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Meet Lydia Crespo of Argaman&Defiance

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lydia Crespo.

Lydia, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My name Lydia means the maker of purple cloth. The woman I am named after, that was her trade. She was a natural dyer. Its a pretty crazy coincidence, but one that I am fond of of telling.

I attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) graduating in 2010. I received the James Nelson Raymond Fellowship from SAIC upon graduation. Only 15 fellowship grants are given out. It was extremely competitive. I was thrilled and honored to be a recipient.

I used the funds from the fellowship to start my business, Argaman&Defiance. I bought a domain name, a ton of silk, and continued my education on the chemistry and practice of natural dyes through classes at Lillstreet Art Center in Ravenswood.

From there I just kept working at building up at the time what I thought was just a side hustle. I was working two other jobs, freelancing, and interning. I would always make time to nurture this little business. Even if it was getting out of work at 11 pm and going straight to my studio to work.

My studio, by the way, was the one bedroom in my one bedroom apartment. My then boyfriend now husband knew how important it was for me to keep working. Money was tight, and there was no way I was going to be able to afford a studio space. I can home one evening, shortly after we moved in together, to find he had moved all of our bedroom furniture to the living room and set up a studio space for me in the bedroom.

In 2014 my job as an art gallery manager was coming to an end. The building where the gallery was located fell into foreclosure and the gallery owners were not given the option to renew the lease.

My little business had been doing well, I thought, maybe if I put a little more effort into it I can make it my full-time gig. So I did, and Argaman&Defiance became my full-time income.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has not been smooth. The todo list is endless, but I would not have it any other way.

My biggest struggle at the moment is decision fatigue. I LOVE being my own boss and making all the decisions. I am a one women show, so it all falls on me. It is easy to get overwhelmed and think I have accomplished nothing.

That is when I turn to my community of makers, People just like me who are struggling in the exact same ways. Chicago, in my opinion, is the best place to find the most incredible makers. They are intelligent, clever, and insanely hard working. Chicago makers are the best people to turn too when you just need someone to bounce ideas off of.

You can listen to Kristin Oldach and I discuss this very thing and how we choose to collaborate over the competition on the Go Forth Podcast, link below. http://www.forthchicago.com/goforth/lydia-crespo

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Argaman&Defiance – what should we know?
Argaman&Defiance (A&D) creates 100% silk scarves naturally dyed by hand in our studio located in Chicago, Illinois. We only use natural dye extracts responsibly collected from tree bark, roots, and leaves. We then hand paint or print a unique design on each piece using waterbased inks.

Lydia Crespo attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) graduating in 2010. She received the James Nelson Raymond Fellowship from SAIC upon graduation. Crespo used the funds from the fellowship to start her business, Argaman&Defiance.

Argaman&Defiance collection is available in over 45 boutiques throughout the US. A&D has designed for Urban Outfitters, West Elm, Target, and Huckberry.

Crespo has been featured on NBC Chicago, WGN Chicago, and Craft Room Crash on the Yurveiw network speaking about her collection.

Most recently Argaman&Defiance was highlighted in Chicago Magazine “Best of Chicago”, Chicago Tribune “16 Things We Love”, and marthastewart.com.

What sets us apart. We want to share everything! I have been teaching workshops for the past three years out of my studio. The workshops were so popular, that have outgrown my studio this year. So I have partnered with space like Ace Hotel Chicago and The Living Room to have a beautiful environment to teach in.

What I love most about the workshops is that I get to educate my community about the process. Normally I would only get 2 min at a market or street fair to explain my process. In a workshop, I get 2 hours with a group of amazing and curious people that are excited to learn about the process, chemistry, and composition. It is an absolute delight getting to know my community on a deeper level.

Another incredibly fun and whimsy fact about one specific color in our pallet – GREEN. The source for this particular color is SUPER LOCAL to Chicago. A few times a week I travel to every Marianos within a 5-mile radius of my studio to collect one thing – Red Onion Skins.

Red onion skins are the best way to create a beautiful green dye naturally. Learn more about it here
https://www.facebook.com/JaneMonzures/videos/1806672692718458/ and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2-yjKyClcE.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I am insanely curious. I never want to stop learning.

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Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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