel or is hand-built. The clay is handled many times by the artists before emerging from the kiln as a finished piece: wedging, throwing, trimming, finishing, drying, bisque firing, waxing, slip-trailing, dipping, sponging, and glaze firing. 

     Handmade pottery is a very labor-intensive art form. All pieces are oxidation fired in an electric kiln to 2291 degrees F. known as cone 6.  The pottery is durable stoneware clay and glazed to become weatherproof, lead-free, and safe for the dishwasher, microwave, or conventional oven.  The artist signs each piece of pottery.


     A popular line of Shawnee Mountain Pottery is the unique Landscape Series. The pottery landscape drawings are drawn onto the wet pot after it has been thrown. Soil samples collected throughout the West become clay slips after cleaning and sieving. These clay slips are refined from soil samples hand-dug at special Colorado locations: Muddy Pass (Steamboat Springs), Garden of the Gods, Flying Raven Mine, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Lake City. After the first bisque firing the slips are brushed onto the pottery landscape drawings and functional glazes are applied for re-firing.

 Jewelry by Carolyn Lee Tolpo

Carolyn’s jewelry is hand made of antique beads, antique metals, and semi-precious and precious stones and metals. The unique materials are described on the back of each jewelry card.

Carolyn creates three distinct styles of jewelry: the International Collection, the Classic Collection, and the Heirloom Collection.

Reflected in the International Collection are elements from many countries. The Heirloom Collection is composed of antique beads and metals from a by-gone era. The Classic Collection is comprised of pearls, precious stones and metals with a timeless style.

Carolyn’s jewelry is represented by galleries, museum gift shops, and boutiques across the United States.


Shawnee Mountain daily year round ...........




Carolyn Lee Tolpo and Vincent Tolpo