The Art of Carrying On

Mid Century-inspired pillows and pouches are slow designed to last

Dana Fehsenfeld makes small home goods that could inspire large interiors.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

The way 2020 has gone, most of us are in need of a soft place to land, and local textile artist Dana Fehsenfeld answers the call every day. Fehsenfeld makes what she calls “floating-in-place” pillows — oversized wonders in hand-sewn, color-rich screenprinted cases.

Fehnsenfeld started Chomp Textiles in 2007, during her two-year residency at Penland School of Craft. Bookmaking and Mid Century design are her two big influences; the latter was fueled by her exposure to renowned modern-furniture designer Herman Miller, whose factory is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Fehsenfeld grew up. “Art and color seeped into me because of my [oil-painter] mom, and later, as a consumer, I could never find things that were colorful enough,” she explains. 

Photo by Rachel Pressley

Her business’ moniker reflects the preoccupation with teeth that Fehsenfeld developed after she visited a medical-oddity museum in Chicago. “Each person’s set is colored and textured differently, not unlike fabric,” she observes.  

Chomp products represent comfort and utility, and she adorns her sustainable small-batch wares (new ones are added weekly) with organic shapes, perfectly imperfect patterns, bold color blocks, and richly saturated hues — tomato reds, sea greens, pale pinks, and ochres. “When I make a pillow,” she says, “I first draw the pattern by hand. This becomes the template we use for screenprinting each piece with carefully chosen custom colors. The textile is dried, cured, ironed, and sewn into a pillow.” She notes that she didn’t want to sell only the covers and leave it to customers to find inserts to fill them. 

Photo by Rachel Pressley

“People tell me they’ve connected with the pillows through a memory, how they look, even how they smell,” says Fehsenfeld. “I want customers to receive pillows that are ready to go, in all their portability and versatility. One can be on a sofa one day and a bed the next. They interact with a room’s elements in countless ways, and attract a different kind of attention.”    

Chomp also makes stylish zippered clutches — the Everyday Pouch and the Big Mama Pouch. They’re useful, of course, but the bright Marimekko-reminiscent prints also show an intricate sensibility. “I hope that when people hold one, they feel its handmade-ness,” says Fehsenfeld, making the point that beautiful things can ground us, especially during these distracting times.   

Fehsenfeld’s colors and designs take their cues from Mid Century fine art.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Two years ago, Fehsenfeld added eye pillows — those icons of glam relaxation — to her product line, offering them at an accessible price point. “I’m keen to put my fabric scraps to good use, and these let me do that. They’re made of cooling linen but have a nice weight to them.”

The mother of two feels lucky that her studio is in the family home’s basement. “I can work for a period, then pop up to help with homework, make soup, whatever’s needed, which is great, considering all that 2020’s throwing at us,” she says. 

Process is everything. “I could grow my business in multiple directions, but I’m determined to remain doing what brings me joy — the task of making. It’s easy to grow so fast that all of a sudden, you’re spending your days in front of a computer,” she says. “I want to remain conscious of why I’m doing this.”

Chomp Textiles, Asheville. Fehsenfeld donates up to 20% of Chomp’s proceeds to local nonprofits, such as Pisgah Legal Services and BeLoved Asheville. For more information, see chomptextiles.com