Crimson Rose

co-founder of Black Rock City LLC, Burning Man Project and the Black Rock Arts Foundation


“The Biggest. Weirdest. Most Clothing-Optional Desert Carnival on the Planet.“ With these few words, Outside Magazine has aptly described Burning Man, the participative temporary metropolis that Crimson Rose is one of the co-founders of. And that’s not all: since 1991 she has been developing the Art Department of this yearly event. With her guidance, large-scale participatory artwork has contributed to the countercultural extravaganza of pop-up Black Rock City, helping it become world-famous and serve as an inspirational limitless canvas!

Crimson Rose

co-founder of Black Rock City LLC, Burning Man Project and the Black Rock Arts Foundation


Crimson Rose in her studio
Crimson Rose in her studio | © Will Roger

When Burning Man is over, it isn’t really over. Although the tens of thousands of participants have left, and the Black Rock Desert is empty again, Burning Man lives on. Some of the large-scale artworks that Burning Man is renowned for are installed in civic environments and public places around the world. Burning Man’s spirit serves as a catalytic spark for community collaborations and spreads the message of freedom, empathy, togetherness and self-realization. Burning Man “really shows them (the participants) a possibility that is within themselves. They could do something“, Crimson Rose told LSE Business Review’s managing editor, Helena Vieira, during Web Summit, in Lisbon (Portugal). “Because I think sometimes people feel ‘I’m not creative, I can’t do that‘, and then they just go, ‘Oh my God, I could do…‘ and I think that’s showing people the possibility. Not that we’re telling people what it should be, but within themselves, and that’s so different for everybody.“

The arts and artistic expression are Crimson Rose’s life passion. Born in Port Hueneme, California in 1950, and having studied at Ventura College (California) she first visited Burning Man, in 1991. The Fine Art Model in the 1980’s and 1990‘s brought her husband Will Roger in 1994 (see his site here). Immediately feeling compelled to participate, Crimson became the original fire dancer around the 40-foot wooden figure as well as at the temple, prior to its “release“ by the flames. With several others, the pair co-founded Black Rock City LLC, which has facilitated the Burning Man event since 1999 and developed it into a one-of-a-kind experience. The participatory event is “a mixture of art show, dance camp and spiritual retreat” ( featuring architectural installations, sculptures, performances, and mutant vehicles like a yacht or massive shark on wheels. In addition to her work for the Art Department, she’s active regarding her own creative output as well. This can be split into four categories:

1. Endling Series:  An endling is a thing/ individual that is the last of its species or subspecies. Once the endling dies, the species becomes extinct. The word was coined in correspondence in the scientific journal ‘Nature‘. “These assemblages are sculptural compositions consisting of various materials such as antique doll parts, kitchen utensils, organic matter, feathers, paint, metal, and other items“, explains “Each sculpture takes on its own personality and special characteristics which seem to gravitate into three different series: Endlings, Goddesses, and Creepy Baby Dolls. All with a sense of humor.“

2. Textiles / Shibori: “Shibori from the verb root shiboru – "to wring, squeeze or press" is a Japanese manual tie-dyeing, which produces a number of different patterns on fabric.“ (Wikipedia)

3. Watercolours

4. Labyrinth: “The Labyrinth at Fly Ranch, (40°50’09.3″N 119°20’07.6″W), situated in the Hualapai Valley in Northwest Nevada, is meant to be a respite from the often chaotic or overwhelming life experience“, Crimson Rose notes on her homepage. “The labyrinth is a tool with the capacity to show us a new way of being in the world. It is a gift for uncertain times because it is that rare and precious thing, a universal symbol within which all our perspectives can find a home.“

In her interview on, Mrs. Rose refers to an interesting quote that sums up Burning Man and an important part of the place where her own creativity originates: “They say that archaeologists believe that you need to submerge yourself into an unfamiliar world to understand your own. I think that’s really true. Sometimes you can’t put words to it. It’s that gut feeling that you get… and being in a place where the desert is the highest authority. We’re just visitors there. We’re soft humans, don’t have lizard skin to protect us from the sun, we don’t have lizard eyelids to protect us from the dust. You can’t have an ego in that kind of environment, or the desert will smack you down.“

Crimson Rose and her husband Will Roger live in Gerlach, Nevada (US).

