We had the good fortune of connecting with Dennae Tirrell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dennae, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
10 years ago I was living the dream, working Full Time painting Backdrops, Murals and Sets at a prestigious Theater Company in Missoula, MT. I worked for the theater for about five years before the had a lack of funding and had to move all positions to Volunteer. I continued to volunteer but also knew I had to figure my financials out….. I had fallen in love with Montana, the community of artists and wanted to stay. On a whim I started my Jewelry Line @cannelita.jewelry, the company snowballed and all of a sudden I was making jewelry full time, teaching myself how to run a business as I go and making A LOT of mistakes.
After five years of attending local farmers markets and madefairs, selling my work, I decided to make the jump, sold all my possessions and built out a Medium Roof Transit Van. For a year I travelled from Market to Market living out of my van. From high end rooftop hotel shows in LA to the local farmers markets in Joshua Tree. I met INCREDIBLY TALENTED artists that were all struggling with the same issues as I was. Having to wear all the hats….shipping / promoting / photographing / website editing – and being torn on what to focus on and how to balance all of that out. Making on their own, selling on their own, and living mostly a lonely lifestyle with no support for their business or what it takes to be a full time artist.
After living full time in my van for a 1.5 years, meeting amazing artists that deserved to have their work in shops, my dream for Biome was slowly formed. I knew that Bozeman, MT had very few resources for emerging artists and I missed living there and the community. I wanted Biome to be a space that invited all types of art. Dancers, movers, creators, writers, crafters. I wanted a shop that you could go to and know that 100% of the pieces were made by hand – slowly, with intention and sustainably. I also wanted to have space for Low-Income Studios. To create a sense of community and support making art again.
I drove up to Bozeman, spent a year looking for spaces while continuing to sell my jewelry, and then the Pandemic Hit. All of a sudden Artists had no way of selling their work in person anymore, all markets ended and it was an incredibly scary time for artists that rely on selling their work in Shops and in person.
In my heart I knew that if I was going to make this dream a reality it need to be now or never. I basically threw up my hands and said “fuck-it” and just went for it. I sold the van I was living in for $28,000 and in about two weeks put $20,000 into a commercial rental space.
I opened Biome Slow Craft in September 2020 and since then the community has had an overwhelmingly supportive response.
Biome has a small shop space that features over 150+ artists (most local.) The shop runs on a consignment platform with 70% of the Profit going back to the artist. We are able to offer that split because we run art workshops and host a lot of community events that help pay for the rent as well. I teach metal-smithing classes as well as Business 101 for Artists, other artists offer classes ranging in fibers, watercolor and ceramics.
We try our best to have a few events to be free or fundraisers for non-profits such as Big Sky Youth Empowerment, Bozeman United for Racial Justice, Haven (confidential support, legal advocacy, counseling & safe place for anyone impacted by domestic violence, sex trafficking) and LGBTQ Community. The community knows that all of our events are a safe and supportive space to dress freely in Drag, something that is rare in our part of the country. I have had people stop me in public, and as they explain they start to cry, to tell me that they were in a horrible place, feeling unheard and unseen, and came to one of our events that was life changing and such a positive experience for the them to feel loved and celebrated.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think I explained a little of this in the first question.
I am proud of our community for showing up. For supporting local artists, for wanting to connect and be creative in a scary time – especially during the Pandemic.
And ESPECIALLY in a world where Urban Outfitters and World Market are making mass produced “art” that is way more affordable. It means something that our community comes to Biome to purchase pieces.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is in Montana… I’m not sure if you want a Denver spotlight.
Eat : Blackbird, Little Star : Both support locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.
Coffee: Howdy Partner Coffee : Hole in the wall, off the beaten path coffee shop – always full of amazing/interesting people that are down for a game of backgammon
Art Gallery Openings : Echo Arts
Music : Live from the Divide – acoustic and intimate venue for listening to talented upcoming musicians. Pinecreek outdoor music venue during the summer! Big sky music in the meadow on thursdays!
Friday/Saturday Night : Last Best Comedy – best for improv and stand up comedy in a funky basement location downtown!
Drag Show : The Trishas @the_trishas put on the most AMAZING DRAG BRUNCHES
Farmers Market on Tuesday nights at Lindley Park or Saturday Morning at the Fairgrounds
Hike : Drinking Horse, Triple Tree, Sypes Canyon, Yellowstone
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh my gosh. My family and friends. The long hours brainstorming ideas, when the dream is delicate and fragile, all the way through to the dirty hard work and long hours renovating a crappy warehouse into a beautiful gallery/community space. My dad primarily has been along for the ride every step of the way. He knows that i’m an artist and that I am 100% not a business pro, but the love and support to just start and trust the scary process was HUGE in the beginning. It really just takes one person that believes your pipe-dream idea can work to let that seed grow and flourish.
I don’t have a business/financial background, and had a very very limited amount of money that I could spend on the business so I relied SOOO heavily on my friends and family to help me with every step of the process of building Biome. Friends helped paint the space, took the time to go through the lease for the building, helped me with my website, built IKEA furniture…etc.
I am definitely a “do it myself” type of person and through this process the one thing I have learned is ASK FOR HELP.
Put yourself out there, your community of humans want to make your dream a reality.
Other than my friends and family. THE ARTISTS. With out the artists trusting me to sell their work, I wouldn’t have a shop or a business rather. I thank the artists that have been with me since DAY ONE. We run on consignment so artist send me their work with no payment – that is huge for an emerging artist.
The first three photos – Embroidery Hoops, Ceramics, quilted jackets : Danielle Lopez @daniellelopezphoto The last few photos of the shop – Maisy Hoffman @maismae.photo