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Foundry Art Centre Artist Spotlight: Lydia Crespo, The Importance of Art in Society

Lydia Crespo spends her days in her studio at the Foundry Art Center with her ears filled with upbeat music and surrounded by an array of color and dye splattered across her workspace. Racks are stacked high with handcrafted clothing and accessories. Shelves hold an assortment of the produce used to create natural dyes.

Crespo is an expert in fiber and material art. Her craft goes beyond the walls of homes and is incorporated into everyday life through clothing. Her shop Argaman&Defiance carries a variety of items from apparel to bedding. The items are individually crafted through natural dyes, printmaking and fabric painting.

Instinctive Action

One of Crespo’s earliest and fondest memories of art was making paper with her childhood Girl Scout troop. Throughout her time in school, Crespo credits her consistent interest in art and skillset to her grade school teachers. In high school, she enrolled in digital art courses, beginning her path to success.

“It gave me an edge going into college and when I went into the art field. It gave me this huge advantage because I was so versed in it,” Crespo said. “I don’t know where I would be without that program.”

After graduating from high school, Crespo attended St. Louis Community College – Florissant Valley where she studied fine art. After exploring the field of art in St. Louis, she attended the Art Institute of Chicago where she was able to focus on fiber and material studies. She quickly discovered this was the medium she loved to work with.

While working towards her degree, Crespo also took an interest in chemistry. She wanted to learn what was happening on a scientific level with the natural dyes she used in her art. For the first time, she was able to pair the understanding of science with her art and it made for what she describes as a “magical” experience.

A Blossoming Business

After receiving her degree in 2010, Crespo was offered the James Nelson Raymond Fellowship which included $1,500 that she used to kick start her business in Chicago. She wanted to be a brand of high quality and function, making clothing that can be worn in multiple ways.

As she slowly established her business, Crespo began to realize she wasn’t taking risks as a designer. Because her designs worked and the cost of living was high, she stuck to what was safe. She also experienced trouble with her mental health after working long days in the studio with no human contact.

“I went full days without talking to anybody until my husband got home at six or seven at night,“ Crespo explained.

Feeling the need for a change, she packed up her studio in Chicago and returned to St. Louis in August of 2018.

Finding the Foundry

Without a studio space in St. Louis, Crespo was still fulfilling orders for Argaman&Defiance out of her father’s basement. After a few weeks, one of her friends from Florissant Valley told her about an opening at the Foundry. Being a Foundry artist was a long-time dream of Crespo’s and finally seemed within reach.

In September of 2018, Crespo fulfilled her longtime dream by being accepted as a Foundry artist.

Moving forward, Crespo hopes to do more writing and speaking about the importance of art and small business. She recently became affiliated with The Women’s Creative, an organization that connects local female business owners. Through this organization, she will be speaking about her journey and passions on a panel hosted on Aug. 22. Until then, Crespo will continue to spread her message about art and create unique pieces for her business.

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