Interview January 2023

Translating one’s imagination: breathing life into an idea


How does intuition present itself to you – in form of a suspicious impression, a spontaneous visualisation or whatever - maybe in dreams?

Sometimes it is a spark of an image that speaks deep within myself, that rings true. Visual aspects that come from nature, museums, movies, other people’s artwork, walking down a street and seeing a window display, the writings of an artist, watching the colours of a sunset on our nightly labyrinth walk or 16 plus years as a fine art model.  Intuition is about observation in everything around me, being awake and noticing the light and bringing all of it back to my studio.

Will any ideas be written down immediately and archived?

Sometimes I write down my thoughts, but in the last few years I have been drawn to using my phone, to snap a moment which is more powerful than the attempt to describe what I am feeling or to place words to my thoughts. I do not try to rationalize why I am drawn to something, I will become lost if I do so.  Words are so limiting and can have so many different meanings, depending upon where I might be in the evolutionary process of my creativity.  There are two mental pathways, one that goes straight to my subconscious, and the other I wonder how can I utilize what I just found and where does this fit within my creative expression?            

?: Do you feel that new creative ideas come as a whole or do you get like a little seed of inspiration that evolves into something else and has to be realized by endless trials and errors in form of constant developments up until the final result?

It really depends, sometimes a vision / dream will come to the surface and usually is half there and then I must work with the materials to continue the thought. Each of my art mediums comes with their own inspiration as well as its challenges (trial and errors); whether it is working on Assemblages’, Shibori, Watercolour. It is about being pulled in different directions.   Sometimes it is about moving from one art expression to the next before I can go back to the first, even when an idea is not finished.

What if there is a deadline, but no intuition? Does the first fuel the latter maybe?

Deadlines have to do with what I am working on. An exhibit has its own deadlines. But there are deadlines that relate to nature. Extracting pigment from nature, for dyeing fabric, is seasonal. If I do not pick the plant that is blooming when it is at its peak, I have lost the moment that will lead to creativity. This process has fueled the body of my work that utilizes Shibori. A Japanese word for a variety of manual resist dyeing techniques that involves shaping and securing the fabric before dying to create patterns, the pigment will not penetrate where the fabric is compressed. I have gravitated towards the simple aspect of gathering the fabric through stitching. Normally one would untie and remove all the threads once the piece is dried. Years ago as I was working on the latest piece and as I started untying I saw a form emerging. It was exciting to discover at that moment, an organic shape was emerging, a flower from a simple hankerchief. There are many ways to work with Shibori but I departed from what is the “normal way” to work with the materials, when to continue and when to stop.  The way of finding my own path. (1) For this creative process to work, one must have patience. Not just the materials but with myself.  The process of extraction is close to the final step, but it takes more time to prepare the fabric.  As I gather the threads of each work I must work slowly. Sometimes the threads break and I know that I must go with it, maybe all the gathering is not the design I imagined.  Knowing the limitations of the fabric and the direction the threads want to go.  So I go with it and the meditation that happens because of it.  I have loved textiles ever since my mother (Wilma Osborn) taught me to knit, then to sew which is about 65 plus years.  She was always gifting her knit items to other people. It was her selflessness and giving to others that I wanted to follow, the Act of Gifting.  Over the years I have experimented with different knit designs, but in the last 10 years I wanted to follow in my mother’s stitches and started knitting baby blankets and giving them away to baby Burners. During that time I have created and gifted with love nearly 80 baby blankets.


What inspires you and how do you stimulate this special form of imaginativeness?

In everything I create it is always about tapping into my intuition to find my truth in inspiration.  I am drawn to different imagery, different materials, one idea will lead to another.  To be inspired is to allow the materials to speak for themselves. Materials have a life of their own, they have memories, and there is always the potential for materials to become something else. To bring an idea into a physical manifestation, is to breathe life into an idea, in an attempt to translate my imagination. But it does come with its own challenges when attempting to make the materials behave in a certain way.

