I know when I first met Kaisa Dille her kind smile, quiet intelligence and generous nature made me like her immediately. Some of her amazing work caught my attention the other day – and I felt the need to reach out and talk to her about her life and her work at K. Dille Designs. Using salvaged old-growth and rough-sawn wood from places such as the ReBuilding Exchange and road trips through the countryside “knocking on farmers’ doors,” Dille makes tree swings, bud vases and hanging planters that frame flowers and greens as living artwork.
TLS: Tell me a little about yourself – where you grew up – where you went to school and what you always wanted to be!
Kaisa: I grew up on a 640 acre sheep farm in central Minnesota with three brothers. After studying Economics at Simmons College in Boston, I worked in marketing out in San Francisco before finding my way back to the Midwest. I was about to continue along that path until I interviewed at a major ad firm here. I was on my sixth interview for a position there and my interviewer asked me what my favorite job was. I answered “farming” and he asked “well then, what are you doing in the city?” My response: “that is a very good question.” In that moment, I knew I was on the wrong trajectory. So I started looking for something that would integrate my love of the city and my love of farming. This led me to a project manager position with a small landscape design firm. I worked there for a few years before starting my own company in 2011.
TLS: Regarding your creative process – what inspires you?
Kaisa: I’m a huge proponent of creating sustainable landscape designs. I never push for the ephemeral plantings, but for those that will thrive for years instead of just a season. Also, we are living on old prairie land, so I love to see native prairie plants and they love it too. It’s a return to familiar soils for them. Another element of my design is the integration of edibles. Why not toss a little function into the mix? In terms of the wood pieces that I create, I am always searching for inventive ways to display plants. Being that this is an urban environment, a lot of us don’t have much outdoor space. Many of my clients have roof decks or back porches or even just sunny windows, so I work to create planters that won’t take up a lot of room and still manage to green up a space.
TLS: Do you collaborate often or find this a solo adventure?
Kaisa: My design work is, for the time, primarily a solo adventure. I have worked with Aaron Christensen, a fantastic artist and fabricator for some of my projects. He can make anything out of any material and I foresee us collaborating a lot in the future.
TLS: Where can people find your work around the city?
Kaisa: Right now, I have some pieces at The Haymaker Shop in Andersonville and Takara Home in Oak Park. Other than that, most of my pieces are custom built for the size of the space. I also build benches and stand alone planters. You can visit my website: www.kdilledesigns.com or my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/k.dilledesigns
TLS: Do you have a bucket list – and if so – share something please….
Kaisa: The biggest project that I want to embark on is creating an urban farm. My wife and I just bought a house in the North Park neighborhood on an oversized lot, so we are converting much of the yard into an edible oasis. The neighbors around here have been extremely loving and excited for that prospect. Although a super tight knit “watch over your neighbors” environment already exists here, we hope to contribute to it by providing fresh organic food to our neighbors and friends. We’re even getting some chickens and hope to put a bee hive up too. There is a really great new venture out of Chicago called www.bikeabee.com that enlists knowledgeable beekeepers to tend to the hives by bike!
TLS: I heard a rumor you go married – how has that affected/changed you?
Kaisa: I did! Ky (Dickens) and I were married last fall in a farm themed, square dance wedding. It was hands down the most magical day of my life. It was a thunderous lightening-laden, torrential downpour filled day until a half hour before the ceremony. Suddenly, the clouds parted and it was sunny and 70 degrees for our outdoor ceremony. That moment, when the clouds parted, is a great representation of how my life feels with Ky. When we found each other, there was a sudden calm that became a part of me. We compliment each other in all the ways that we needed to be complimented.
TLS: What lies ahead for you artistically?
Kaisa: My focus right now is to build my business in a couple different ways. I really enjoy tackling all of these tricky urban spaces and I also look to creating a line of planters that have a wider audience.
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About K. Guzman
Kathy grew up all over the US - lots of east coast time. She is a surfer girl with an unabridged curiosity. A woman whose mid life awakening continues to bring her to the place she was meant to be. Her degree in Journalism/Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida is being yanked from the archives and put to good use. Her two kids are grown and rock stars in this wild world – her Harley is ready for some serious summer miles – and her heart remains open to life, women and the possibilities each day brings.