Interview with Chelsey Ahlers of Chelsey's Handmade Designs
Continuing our interviews from our January box with Chelsey of Chelsey's Handmade Designs. She provided a beautifully designed Ulu sticker. We talked about the ways that art helps her, how she gets inspiration from both her and husband's homes and cultures, and more! Let's get into it. :)
Tell me a bit about yourself, Chelsey's Handmade Designs, and how you got started.
I was born and raised in Alaska, the small village of Kaktovik. I am Inupiaq and my husband (of 8 years) is Palauan. We have two beautiful children together, 2 years old and 11 months old. I have always been artistic, many different mediums. It runs in my family! My aaka (grandma) is a painter and a sewer, she makes parkas. My mother and three of my sisters paint. And my aapa (grandma) and uncle are very skilled with building and making things. Chelsey's Handmade Designs - CHD got started when I had my first child in 2017 when I became a stay-at-home-mom. I invested in some material and machines to pursue my passion, mostly made as gifts and things to sell to close friends and family. It was my husband who pushed me to go bigger. Go big or go home, right? So I began selling at local craft shows, local markets and even went to making 3-hour trips to pursue other events. Now, my business has grown significantly and we've even launched an online clothing and activewear store! It all started when I became a SAHM.
That's so awesome to hear about how being artistic runs in your family and how your business has grown! Now that you've experienced this significant growth, where do you want to go from here?
I would love to eventually get my designs and product in shops worldwide. If not in shops, then to have customers from all over the world!
Has art always been something that's interested you?
Art has definitely been a huge part of my life, ever since I was little. I had a very traumatic childhood; I had gone through counseling - years and years of counseling but nothing seemed to help me deal with stress, anxiety, depression or healing from my childhood. I wasn't able to speak and express my feelings. As I got older, I found peace in art. Pottery, painting, drawing, beading.
What made you gravitate toward stickers/decals?
My husband! At first, I was just creating the decals and applying them to mugs and dishware. He finally convinced me to do JUST the decals, that way people had the chance to apply them to whatever they'd like. Eventually I switched over to stickers because of how much less labor it was for me, and I could keep every single detail in the sticker that I could with a
That's cool that you ultimately discovered that stickers made the most sense for you. With that said, are there other things you've been wanting to try or experiment with?
I would love to continue our clothing line! To try and experiment, I'd love to touch a little bit in tattooing! I've also always wanted to be a traveling tattoo artist!
I saw a recent post on your Facebook page about mandala stickers and since I didn't know about them, I had to look it up. Did you just start doing those? They look really difficult!
It's pretty common to not know what a mandala is! I saw one once on Pinterest and thought I'd give it a shot. Turns out that's where I found my peace in art! It must be because mandalas represent a spiritual and ritual symbol and represent the universe! I've been working with mandalas for almost 3 years now but recently switched to creating and designing mandala stickers. Really not too difficult but very time-consuming! I find peace and calm in it so I really enjoy it!
Good to know that I'm not the only one who is unfamiliar with mandalas. :) I can see why you like them though, they definitely have a unique beauty to them. When it comes to designing them, what is that process like?
The process is pretty simple, at least for me! I have all the tools and software that will allow me to do this.
Where do you gather inspiration from?
Sounds cliche, but from the heart! From expressing myself and just letting loose! A lot of my designs are originated from my home, Alaska. So I have the nanuuq (polar bear,) the Ulu, and of course the state of Alaska, as well of many other things that remind me of home. Also a lot of inspiration from my husband's culture, Pacific Islander. Like the octopus, manta ray, pineapple and other things that remind him of home. A lot of the inspiration is from our culture and our hometowns.
Cliches are cliches for a reason, so I totally get it! I love that you have pulled from both of your cultures to create your art. Is there a design that you've created that holds a particularly special significance to you or are they all pretty equal in that way?
They're all pretty equal in a way. Every design and piece is dear to my heart and I never forget a piece.
Do you like to read? What's your favorite book?
I love to read! But now that I have two babies, my time is very limited! I'm constantly trying to manage my time between naps, laundry, art and cleaning so reading kind of fell off my radar. I love romantic tragedies though, Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult. A lot of fiction authors and stories.
Are there any new pieces in the works that we should watch for?
Mostly more stickers! Slowly trying to grow my inventory. Also, our clothing and activewear line, Revived Balance! revivedbalance.com
When we reached out, what was it that made you want to be a part of The Bear Box?
The opportunity that The Bear Box is supporting all Alaskan Artists. I couldn't pass up this opportunity. I know that I offer a different style and it fit right into my plan on sharing mandalas with everyone.
Is there an inspirational quote or words of wisdom that have helped you as an artist?
Just Do It! I've also always been athletic and Nike's "Just Do It" has always been a part of my life. Just do it, what have you got to lose? Life is too short not to take chances or make moves.
Is there anything else that we haven't touched on yet that you'd like to share?
Definitely to just keep an eye out on both businesses for new designs and products! Chelsey's Handmade Designs - CHD and Revived Balance. Always new things coming, this lady doesn't stop!