Meet Dayna Walton!
We have admired the beautiful prints of solstice handmade for years, and last fall the time finally came for us to collaborate on a collection. We admire her profound ability to capture even the most intricate elements of nature (give it up for the lichen, moths, and mushrooms)! Our team cut the pieces that she individually printed by hand, then they came back here for assembly & snaps. Maybe our favorite collab to date —these pieces are completely unique & beautiful. We are so grateful to have worked together on this project and loved getting to know this wonderful, thoughtful human in our interview with her.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your story - how did you get where you are today?
A: Ohh man I don't know where to start! I've always been interested in art and the outdoors, I remember knowing I wanted to be 'an artist' as far back as kindergarten. When I was in high school I started out on Etsy, making some pretty awful jewelry and less awful hand sewn plush, haha. I don't think I really thought about it as a business for the first few years, it was just for fun—it was motivating to me to know that the things I made were finding new homes in different states, instead of sitting in my own closet.
Everything grew slowly but surely, but for a while I felt a real divide between the art I would make in school—oil paintings and lifelike watercolors—and the art that I sold to pay the bills. In my sophomore year I took my first printmaking class and something clicked. Once I figured out the kind of art that I felt was a reflection of myself, that felt right, I couldn't help but pour myself into it. It was great, you could spend hours on an image and then with old old simple chemistry processes, make multiples. I loved every process, not just screen printing but woodcut and etching too. It was a crazy-manic-couple of college years. I don't think I slept. I did every art fair I could find, taught every workshop, every gallery show, every commission, every residency, every mural, while working at school and another job. While I'm glad I went through this, there is no way it was healthy haha—I wanted to try it all! The Pandemic has forced me (like everyone) to reevaluate, and I take things a little slower these days.
Q: What does a typical day in the life look like for you?
A: Solstice Handmade is in a weird spot where there's more work than I can handle alone—but not quite enough to have my own solo workspace or full time help. I am lucky to have the help of my assistant, Margie Griggs, who helps with printing, packaging, and working events, and my partner Sean Kelley who also helps to prep, print, and remind me to take breaks. Pretty much everything else is work for me, from designing, printing, mailing orders, trying to learn about marketing and social media, the list never quite ends.
Honestly, lately I've been a night-owl, working late at home, sleeping in, spending days at the studio and running endless errands. My favorite thing about this work is the variety and flexibility. I can plan my days around what my mind and body and life needs, this is what I've been working for and I hope to grow enough to provide others jobs like this some day.
Q: Are you a born Michigander? What do you love about living here?
A: I am! I grew up in Hudsonville, and have been living in Grand Rapids for several years. I first moved downtown to study illustration and eventually printmaking at Kendall College of Art + Design and have stuck around since. I'm still here because of the people, resources, and support I feel here! My family is close, most of the people I work and collaborate with are friends nearby, and I spend a lot of time at the shared studio I work out of called Dinderbeck. Several other artists from painters to printers to woodworkers use the studio—it's really great to have some sort of community when otherwise I work mostly by myself. And of course—the wild spaces that are nearby means there's always something new to explore. We have some truly unique plants, animals, and insects, and there are always mushrooms to be found (-:
Q: We love your nature inspiration & focus, tell us more about what nature means to you!
A: I think this fascination started when I was young thanks to my family. I grew up with a lot of space around me and time to wander. My mom grew up on a farm and my dad's dad was a biology teacher, so I learned a lot from them too. Spending time alone outdoors has always been an escape for me. I realized pretty quickly that if you look closely you'll always notice something new. That feeling of discovery is what I try to capture in my work. I want to motivate others to notice and hopefully inspire them to respect and take care of this world.
My goal is to keep learning about my surroundings by doing a lot of research for my designs and seeking out opportunities to learn from others. Artist Residencies have been my main way of doing this. I've been lucky to find opportunities with National Parks, Nature Preserves, and others that allow me to travel and learn about new places.
I have a hard time describing what exactly being in nature means to me, but this quote words it well_
“What do you do when your world starts to fall apart? I go for a walk—and if I’m really lucky, I find mushrooms. Mushrooms pull me back into my senses. Not just like flowers, with their riotous colors and smells, but because they pop up unexpectedly, reminding me of the good fortune of just happening to be there.” - Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of The World.
