I’m always thinking about cycles. My own drive to create is subject to a mysterious tide: some days I’m full of ideas, energy, and inspiration, and other days it’s a struggle to put a sentence together on the page.
Kelly and I notice that our creative cycles tend to be complementary—when I flounder, she picks up the slack. This same idea is what inspired Claire and Ashton to name their business Wax & Wane Fiber. As Claire said, “We noticed the peaks and valleys of our own individual creative drive and how we responded to each other.”
This interview, and Claire and Ashton’s work, is a reminder that we need to refuel as much as we need to create. We need practices that ground us, that inspire us, that connect us to other people and their work.
Wax & Wane Fiber is a small textile business rooted in exploring natural dyes and understanding plant magic. I love how Claire and Ashton describe their business, because it emphasizes process—the exploration and understanding of working with textiles. And, it points to the fact that creative practices include an element that we can’t explain. The cycles of creation are magical, and we could all use a little magic.
Can you describe Wax & Wane Fiber and how the two of you work together on this business?
Ashton: Wax & Wane Fiber is a small textile business rooted in exploring natural dyes and understanding plant magic. We make goods for the body and the home. We have split this business pretty evenly down the middle. Currently we are making a line of "Pussy Grabs Back" dyed in cochineal that I’m doing the lettering for and Claire is adding the illustrations. We don’t always collaborate so evenly on all works but this has been a really nice way of approaching this project.
Claire: We decided upon the name “Wax & Wane” as a reaction to what we noticed while we worked together on other artistic projects. Before we created what was to become Wax & Wane Fiber, we noticed the peaks and valleys of our own individual creative drive and how we responded to each other. Some days I would be super burnt out in the studio and Ashton would take on more work. Other days it would change. I like that this is how we structured our business and work ethic. It’s okay for us to carve out time for certain things we need. We always have each other’s blessing to do so.
We noticed the peaks and valleys of our own individual creative drive and how we responded to each other.
How has your partnership challenged or pushed your work?
Ashton: I am very much an ideas person. I love the beginnings of things. I love coming up with new things and imagining them in my head. I’m not always the best about implementing them. Claire is stellar when it comes to completing tasks; it’s just the way her brain works. This has also pushed me to finish more of my ideas.
Claire: Hahaha—thank you for the kind regards, Ashton. I definitely agree with him in terms of implementing projects that are object-based. I get all weird when things are half finished. So I’m very much in the moment with our business, usually working a week out to meet deadlines. Ashton is very good about getting us to work together to think about big picture stuff—overall campaigns, marketing, year long goals, large scale projects. I think we really need each other to balance out.
In addition to your collaborative relationship, how else do the two of you stoke the fires of inspiration? (Loving your New Year's playlist BTW)
Aston: I knit and crochet a lot. It’s something that is relatively related to the work we do at Wax & Wane but it’s also a bit removed. I’ve found that I’m able to better look at the work we are making to sell when I have something on my needles at home. I also just love well-dyed yarn. Like anything that is a rainbow, I’m down.
...anything that is a rainbow, I'm down.
Claire: I do a lot of little self-care practices that make be better at what I do at Wax & Wane. I read a lot about dyes origins. I also just read a lot of beautiful women-centric fiction and non-fiction to keep me grounded. Currently reading Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. I also read a lot of short articles in Got A Girl Crush zine. So really I go home at the end of the day and read things about women kicking ass in their specialized fields and it makes me want to do better in my own biz.
I go home at the end of the day and read things about women kicking ass in their specialized fields and it makes me want to do better in my own biz.
How does your relationship, or working collaboratively, become challenging?
Ashton: We are such different people! We are super good about communication but sometimes you just don’t have the conversation you need to and it festers and its ugly and then it becomes something worse than it needs to be. Another challenge is that we are really good friends, too, so sometimes we’ll find ourselves in the studio just shooting the shit and forgetting that we have to complete, like, 500 orders.
Claire: Ugh, yeah. What Ashton said. Spot on. It’s funny because we definitely became “business partners” before we became friends. We took on some other projects as colleagues and then out of that (and continuing forever), this beautiful friendship grew. So as we keep moving forward we have to find better ways to separate friend time and business time.
Only get into business with someone who can respect your voice as much as their own.
How do you go about sharing feedback with one another?
Ashton: Claire is really good about just telling me straight to my face what she doesn’t like about what I’ve done. Alternatively, she’s also really good about telling me what she loves. I think I’m pretty honest, too. If I don’t like something that I know will have our branding on it–and ultimately my name, too–I’ll bring it up and just say, “Let’s find another alternative.”
Claire: I think we are both very direct and honest people. It’s just how our personalities are. And our backgrounds in working in artistic nonprofits and spaces gives us a better ability to cut the bullshit and just get things done. We both are extreme empaths but we also have this toughness to us. I think we know each other’s limits, and it makes things really easy when we have to be critical.
Has anyone ever asked you how they can cultivate a creative partnership like yours? What do you tell them?
Ashton: It’s kind of funny because I was on that other side of the question a few years ago before Claire was even a thought in my brain. I saw this creative team working so well together and doing such great work and that’s all I wanted. I must have just thrown that energy out in the Universe. It eventually came back to me and I’m so grateful. I’d say just show up at the beginning and don’t take yourself too seriously. Only get into business with someone who can respect your voice as much as their own and hopefully your message is pretty much the same.
Claire: TRUTH. Partnerships are their own kind of super intimate, personal relationship. For all the reasons you decide to commit yourself to someone romantically, you pretty much commit yourself to someone in business too. I 100% trust in Ashton’s visions for this company, I respect his vision, I listen to his concerns, and I’m okay when he makes a mistake. And all of that is reciprocated back to me. You both have to be okay with failing together. I think the other thing we are really great at is stepping back from everything, checking in with each others feelings over some good food or drink and singing each other’s praises. In a business partnership, you are going to ask a lot from each other, and things will get weird and stressful, but at the end of the day you can’t go to bed angry. You have to be ale to be kind to each other.
I trust in Ashton’s visions for this company, I respect his vision, I listen to his concerns, and I’m okay when he makes a mistake. And all of that is reciprocated back to me. You both have to be okay with failing together.
We are Ashton & Claire and working with natural colors from the earth is very important to us at Wax & Wane Fiber, for both ecological stewardship and also the artistry inherent in the process. Never knowing exactly what a bath of plant-derived dyes will reveal is always a great joy to us and to others when we are teaching these techniques. There is a childlike sense of wonder when people see for the first time how pH changes alter the colors of sappanwood or when the neon green of indigo breathes its way into deep midnight. It’s those moments we live for. We are excited to continue this journey in the natural world and to see all the places it can take us.