My name is Araya (pronounced u-ray-uh, for a ray of sunshine – my parents’ inspiration) Jensen. I’m a wife, mother and entrepreneur living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My line is called Wind & Willow Home.
I grew up on the shores of Lake Superior and in the north woods of Minnesota, and I’m inspired by nature and all of its organic beauty. My family and I spend our free time exploring state parks and camping across the country (our next adventure: Joshua Tree, Sequoia and The Redwoods). You’ll see this appreciation for nature reflected in the simplicity of my products, as well as in the colors I create for them, like pine, canyon, mist and bay.
Along with nature, I’m always thinking about necessity and functionality. I was a kitchen and bath designer in my previous career; I’ve always appreciated the intersection of design and practical use. My process starts with necessity – what do I wish I had, what do I wish existed? This then translates to a concept in my head, a lot of product research, and the long process of testing and re-testing. My end goal is to create products that I would have in my own home and use myself.
I began the journey with Wind & Willow Home after being laid off during the recession. When I got the news, I was seven months pregnant and a bit scared, to be truthful. It took the next year and a half of disappointing interviews for me to realize that I’d have to create something for myself. I started by launching a curated online shop that sold other products, along with my own wares, beginning with my rubber-dipped cooking spoons. I realized pretty quickly that I was getting an amazing response to the spoons, so I added other handmade items. Then I took the plunge and decided to begin building a full homeware line.
Shortly after I posted my first item on Etsy, I started getting requests for new colors, and I began to receive international interest. It was all so exciting; I kept saying yes to each new opportunity that came my way. Before I knew it, I was designing and creating new product lines. That’s when I knew that I had hit my stride as a creative entrepreneur. Etsy has built an amazingly supportive community, and I feel very lucky to be part of it. I’ve even set up an Etsy shop for my mother, and I’m constantly encouraging my creative friends to set up shops. It won’t be long before my daughter has her own shop, too!
In early November, I achieved my childhood dream of owning a retail store when I opened the brick-and-mortar location of Wind & Willow Home. I’m thrilled to finally meet many of my customers in person, and I’m really looking forward to collaborating with other makers and hosting community events. I also want to focus on launching my soft goods line, which I recently designed and introduced, starting with pillows and tea towels. This is a new medium for me, and I had a lot of fun playing around with the designs. As always, each piece is absolutely unique and one of a kind.
All photographs by Wing Ta of Canary Grey Photography.