Curled up by Clements’ desk is Penny, a beagle-dachsund-chihuahua mix who’s been with Clements for about 8 years. On the loom up front, the bright yellow loops are for a series of small one-of-a-kind pieces The Land of Nod asked her to do. The yarn comes from the Manos del Uruguay coop. “It’s all women-run and they hand dye all the wool. It’s a really amazing fair trade organization.”

Dee Clements of Chicago’s Herron Studio

PHOTOS BY DEBBIE CARLOS

For Dee Clements, who makes beautiful hand-woven goods out of her Chicago design studio, Herron, sustainability is key. “I know it’s an overused buzzword, but it’s really important,” she says. Though she’s talking about the environmental impact of large-scale textile production and why she mainly uses small-farm fibers that aren’t chemically or unethically produced, sustainability, in a creative sense, is also on her mind. She’s refreshingly honest about all of the time, effort, risk, and other not-so-Instagrammable realities it takes to keep a practice going, to make meaningful work and put it out in the world.

That said, her Instagram feed is lovely, full of works-in-progress and pieces that have a comfy feel to them while maintaining an edge and sophistication: a muted, dusky palette punctuated with just the right hot pink or bright yellow, soft textures balancing out the precision of intersecting geometric planes. Locals have been able to check out her wall-hangings at spots like the Winchester, where they add to the restaurant’s airy, want-to-sit-there-all-day atmosphere; to the home shop Humboldt House; and to the new Roman & Williams–designed Freehand hotel. This past year, she’s partnered with retailers willing to support her vision of responsibly-made textiles; for CB2, she designed a rug and created a sold-out run of pillows, along with designing two more rugs for The Land of Nod. And lately she’s been busy sampling for her own line, which should be available on her site in September.

Originally from upstate New York, Clements came to Chicago in 1998, to attend the School of the Art Institute. She put herself through college and then worked as a seamstress for the Joffrey Ballet before moving into costuming for theater, film, and TV, while doing her own work on the side. She started Herron five years ago, with a collection of scarves, though what she really wanted to make were “textiles you can use, but that can be really artistic. I was always interested in rug weaving because rugs can be real statement pieces and you can be painterly with them, but I had to work up to that. So I started taking my drawings and putting them towards pillows and blankets and that’s when my work started getting noticed — when I stopped doing the thing that I didn’t really want to do but that I thought people wanted, and started doing what was really natural to me.” If that sounds like a do-what-you-love truism, Clements has earned the right to it through persistence and hard work.

“I’m aware that the mission I’m trying to pursue can come off as preachy and I don’t ever want that to be the vibe,” she says. “I want to make things that people love and that aren’t pretentious, that I’m connected to and that people feel connected to.” Clements is serious in intent but light in mood, with a whole lot of heart, and when we visited her studio on a recent Monday morning, we left wishing we could start every week that way.