Made in New England Series: Tori Kendrew of kitchen + kraft
For as long as she can remember, Tori Kendrew loved coloring, doodling and creating artwork with her hands. She naturally went to college for textiles, and ended up landing a gig as a Graphic Designer for Whole Foods. That’s when Tori fell head over heels in love with healthy living and good food.
About a year and a half ago, she listened to that gut feeling and left her job to pursue her two passions: wellness and crafting. kitchen + kraft was born shortly after, featuring “rad things for mindful living.” From napkins and farmer’s market bags to succulent planters and throw pillows, each and every item is handmade with love by Tori herself using natural dyes and fabrics. We met up with Tori to chat about how her relatives inspired her business, her love for pop-up yoga classes in funky spaces, and the importance of staying true to your authentic self.
R.K: What made you start your brand? How did you first get the idea?
T.K: I went to school for textiles so that has always been a passion of mine and after I graduated from college, I had a couple random jobs and ended up doing graphic design at Whole Foods. I always had some sort of interest in healthy living but working at Whole Foods and being in that space got me even more into that. I was struggling with creating things art-wise that had a purpose instead of just something that was pretty, so I was in between on how I could do that and honor all of my passions without kicking one to the curb.
I started experimenting with the natural dye and things at work were shifting, so it gave me the push to say “OK, I’m ready for the next step. Now is the time.” I went with my gut, left my full-time job, and dove head-first into kitchen + kraft. Luckily it all panned out pretty well so far! A lot of my friends started their own businesses around the same time, so it’s really cool to see how everyone has grown. It’s great to have those people around me who really get it.
R.K: How did you come up with the name kitchen + kraft?
T.K: Before I was even making what I was making, I had a personal instagram and I noticed I was posting a lot of food and art things I was making, so I was like “kitchen + kraft!” I spelled kraft with a “k” because of my last name, Kendrew. I loved how it sounded, and it was short and sweet.
It still relates to my business today. Literally the things I dye with are sometimes edible, and I’m making the dye over the stove in the kitchen. It kind of has a dual meaning too, because the items I make are also items you can use in your kitchen (like the napkins and farmer’s market totes).
R.K: Where did your passion for crafting come from?
T.K: I literally think I was born to do what I’m doing! My mom and dad say I was always coloring and doodling and doing things with my hands. My great-grandmother was in quilting clubs and my Nana made my aunt’s wedding dress. They’ve since passed, but that’s a really special connection I have with them. And what they did was mostly textile, which is kind of a lost art, so it’s really cool I can keep that going.
R.K: How did it all begin? What was the first thing you did when starting off?
T.K: The first thing I did was set up my space. I wanted a fresh workspace where I had all my stuff, and it was organized. I wanted to feel comfortable in it, because that made me more confident in what I was doing. That got me excited too because it was a fresh start! After that, I just started going. I had a bunch of ideas, and started making some mockup designs. Talking to other people really helped draw inspiration!
R.K: What did you have to learn the hard way?
T.K: I think just realizing not everyone is going to get it, and not everyone needs to understand what you do. For every person who doesn’t get it, there’s someone else who’s going to love and support what you’re going to do. You need to be OK with not getting into a store or someone who doesn’t want you at their show, but for every one person who doesn’t there’s someone else who does. Follow your own path!
R.K: How do you source your materials?
T.K: I have a bunch of resources from school that I ordered fabric from for projects because I can trust the quality is really nice, and they’re made in the U.S.A. I’ll get a bolt of natural cotton, and I dye everything myself here. I dye, stamp and sew everything myself as well!
It’s really cool to know that I’m the one making everything and putting my time and energy into things that people are going to buy and love themselves. I don’t know if everyone who buys my stuff realizes that I’m the one doing it all! I did a popup last week, and a woman came up to me who has one of my pillows, and was able to thank me. It’s super touching.
R.K: What’s your favorite product or one you think everyone should have in their home?
T.K: I really enjoy making the Pompom Pillows the most because I’m matching the dyed fabric to the printed fabric, and there’s lots of different elements that come together! I love that they’re all so unique and I think everyone loves a cute throw pillow too, so it makes it even nicer when you know the materials are natural and the process that was used was a natural process. You can feel really good with what you have in your house, and you know it was made well!
