It’s the second installment of Women Who MAKE, yay! If you’re new to the blog, welcome! This is a monthly post profiling creative women who inspire me with their hands-on talents. This month, it’s my pleasure to introduce you Lydia Crespo of Argaman&Defiance (see below for more about the company namesake).
Lydia has a natural gift for taking everyday items (what have you ever done with onion skins?) and making them into extraordinary things of beauty. I fell in love with her silk scarves and bought one in gray (who knew it was the most popular color). I have been admiring her work since! Read on to learn more about how Lydia got her small business started and what she’s dreaming about five years down the road.
Name: Lydia Crespo
Current title/company name: Owner – Argaman&Defiance
Years in operation: 5
Argaman&Defiance explained: My first name, Lydia means ‘the maker of purple dye’. That purple dye was described as Argaman, which translates from Hebrew as crimson. Growing up, my grandparent’s home was in Defiance, Missouri located near a popular Missouri nature preserve, Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. This is the place where I spent a good portion of my childhood learning, discovering, nature, which had a great impact on my artwork and designs.
What is your first memory of making [art]?
My grandma is a master of craft. She was always encouraging us to draw, paint, and try book making. My earliest art making memory was of course shared with her. She lived near a nature reserve, so there was lots of wild life running around. She mixed up some plaster and we made molds of the footprints left behind by the deer, foxes, and bunnies.
How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to go out on your own as a small business owner?
I graduated from SAIC in 2010. I focused my education around the fiber department where I learned how to natural dye. I took advantage of SAIC’s wonderful COOP (intern) program. The COOP program allows students to work side-by-side with professional art administrators, artists, and makers in their studio. It was vital to the success of Argaman&Defiance. I was able to experience first hand the incredible amount of work that goes into owning your own business. Everything from time management, to staying creative, to managing finances was covered. There is no way I would be where I am today with out those amazing learning opportunities and the incredible woman who led me and still continue to do so!
Tell us about the process of launching your own business, Argaman&Defiance. Best parts? Biggest challenge?
I launched Argaman&Defiance after receiving the James Nelson Raymond BFA Fellowship from SAIC in 2010. The fellowship gave me the means to purchase dye, fabric, a website, and other materials needed to get my studio up and running. The first few years were slow going. I was building a following and brand, which takes times. I used that time to explore what in my collection was working, and who my audience is.
The best part about owning your own business is being in control! I love that I get to choose what stays, what goes, and what direction to take my brand!
The most challenging part is juggling all the roles! I create the collections, I do all my own photography (another best part, I love photo work), I do all the selling, invoicing, and keep the books. My to-do list rarely ends, but I would not have it any other way!
What is your favorite part of the creative process? What inspires you and why?
My favorite part of the creative process is just that – the process! I love problem solving. I am inspired most by other makers! I love seeing their process, working collaboratively, and seeing what they are up to at maker events.
What is the best advice you have for other female entrepreneurs/artists?
Remember to take care of yourself. Take a coffee break, or an hour off.
Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it?
Try it and see.
Imagine Argaman&Defiance five years, how would you like to grow?
We are moving into a big and better studio this year. In five years, I would like to have three full-time employees and a thriving intern program. As far as product goes, my venture into clothing has been pretty successful so far! I would like to continue to expand that. I have been playing around with the idea of creating a wholesale bridal line. Which will be my focus come 2016.
Do you have a most popular item?
Anything gray. And I have to agree with my buyers, it’s my favorite too!
What do you enjoy most about the creative community here in Chicago?
I love that everyone is so pleasant and willing to help in any way. We might live in a big city, but that Midwest charm is at the heart of the creative community here.
Centered By Design is my business name, but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design process center you in any way? If so, how?
Absolutely! After a full day in the studio I feel confident, strong, and at peace because I love what I do.
Lydia’s Chicago Favorites:
Your favorite spot to get inspired:
If I need to get out of my studio a really long walk around the city, a coffee house or library does the trick.
Your favorite place to shop for clothes:
Dovetail – 1452 W Chicago Ave. Chicago, IL 60642
Your favorite place to shop for home décor/furniture:
Modern Cooperative – 1215 W 18th St. Chicago, IL 60608
Your favorite place for coffee:
The Winchester’s bottomless cup – 1001 N Winchester Ave. Chicago, IL 60622
Your favorite place for dessert:
Bite – OMG the Fudge Salted Carmel Brownie – 1039 N Western Ave. Chicago, IL 60622
You can find more of Lydia’s work, grab the perfect summer crop top, and pre-order the fabulous kimono pictured above at http://www.argamandefiance.com
Also, don’t miss the Instagram giveaway with Lydia and the monthly giveaways to come! Join me at clairerose1212 on instagram and WIN!
Hope you are inspired to MAKE!
XOXO – CLAIRE