Kristen Chandler and I met at Treehouse's small business classes last year -- she's not only super talented and creative, but she's one of the sweetest girls you'll meet around town. Her textiles are ethereal and unique, and it's obvious by the quality of her goods that she takes special care with each and every piece she makes. I especially appreciate that Kristen uses dyes she makes herself -- from things like avocado skins! -- and uses other natural dyes that are environmentally friendly for all her products. I'm always curious to learn more about fellow makers' paths to opening their own businesses, so I wanted to share Kristen's story and her work with you guys today! -- Natty
Kristen: I began my college career at SCAD because at the time, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I spent two years there and took a few classes in both the fashion design and fashion merchandising programs, only to realize that it wasn't for me. I transferred to UGA and decided to apply to the Fabric Design program. I was accepted and loved it immediately! We learned many of the techniques the old fashioned way, drawing our screen designs by hand and learning to thread a loom.
After college I considered moving away but chose to stick around Athens, and I'm so glad I did. I worked full-time for eight months, but missed creating for myself. I always knew that one way or another I was going to use my degree. This is a very small industry, which means very limited jobs. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and it made the most sense to me to start my own business. I have a big dream of what I want my business to one day become but I knew that I needed to start somewhere. I started with making home goods because I can create them out of my home, on a small scale.
My process is pretty organic, particularly the dyeing part of it. Many of the dyes I use I make myself, and others I buy in powered form, but they are all natural dyes. For all products, I begin with dyeing. I will mix up the dye, soak the fabric in a mordant, so that the dye will adhere to the fabric, and then place the fabric in the dye. One thing that is unique to my dyeing process is that I tend to leave the fabric in the dye without moving it around so that the dye creates its own pattern and the fabric is not an even color throughout. Doing this creates patterns that I can't create on my own, and therefore, each product is different from the next. After the fabrics dry, I either move on to screenprint them or begin sewing.
I find the process to be the most rewarding part for me. With dyeing in particular, the end result can oftentimes be surprising so it keeps me intrigued. I am grateful to have learned these skills the way that I did, doing most everything by hand, as working with my hands is extremely gratifying.
Most of my inspiration is found during the process. I will realize that a dyeing technique didn't work out the way I had expected but maybe produced something better than I could've anticipated. I love those moments. I am always learning as I go, especially with natural dyes, which keeps things exciting. I also find inspiration in nature, and occasionally an idea will spark as I'm going through old sketchbooks, projects from school or scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest.
A few more fun facts about Kristen:
Alanah is her middle name.
As mentioned above, Kristen makes most all of her own dyes -- some from items found in the kitchen, like turmeric and avocado skins! She's beginning to hone in on working seasonally with the food dyes she uses, making products dyed with them exclusive to the time frame that the food is available.
Kristen is currently training to become a yoga instructor -- only a few more classes and she'll be certified to teach!
A percentage of all shop profits are donated to Out of Darkness, an organization in Atlanta rescuing victims of sex trafficking.
Kristen also works for King of Pops Athens -- when she's not in her studio, you can find her slingin' pops around town a few days a week!
Kristen has graciously offered NMP readers the opportunity to use the code NATTYMICHELLE for 20% off their order through the month of September! I think the items in Kristen's shop would make a beautiful gift for someone special...or you know, yourself!
Be sure to check out Kristen's website, Alanah Textiles, and find her on Instagram to see what she's up to and working on now -- marbled napkins, table runners and pillows, coming soon to her online store!