We had the good fortune of connecting with Chelsea Dennis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chelsea, what role has risk played in your life or career?
This year has been one giant exercise in risk taking as a small business owner. The entire landscape of my business has been affected by covid19. Prior to march 15th Whimsy_Makes was Whimsy Enchanted Gatherings. My organic cotton candy cart was booked for 2020 events including my first 2 weddings, which I was convinced would jump start my concept to the next level. Up until that point I pictured Whimsy Gatherings hosting magical events with cotton candy clouds and dances around a portable maypole that I built and painted out of pvc piping. That project, designing the maypole and hand dying the silk for the 12 ft. long ribbons sparked this exciting combination of concepts for me. I was integrating art into my business plan. I knew that I wanted to keep dying fabric and experimenting with natural dyes but couldn’t dedicate the time to it while working on Whimsy Gatherings. After the first shutdown and refunding deposits for booked events I had to take a step back and ask myself what summer 2020 would even look like? That’s when I took a big risk and started a separate Instagram for what I would come to call Whimsy_Makes. Since we can’t gather right now, I’m making magical things by hand to add some Whimsy into the world thru accessories, textiles and housewares. Giant silk organza scrunchies dyed with plants and vegetables. Linen napkins dyed peachy pink with salvaged avocado pits from a favorite local restaurant , Handline. And what I would consider my biggest risk because of the higher price point , hand dyed luxurious silk charmeuse pillowcases that feel like sleeping on a cloud. Every purchase that’s been made this year feels just as exciting as the one before it, giving me confidence to continue listening to my instincts. I love what I’m making and the thought of people supporting Whimsy makes me feel like the risk might just pay off. I don’t know when well gather again, I havnt decided what Whimsy will look like when we do. Until then, I’m going to keep making magic.
What should our readers know about your business?
When starting Whimsy_Makes I was only using natural dyes , primarily from my garden, foraging around my house or friends properties in Sonoma County. I was introduced to fiber reactive dyes through the beautiful work of a friend and fellow artist Moca Monterrubio (@mokiimonster). These eco friendly synthetic dyes , when used intentionally, are less water consumptive as other synthetic dyes and require less material in general because of their highly pigmented compounded color. Working with these dyes has been so inspiring , the range of hues and “freckling” of colors that almost explode into the fabric when applied in different ways feels very Whimsy to me. Like a sprinkling of magic that represents their hand applied charm. Once I gave myself permission to not label myself as a strictly “Natural Dyer” I was able to unlock a corner of my creativity that I was initially closing off. I work really hard to create with integrity and am continuously building relationships with vegetable/ flower farmers as well as chefs to use their waste in my fabric dying, making one more stop before the compost heap.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I feel so lucky to live in Sonoma County. We get access to beautiful food, sights and weather (mostly!!) year round. Living in West County means that were only about 20 mins from hiking next to giant redwoods or saying “hello” to seals hanging out in the pacific. For a really special day I’d start with coffee at Retrograde Roasters right down the road in Sebastopol, head over to Wild Flour Bakery in Free Stone for an obligatory freshly baked sticky bun or their seasonally flavored fougasse. We’d take the scenic route out to Bodega and make our way down Highway 1 to have oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall (technically Marin County but the BBQ oyster alone are worth the drive). Another day could start with pastries from Pascaline Patisserie , you have to try their kouign amon…perfection. We could enjoy a bubbly tasting at Iron Horse Vineyards before taking a hike in Armstrong Woods amongst the redwoods. Dinner and drinks at Underwood Bar and Bistro , without realizing this has become a very french themed day. Basically food and nature.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
When the initial covid19 shutdown happened I started taking online classes to supplement my natural dying knowledge. Taking Kristen Arzt (@scramblesquilts ) and Cara Marie Piazza (@caramariepiazza) online workshops gave me the confidence to share the work I was making. I also found so many wonderful resources through Botanical Colors weekly series Feedback Fridays where they highlight a natural dyer/artist for a live video convo over zoom.