Discover: The Wiley Rose

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Tell us about yourself! What’s your background and what do you do?

Chris and I (Callie) met through mutual friends 7 years ago and didn’t connect until I was in my last year at Arizona State University getting my BA in Sustainability. Chris had just finished traveling after finishing his BS in Physics and was planning to go back to get a degree in Biology with an emphasis on Neuroscience. We spent the beginning of our friendship working in coffee shops together and then taking breaks for beer and french fries. After more traveling and solid but distant friendship we found ourselves both back near ASU and finally decided to make it official and date. 

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We spent all of our time together and agreed that we did not want to spend anymore time in the Sonoran Desert than we already had. I managed the farm at BAMBOX produce and Chris finished his Biology degree. Then, we got the opportunity to move to Denver in July of 2018. I work at Snooze and Chris tutors online, which gives us a flexible enough schedule to pour our hearts and free time into the Wiley Rose. With my passion for plants, and Chris’ analytical mind, we are lucky to have found a craft that allows us to continue to both be creative and to provide something unique and useful to our customers.

How did you learn your craft? Tell us about your first finished product.

When we first moved to Colorado, I could not stop collecting plants. The abundant life here was so amazing and I just wanted to be close to it. Chris, forever the pragmatist, asked what I would do with them. I brought up resin and two weeks later he had bought me a small bottle to play with. We spent 3 months just collecting things and covering them in resin. Most of our initial experiments were messy flops, but we learned a lot and had so much fun. The more we learned, the more Chris saw how his skill set could help hone in my experimentation and make something great together. 

The first piece that we finished and were proud of is a necklace that we weren’t able to let go of. We were in a tough spot and living in an extended stay motel with our dog. When taking him out on a longer walk, playing in some trees, I found a little colony of mushrooms that I harvested and put in an empty poop bag. Chris later found a sick aspen that was shedding its bark and took a large piece home. We coated both pieces in multiple layers of resin, glued them together and added hardware. We later added a window that opens and shuts on the back so that you can see the scales on the back of the mushrooms.

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“We are inspired by nature and how abundant life is in Colorado, even in city centers and in the suburbs”

- Callie Alden, The Wiley Rose

Where does the name of your business come from?

We were from Durango to Buena Vista to go camping in Chris’ Volkswagen Bus brainstorming names for our still in the womb nature project. The name Wiley Rose came through family names. My dad’s last name is Willey and my middle name is Rose. When playing with words wiley grabbed ahold of our imagination. Wiley means sly and cunning, which is exactly how nature can feel when you aren’t in the know or aware. The concept of a beautiful flower that’s also cunning was delightful to me and it flowed well enough that Chris was on board. 

How long does it take to make your product and what’s involved in the process?

Every product takes a minimum of one week to make from start to finish, but will often take two to three depending on how elaborate the piece. Thankfully, we batch our products so we have multiple pieces we are working on at any given time.

 The Pinecone Pipes start with me wrapping them with waxed cotton cord to reinforce the shape and structure (and to give a fun colorful element to an already beautiful natural object). Wrapping each individual Pinecone takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on how large the pinecone and how clean the scales already are. Then I’ll resin them 3 times with a 24 hour curing process between each resin. This makes them sturdy enough for Chris to drill pilot holes for the actual pipe function. We’ll pass them back and forth for 2-4 more resins. Between these “finishing resins” Chris will sand down any odd edges and scales and to ensure that the whole Pinecone is both aesthetically pleasing and will work perfectly as a pipe. Once it is perfect, we will coat the inside with a food grade oil to cure the inside as the final finish. Then we add a magnetic bowl piece and a charcoal and balsa wood filter and call it done!

Where does your inspiration come from?

Obviously, we are inspired by nature and how abundant life is in Colorado, even in city centers and in the suburbs. Every sidewalk crack and empty space teems with life. Every Pinecone we pick up is unique in size and shape but maintains the same sacred spiral structure. Flowers are the same, every petal is unique and vary greatly but they are built on the same structure. Bark has been an unexpected love with its unique layers and color variation. The more we experiment with our craft, the more we learn about the plants we are working with. The whole process becomes an intimate conversation with a natural being; the opportunity to both learn from them and to challenge our creativity is a blessing. 

Wrapped vine window hang with Monarch and Milkweed seed pod, a  The Wiley Rose  personal favorite.

Wrapped vine window hang with Monarch and Milkweed seed pod, a The Wiley Rose personal favorite.

What’s your favorite piece that you’ve created?

My favorite piece is a wrapped vine window hang with a Monarch and a Milkweed seed pod. Once resined, the Monarch wings became translucent like stained glass. As Milkweed is essential to the lifecycle of the Monarch, this piece touches the ethical core of Wiley Rose, which is conservation inspired by knowledge and respect for the living world around us. 

What question do you get asked the most at pop-up markets?

People most often ask us how we got started. I think it is because our product is so unique but so familiar at the same time. The answer is simply lots of experimentation and lots of messing up. Our favorite conversations are with others who are passionately creative, but timid about the results. If there is anything we have learned, it is that there are so many talented and interesting people out there, most just havent had the confidence or opportunity to pursue it unapologetically. We hope that our process can inspire others to be bold with their talents. 

What’s something unique about you that most people don’t know (or wouldn’t guess)?

I think the perception of people selling Pinecone Pipes is that we are just super hippies. While that is a component of our personalities, it is only a small fraction. We are both extremely analytical, which is why were able to get the quality of our products to the level they are currently at. We are also not super extroverted party people. We spend most of our time making things or hanging out at our house cuddling with our little dogs.

What’s your favorite beverage to sip on?

I’m a sucker for a strong cup of coffee. Chris is always on the hunt for a nice glass whiskey. We can both agree, that water is the best drink out of anything though. 

What’s up next for The Wiley Rose?

We feel really confident in the quality of the Pinecone Pipes, so now we are ready to innovate on the rest of our products. We have had a lot of fun working on the trays for the pipes, so we want to create a whole line of boxes for keepsakes and treasured objects to appeal to the non-smoking crowd. We also want to fine-tune our jewelry selection. Chris is an innovator at heart, so we will likely always be working towards new products.

We are also working on scaling up our business, so we can both do Wiley Rose full time. We are so grateful for the support and welcome we have gotten at the Bazaars, so we are signing up for as many as we can throughout the year. We also have friends in Alabama and Oregon who want to reach out to smoke shops and festivals in their states to start growing Wiley Rose country wide!

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Meg Ryan