RK: Do you think there’s been a benefit to starting your business in the New England area that you don’t think you’d get elsewhere?
T.K: I do! I think there are a lot of stores here that really concentrate on locally made and hand-made, and a lot of people in this area really appreciate that. I don’t know if that’s true for other cities, but definitely here it’s a selling point! Also in this area, people appreciate tradition and using techniques that are almost a lost art like textile.
R.K: What would you love to see in the New England wellness scene that you don’t now?
T.K: I have been loving the yoga classes that are in weird places like museums! I recently went to the Daybreaker event at Fenway, and that was so cool. When else am I going to do yoga at Fenway Park at 6:00 a.m.? It’s really cool to see so many people interested in that kind of thing. It takes you out of the yoga studio and makes you realize you really can do yoga anywhere. I think that’s a new trend right now! I’m going to another one soon – a Full Moon yoga on the beach in Salisbury.
R.K: What other local wellness brands are you a fan of?
T.K: I love Nutty Life! Caroline is so sweet and genuine, and makes you so happy to buy her products. We actually started our businesses around the same time too, so it’s been great to see what she’s doing now. They also do soaps and body products too.
Heather from Thirst is great, and I did a workshop there with her. She’s super awesome!
R.K: Who has been the greatest influence or role model in starting your business?
T.K: I would say my mom obviously support-wise; she’s so supportive of anything I want to do! It took a while for her to be on board with me leaving me job and going into the unknown, but she’s been such a great person on teaching me to follow my gut. Also, always do you and try not to get swayed by anyone else.
R.K: What’s your current favorite quote or mantra to live by?
T.K: “Have so much light that the plants grow towards you.”
R.K: Where do you hope to see your brand in the next two years?
T.K: That’s a tough question. I think there’s a point you get to where if you want to grow, you have to let go of some of the things and not do everything yourself. That’s where I’m struggling right now because I want to have my hand in every part of it. Do I want to grow it or am I good with how it is right now?
I know I want to grow, but I’m not sure how right now! A lot of people will say to get the products made somewhere else, but hand-making it myself is what I love the most. For me to grow any more, I’d have to source it out to somebody, or at least that’s what most people say.
R.K: How do you maintain a work life balance?
T.K: I would say it took me over a year to really get it down to a science where I felt I could take a day off and not feel so guilty about it, or be thinking about work the whole time I was doing something else. You think, “I get to make my own schedule!” which is true but you end up working every day, 24/7. You definitely need that break, so you don’t burn out. I’m just now getting to the point where when the weekend comes, I realize I have next week to get things done. I prioritize things that need to get done vs. things I want to get done, and remind myself that everything will get done.
I also make it a point to go at least every Sunday to yoga with my favorite teacher, and I got certified last summer to teach so that whole experience in itself was amazing. Everyone should do it. It really helped with life in general, and how you look at things. It was beyond just yoga, but more how you live your life and approach situations. It was really therapeutic!
R.K: Here at The W.E.L.L. Summit we like to say “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” How would you describe your vibe?
T.K: As positive as possible, and genuine. People will talk to me and walk away thinking, “I could hang out with her!” I don’t put on a show. People walk away feeling that they really know me, and that I’m just open and honest. It’s funny because I have more friends than ever before now that I work for myself from home because I’m being true to myself now. Honoring yourself is so beneficial!
R.K: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own wellness brand?
T.K: You have to be 200% interested and passionate about what you want to do. Anything less than that will be a struggle to put the effort it takes to get things off the ground. Find your true passion, and if that’s in the wellness space, then that’s amazing. Listen to your gut. Your gut knows if you’re doing the right thing! If this is you, you will have the time and energy to put into that thing you want to do.
R.K: Is there anything else you want locals to know?
T.K: I love the wellness community and the support I’ve felt from it. I feel really lucky we have that here. From yoga teachers I’ve met to people who make sustainable goods, it’s really cool how everyone’s connected in some way!