Lydia Crespo’s space at the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles is filled with her colorful, dyed materials, stacked and ready to ship to buyers. The foundry is a former factory next to the Missouri river just north of historic downtown St. Charles, which was saved from demolition. It hosts artist studios on its second floor. 

Photo of Lydia Crespo at Argaman & Defiance

Lydia, a St. Charles native, graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010. She received the school’s James Nelson Raymond Fellowship and used the money to create her business, Argaman & Defiance. In 2018, she moved into the Foundry Arts Centre and a year later, she opened a brick-and-mortar store, Cozy Shop, on St. Charles’s Main Street. 

Lydia’s specialty is the creation of dyed fabric that is influenced by the natural world, and her shop features comfortable clothing and décor items that showcase her unique fabric designs.  

The Missouri River inspires her art, and she manipulates dyes and water to emulate the current.

“I let the water do a lot of the work,” she says. “I don’t use strings and bands, but let the cloth fold over, hit it with the water and let the water rush where it needs to go.” 

The dynamic color movement is different in every creation. Lydia says uniformity bores her, so customers will discover that everything she creates is completely unique. 

Her interest in the art was born when she discovered that the biblical figure of Lydia was a dyer. The passion took hold and she began taking chemistry classes. She even published a paper about how certain dyes can be altered by changing pH levels.

Her creations are found in boutiques and online, and she has worked with stores such as Urban Outfitters, Target, and West Elm. 

She partners with Fonseca Farms, often a vendor at St. Charles’s Saturday farmers’ market. Fonseca supplies her with local red onion skins to make a more natural dye.

Lydia hopes to continue that creative symbiosis, supporting other makers while evolving her craft.—Traci Angel