NAME Araya Jensen
LOCATION Minneapolis, Minnesota
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND Interior Design degree
COMPANY Wind & Willow Home LLC
Tell me a bit about Wind & Willow Home. How did you get started? My professional career started with a dream to create beautiful spaces, so I headed to the city to pursue a degree in interior design. I began my career in various retail showrooms in areas such as lighting design, tile and stone, custom furniture, cabinetry and finally found my niche in the kitchen and bathroom design/remodeling industry. After having a successful career over twelve years, I was laid off due to the housing market crash. Jobless, seven months pregnant with my second child and lots of confusion, it seems that fate had another plan for me. I started creating these simple yet modern housewares as gifts, put them online and that is where the story of Wind & Willow Home began.
Wind & Willow Home evokes a lovely picture in the mind’s eye. Is there a story behind the company name? My mom had a shop named the Weeping Willow. I thought it was a lovely name so when I was thinking about names, Wind & Willow popped into my head and I have loved it ever since.
Between the exquisitely finished wood & beautiful colors, your collection has such a fresh feel to it. Where do you draw your inspiration? Is it ever-changing? Thanks! A lot of my inspiration comes from nature. Of course, I am thrilled to be working with wood as an amazingly beautiful and functional material. I change my colors semi-anually which consists of eight new colors each season and a limited line which is a bit smaller but quite unique. I love the small details of nature such as the inside of flowers or spots on a beetle’s back. There are such perfect combinations in nature.
What sparked the idea to dip the bowls? I actually started with spoons. I was trying to find some colorful spoons to coordinate with a gift basket that I was putting together. I scoured the web and Etsy for some that were actually functional, not just painted to look nice. When I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I figured I could make them myself. I then started with the mini bowls and realized that a large salad or fruit bowl would benefit by dipping the bottom in rubber as it would make it less likely to slip when serving.
Tell me about what is involved in developing a new item. How often do you add new items to the shop? As I had mentioned, I change my colors with the seasons. This process starts with a bit of a color searching process. I look back at family trips, and some magazine inspiration. Then I pull together a group of colors that represent these moments. From there, I narrow them down to about eight and carefully mix the new rubber colors. Sometimes I change the color a bit while mixing because I find a color that just feels right. Finally I dip the products and curate color groupings that represent the season.
Do you test out product ideas with a small group of people, even just family and friends, before adding them to your collection? Not really, I usually test them out myself as everything in my line thus far is something I would love to have in my home.
Take me through your typical workday. What does a day in the life of Araya Jensen look like? Wake up, get the kids fed and ready for school. Drop them off, then back home to work. I usually do a bit of shipping, making and computer work then it is back out the door to pick up the kiddos. I proceed to make them dinner and we play for a bit. Get them cleaned up and off to bed. Then it’s back to work for a couple hours. Finally at the end of the day, my wonderful husband and I will spend a bit of time together reading or watching some late night television.
As you well know, being an entrepreneur is an around-the-clock job. How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance? Well, I try to keep work time and home time separate. I get the kids off to school and then work throughout the day. Then I pick them up and do family stuff but after they are put to bed it is usually back to work. I try to involve them in things that they are able to safely do in the shop so they can see what owning a business is all about and they can also feel as if they are a part of it.
In what ways would you like to see Wind & Willow Home evolve? Well, things are quite busy in this regard right now. I am launching a softgoods line this Fall (I hope to show it September 7th & 8th at the Renegade Craft fair in Chicago). I am also hoping to move the shop out of my basement to a larger studio. Stay tuned : )
Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s? Trader Joe’s.
Spirit animal? Hmmm, maybe a bear as I would love to hibernate right through Minnesota Winters.
Favorited animated movie? The Little Mermaid.
Item you can’t leave home without? Phone & my kids.
Song you can’t help but dance to? Walkin’ on Sunshine or anything by The Roots.