After working with my Assemblages’ for nearly 30 years I finally discovered there was a name for the theme that I was developing, Endling.  Which is defined, ‘when two different species mate, they create a third species which is barren. An endling is the last of its species or subspecies’.  Hybrid is another word that defines my creative expression. So imagine a baby doll part that is attached to something like a kitchen utensil. (2) The figurative aspects of baby dolls are a simple medium for storytelling.  The figure throughout history has told countless stories and has taken on many forms of mythology. So baby dolls become a perfect medium to translate into as many different stories as my imagination will take it, or should I say as many different stories as the baby dolls will allow me to see.  Also an obvious divergence is the Goddess series, which is dedicated to all Women; Child, Maiden, Mother, Crone. (3) Making up my own rules for the creative world I have created and not afraid to take a risk.

?: How do you filter between ideas worthwhile pursuing and bad ones that you just let go of?

I think everything is food for creativity, I do not focus on whether it is good or bad, I ask ‘did I translate in the direction the materials are allowing me to go’?   Sometimes I receive the desired outcome, sometimes I do not. It is the act of doing that matters, even though I might stumble to achieve what I want.  In what direction and how far do I go to create, it is about joy not perfection.  With watercolours, (4) how far do I go before I know the painting is done or I have gone too far and made a mess.  The mess/ stumble is knowing when to keep going and when to stop. But there are times when I have to go too far, to make a mess to truly understand when to stop, good or bad.  When I arrived in San Francisco in 1971, a new friend gave me watercolour paints and a brush and said ‘just play’ and it was the best advice I received. I did not know what I was doing, so my brain was not telling me ‘don’t do that . .  do this, paint this way’.  I was just painting with color and watching how the water would change and it was magical. 


How important are self-doubt and criticism (by others) during such a process i.e. is it better to be creative on your own, only trust your own instincts, or in a team? 

Primarily I do like to work by myself, so I am my own critic.  But self-doubt is self-destructive, this stops the creative process.  There is a difference between thinking and doing.  Thinking stops the process, where doing is the action where thought is in the background.  Allowing my brush and heart to follow wherever it goes.  When I stop to think is when I question, am I achieving what I was looking for or the effect that I wanted, or do I go back and try a different approach.  Did I stumble or do I keep working on the project?  Sometimes just walking away from a current project will help, like giving it some air to breathe.  Sometimes if I am struggling with an idea I have to just leave it until I am in the right frame of mind to continue.  Or I surprise myself with the direction, the path I took, this is much deeper within myself.

When does the time come to end the creative process, to be content and set the final result free - or is it work-in-progress with an endless possibility of improvement?

Once something is created, no matter if it was successful or what did I just do, does it end?  In my life whether I was giving to or receiving from the creative spirit never ends, it continues to evolve.  In the 1980’s & 1990’s I modeled for fine art classes, over 16 years. (5)  I always felt as if I was the creative essence that could be utilized by the artist.  I always approached modeling from my dance background, the art class was a sacred place where I could bring my own creative expression of dance into the classroom and it was utilized and appreciated by the artist.  The more that I gave of myself the more successful the outcome would be.  Thank goodness there were teachers that invited my crazy ideas.  Like setting up a projector and I would pose where the imagery would wash over my body, dance into a pose, hold for 1 - 3 minutes, dance and hold, etc; costuming and creating characters; and of course dancing with Fire.  I always wanted to give more to the artist, push my body so the artists could do what they wanted with my creative expression.  And while holding the poses I would listen to the teachers as they would speak to the students and give advice about shading, composition, etc.  I was receiving an arts education and I utilized the knowledge for my paintings. 

As the years rolled and modeling slowed down, the pull for my own creativity became louder and then I was introduced to Burning Man in 1991.  My new work was aligned once again with supporting the creative expression of artists in Black Rock City.  Working with Larry Harvey, we developed the Art Department and the Honorarium program. This helped facilitate the creative spirit of the artists.

So many directions in my life that have led to where I am now with my art. Those memories have stayed with me and I utilize those memories for what I am creating now.


It is not easy to say what is my favorite, like which child is your favorite. I found these items in a second hand shop, replace the bobble head, attach eyes to the hair curler, attach baby doll heads to the clothes pens and a white cloth napkin ready to dye . . . that is the future . . the potential of seeing art in every day items.

My favorite work: "The potential of seeing art in every day items."

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