When Frances Listou’s husband gifted her a large piece of alabaster with a hammer and a few chisels, she never expected to spend the next 30 years fueling her creativity through stone. After spending a lovely fall afternoon in her Evergreen home gallery, it became clear why Frances embraced such a hands-on medium. Frances’s vibrant personality came to life as her hands emphasized her stories. Hands which master powerful carving tools that reveal beauty that can only be seen below the surface. As our interview progressed, Frances’s own beautiful self slowly unfurled with every life experience she offered; each helping to carve the path to her current life’s work: stone carving and clay sculpting.
Frances’s creativity was obvious at an early age. She would scrapbook, color, draw, and make mud pies to her heart’s content. In grade school, she was actually accused of tracing because her drawings were so advanced for her age. Frances continued to feed her creativity by sewing, crafting, and interior design. Her focus narrowed to painting and pen and ink drawings when she attended the Maryland Institute of Art.
In 1987, Frances visited Colorado for a ski trip and fell in love. Before long, she landed in Evergreen and never looked back. Raised in a family of entrepreneurs, Frances wanted a business of her own—an interesting career that was flexible and provided a regular income. A random search through the good old Yellow Pages introduced her to the hair removal process of electrolysis. After some research and certifications, Frances opened A Wild Hair Electrolysis in Evergreen. A dozen years later, she met her husband, Erik, also a creatively alive individual as a musician, educator, and public speaker. They married and established a life together. She operated A Wild Hair for 40 years until COVID hit. In this case, COVID actually opened a door for Frances. She was finally able to focus on her art full time.
The urge to create is so ingrained in artists, and Frances is no exception. Over the 40 years she operated her business, she also carved stone in the summers and painted or clay sculpted in the winter months. In doing so, she developed a true talent that shines on the gloomiest of days.
Each piece Frances carves begins with a stone choice. She works with quartz, marble, alabaster and limestone. She’ll then chisel away with various tools until something begins to reveal itself, a technique called direct carving. Rarely does she go into a project with full intention. Protective glasses and gloves are worn as Frances brings a piece of stone to life. Because carving requires water and outdoor spaces, it’s not conducive to cold weather. As the days shorten, Frances will sink into her home studio to carve clay and experiment with acrylics or pen and ink drawing. She enjoys working with color, something she doesn’t get to do when working with stone. But carving is where her heart lives and there is nothing but love that radiates from her pieces.
Frances believes “art must be enjoyed by both the creator and the receiver.” While most carvers ask viewers to refrain from touching their work, Frances encourages it. Especially when it comes to a new series of desktop sculptures she has created. The cool, smooth stone is intended to be touched as a way to calm the nerves or just keep the hands busy while on a long phone call; definitely icebreakers and talking pieces for any space. Also the perfect gift!
If you’re a mountain resident, you may recognize Frances from her acclaimed role as Mrs. Claus to her husband, Erik, aka Santa Claus. For three decades, the couple has been the adorable Mr. & Mrs. Claus for Evergreen and surrounding areas (and beyond). Three generations of families have waved to Erik and Frances atop the firetruck in downtown, commencing the holiday season. While she absolutely loves playing Mrs. Claus, it is only one piece of the abundance of creativity that lives inside Frances. Her days are now spent either thinking about projects or working on them. When asked how she defines success as an artist, she beamed, “That I’m doing it and have been doing it!”
To view and discover more about Frances’s extensive art collection, visit francesfineart.com. Her quaint mountain abode, ornately decorated both inside and out, is a testament to her passion for all things creative. Be sure to contact Frances via her website if you’d like to visit her home gallery studio. It’s worth a visit to experience her positive energy, and to see and feel ingenuity in motion.