Lydia Crespo can claim many titles. Fiber artist, business owner and now e-commerce innovator are just some of the descriptors she can choose from, but Lydia, like her art, defies easy categorization. She creates wearable art in her studio, Argaman&Definance, located in the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, MO. But in many ways, her art turns to science for inspiration.
Made from 100 percent silk, Lydia’s scarves are hand-dyed using tints extracted responsiby from tree bark, roots, leaves and sometimes onion skins—a technique she likens to a science experiment. “I never excelled in science before,” she laughs, “but at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I took chemistry to understand the process of dying materials.”
Originally, Lydia had started out as a photography major. “But as soon as I got done with the basics, I began working in alternative process photography. I was painting on photo sensitive material and sewing that into a dress or cutting it up and deconstructing it. I couldn’t stick to one medium; sculpture wasn’t for me—it was just too rigid—I needed something more fluid and flexible.”
She found her niche and joy in fiber arts, and before long, she began selling her creations and selling out of stock. Although she had never set out to form a business, Lydia quickly realized she was onto something. Flash forward several years, and Lydia’s brick and mortar store, Cozy Shop, sells everything from houseware to apparel.
She runs the shop with sister Sarah Browne. The union, like marrying science with art, is a merger of contraries. Lydia explains, “I’m really creative and impulsive—she’s super analytical and receives data a lot differently.” The two complement each other, reaching new creative heights. “If I didn’t have her, there’s no way I would be able to do this by myself. We really bounce ideas off each other.”
Together, they sell their popular tie dye face mask kit mailed directly to patrons’ doors. The kit even includes an instructional video/link. The idea for the kits sprung from Lydia’s workshop series. “I have a real passion for art,” she says, “but I also have a passion for explaining art and leading others through the process.” For Lydia, her workshops are meant to be eye opening for attendees. “When I begin a workshop, I always say that art is a two-part process. It is first taking on the skill and then perfecting it. But in my workshops, we throw perfection out the door—you are going to leave with this skill and be able to build upon it.”
Taking her workshops to a virtual venue made sense in 2020. Lydia cultivated a solution to keeping people working together while being apart. Transforming her e-commerce into “WE-Commerce,” Lydia has started making workshops for businesses like Google. “WE-Commerce isn’t just commerce. It’s about valuing how we connect.”
“I cannot do in-person workshops right now—the lesson of 2020 is, we have to start over. We have to reset our expectations, and art is a great way to lean into that lesson while making something really cool.” Reflecting on her journey, Lydia muses, “I was making up my own art and path, and now, looking back, I see that was a theme I really stick to, just making my own stuff up as I go along.” Argaman&Definance products can be found at argamandefiance.com.