July 14, 2017
Crescent Company is a collaborative group of dyers and designers that partner with community-oriented factories and small family businesses. No two items are exactly alike and salvaged material is sourced and used whenever possible. Most pieces are hand treated and/or dyed in small baths at Julia and Lindsay’s studio in Oakland, California.
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting story behind it?
Julia: When Crescent was in its embryonic stages, I was really interested in the Northern California artist colonies of the 1960s and 1970s. All over the Mendocino coast, these artists made drawings and photographs and poetry and had “gallery exhibitions” on the beach for one night. I wanted make a space like that, kind of an artist’s retreat/ adult summer camp/ cult. So I chose a name that was mysterious and feminine and a little vague, “Crescent.”
As Lindsay joined me and our operation took shape, we started YES-ing all over the place, and the word ‘yes’ kind of snuck in and took root. “Yes” is a sacred word. It represents the willingness to try new things, to be adventurous and experimental. And “crescent” is a word that represents change, like the crescent moon. The crescent moon phase is never finished, it is constantly in a state of growth. And so YES CRESCENT represents our biggest value; to always be changing, experimenting and evolving.
Have you always been passionate about design?
Julia: Yes! Looking and making have been my way of understanding the world since day one. Craft and design is a language anyone can relate with, and the language becomes richer and more beautiful the more you know about process and craftsmanship.
Why did you start working in this particular craft?
Julia: I first became interested in natural dye about four years ago. I’ve always loved the look of indigo and Japanese Shibori, and through the magic of the internet, I taught myself how to make a dye vat, and learned about the intricacies of mordants and reactive dyes (big shout out to the good people of natural dye online forums). I have a Master’s degree in printmaking, so adding block printing and screen printing on top of natural dye was the obvious next level.
Textiles have always been the heart of what we make, but we also wanted our products to have a practical purpose. We make bags and pouches and home goods to make life easier. Pouches help organize (I couldn’t live without several pouches full of necessities in my bag at all times) and tote bags are like helpful friends, always there to haul what you need when you need it. Our products are meant to be beautiful and very functional.
Lindsay: I’ve always enjoyed working with salvaged and repurposed material or searching for the most ethical solutions in production. Julia introduced me to my first indigo vat. The combination of salvaged material and natural dyes is exciting every time. Each fold and dip brings out something new, something special. I recently sourced a wonderful non-profit in Chico, California to sew our products so it feels like a win win win all around.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
Julia: Our vibe is saturated in California. From the colors that we gravitate to, and the natural materials we use to dye, like avocado, there is so much California sunshine and golden hills and foggy beaches imbibed into our products. Our design aesthetic reminds me of something a young surfer would draw on her jeans before going to homeroom. There is something innocent, happy and free about what we make, with a hint of weirdo abstraction thrown in too. Our products cover an entire lifestyle.
Lindsay: I think our price point for one-of-a-kind items is an incredible value that’s hard to come by. And it is special that we are constantly evolving, learning, trying and teaching new techniques. It’s a positive process and we’re fortunate to work with a sewing house that is happy to try different processes to production.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
Julia: I have sacrificed any and all free time! I fit Yes Crescent in every available corner of my life that isn’t taken up by my day job (I have one!) and my teaching career (I have one!). Yes Crescent comes home with me while I relax with my BF, and Yes Crescent sneaks into my “days off” and vacations. But because Yes Crescent is built on experimentation, working on the business never feels static or confining. The work we put into Yes Crescent is an authentic response to looking and learning and traveling and thinking. Our studio is my absolute favorite place on earth. It makes me want to shout about how much I love it every time I walk in, even if I have already spent a day at the office and am totally exhausted.
Lindsay: It’s quite the opposite for me, Yes Crescent has opened up a whole lotta creativity and Julia has been nothing but the most incredible teacher and guide. I sacrifice a lot of bucks taking the train from San Francisco to our studio space in Oakland but it’s worth it. The space is incredible and impossible to leave once you’re in a good groove.
What has been your proudest moment since creating your business?
Julia: Honestly, our first Renegade fair! We had participated in other fairs before Renegade, but our first Renegade was the moment when we really felt like we could hold our own among excellent company, and like we were part of an amazing community. Walking back to our booth after a little break during that first fair, I saw a woman holding a Yes Crescent tote that she had obviously just bought. Seeing someone so stoked about something I had made was a powerful moment. She was as excited to own our product as we were about making our product. It illustrated the amazing ecosystem that is this maker community. It was magic.
Lindsay: Creating massive batiked tapestries for The Perennial, a sustainable restaurant in San Francisco. This was right at the beginning of Yes Crescent and my first large-scale dye process. I really felt like we were onto something
How does the city you live in influence your work?
Julia: The Bay Area is home to so many inspiring women-owned businesses. Seeing women who are so smart and so fearless create successful operations gave us confidence to make Yes Crescent into a reality. And people in the Bay Area also truly value handmade goods. We are really lucky to live in a place where people understand what we are doing and appreciate it!
What valuable experience did you have before starting your business?
Julia: I have a pretty extensive arts background (like, I’ve thought of myself as an ‘artist’ for as long as I can remember) so dedicating a lot of time, energy and money to creating wasn’t a big risk for me. I am also comfortable experimenting and teaching myself new skills, and then sharing those skills with others!
Lindsay: I’m a pretty savvy business lady, or at least I pretend I am. In my early twenties I operated a vintage/art shop and a jewelry store in addition to bookkeeping for local bars and restaurants.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
Julia: There is nothing more satisfying than dreaming, planning, working incredibly hard on a project, and then seeing your work come to fruition. Even when it’s scary or overwhelming, just knowing that you are the power source running your business is very affirming.
Lindsay: Julia and I met waitressing at a Chinese restaurant, which is a great way to make quick cash. When you don’t have any desire to work in an office or accrue vacation days it can be an easy transition.
What are some inspirations for your work?
Julia: The Northern California coastline, Adolf Gottlieb, Georgia O’keeffe, 1970s graphic interior design, Alexander Calder’s mobiles, West African textiles, Keith Haring’s dolphin drawings, Martin Puryear drawings, ‘Shelter’ by Loyd Khan, Anasazi pottery designs, Shel Silverstein, American quilts from the 1800s, inflatable architecture.
Lindsay: The heart and crafts of the 60’s and 70’s. I’ve been camped out this week at the Oregon Country Fair and there is inspiration all around here; Tie-dye tent alleys, hippies selling folk art, hippies singing around campfires, magic in the details, children basking on sides of the road, mushroom trips, and beautiful elders in intricate costumes.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Julia: Don’t be freaked out if people you admire are making things similar to your things. You have something special to add. Put your whole soul into it, and trust!
Lindsay: If you’re stressed take your time. There is no need to trip, chocolate chip! Try stepping away from a project or frustration and returning with a clearer mind.
Anything else you want to tell us about your business?
Lindsay: We host private and public workshops in our beautiful studio! If you’d like to lean to block print, dye, or create with polymer clay magic, follow our Instagram @yescrescent and check our website for upcoming workshops.