Q: Tell us about your craft. What tools do you use? What is your process? How long does it take to create a design for printing?
A: Most of my illustrations start out as ink drawings on tracing paper, which I then burn to silkscreen for printing. I love screen-printing because I can spend a long time developing an illustration, and by turning it into a screen I can make art that's affordable compared to original drawings or paintings. I also love that it can be done without any digital steps if I plan right. Developing ideas and doing research is the slowest step for me— usually I'll choose my subjects based on experiences I've had, but sometimes they are things I just need an excuse to study and learn more about. l work pretty quickly when I can get in the zone, so some smaller prints might take more like 2-4 hours, while the bigger repeating patterns are drawn at about 18x24 and take anywhere from 6-15 hours. Getting 'in the zone' itself is a task though, honestly often stress and anxiety make it tough and it takes a few tries.
Q: We think a lot about our natural resources and how we interact with the earth_ we know that vividly aligns with what you do, too. How do incorporate sustainability practices into your life? Into your business?
A: As this little business grows I try to be intentional about all the details that come with creating, so our workspace and wares are safe and sustainable. We use water-based printing inks that don't require solvents for cleanup, organic fabrics as often as possible, utilize a lot of repurposed garments in our printing, and we don't let any materials go to waste. Every little scrap of paper or fabric finds a use as something new- many of our products have evolved around what 'waste' is made from other projects. Almost everything we make these days is created with help from other makers so that I can focus on designing and printing, using local collaborators keeps dollars here in our local economy and supports other makers.
In other parts of my life, I'm the same way! My partner and I love cooking as a way to spend time together, so we get creative to try to prevent throwing anything away. This save-it-for-later tendency does mean that I do a lot of sorting and storing all of the things—luckily I enjoy it (-:
Q: We loved collaborating with you and supporting each other as artists and makers... who are some makers you love supporting and collaborating with?
A: It is so hard to know where to start with this, I am inevitably going to leave some people out! So I'll just name a few of the most recent ones_
- Rita of PantyWitch, who crafts one of a kind panties from textile scraps, sometimes I print for her collections, sometimes trading our scraps for panties.
- Megan of Adventure Textiles, one of my very first collaborators! She shares her rich botanically dyed textiles which I print on. I love that each piece is a bit different, picking up new material to print feels like Christmas every time.
- Nicole of The Artifact House has really helped me to branch out and offer pottery collaborations with some of our monthly shop updates. My very favorite is our snail palettes, she took a scribble of a concept and brought it to life, helping me to figure out a way to transfer my prints right to the clay.
- Rue of Elation Studio, who does just about all of any professional photography you'll see me post! I love working with her because we are good friends and there is a lot of trust between us. I love seeing how she interprets and captures our goods. The photos she captured of our clothing collaboration were styled and shot by her entirely—I couldn't be more pleased with how they came out.
Q: In what ways are you hoping to grow personally or professionally this coming year?
A: In the next year I want to continue weaving educational themes into my work and offerings! It has been exciting to start working with local nature centers, museums, and universities, and it's something I want to focus on. These spaces have helped me to connect with some incredible people working in the sciences that excite and inspire me, and I hope that these experiences enrich my work.
On a personal level I want to continue to improve the work/life balance, spend more time outside, and work on saying no (which was also my goal last year ope). It took me a year to not say yes to everything—now comes confidently telling people things they don't want to hear and being honest about feelings that aren't positive. I have such a hard time with it!
Q: We have to ask...what are your favorite pieces from Conscious Clothing? Why do you love them?
A: I really love the canvas overalls. I've been wearing them often when I teach workshops and now consider them one of my Mrs-Frizzle-esqe uniforms. They are especially great this time of year because they have room for a big cozy sweater underneath.
I am also obsessed with the color block fleece pieces that I saw you guys create recently. The colors are stunning and what a great way to use up every last bit of fabric. One of a kind offerings feel so precious, I can imagine it is hard to part with them sometimes!
OK one more—I am smitten with the Timberline cardigans we made together. The fabric printed like a dream and is so so snuggly and soft. I have been living in one in our drafty ol' rental house and it has kept me so cozy.