Maker Spotlight: Dinosaur Hampton
They don't make chain-stitch embroidery machines anymore; they haven't in decades. So when we met Benjamin Kelly, founder of Dinosaur Hampton, and heard that he tracked down a vintage machine and proceeded to spend months teaching himself how to use it to create a brand that's rooted in a handmade craft, we knew we had to work with him.
This Saturday, November 11, Dinosaur Hampton is popping up to do custom embroideries in-store and to kick off an ongoing collaboration capsule with Hazel & Rose.
Dinosaur Hampton will be in Hazel & Rose from noon-4pm on Saturday, November 11. Shoppers can either purchase or bring their own items to be embroidered, and our first capsule collaboration of five Dinosaur Hampton x Hazel & Rose items will be available while supplies last.
We spent some time chatting with Benjamin to learn more about Dinosaur Hampton. Benjamin has had quite the creative run, working across multiple fields as a musician, composer, writer, producer, actor, business owner, and now, designer. He's a truly delightful person, and his enthusiasm is contagious.
Emma Olson: I have to ask - where did the name come from?
Benjamin Kelly: Dinosaur Hampton comes from band name logic, which is just two words that sound good together. I've been in enough bands in my life to know that most people get hung up on trying to come up with the right name, and then they inevitably stop making music, and I wanted to just fast-track that whole process, and make something that just sounded cool.
A responsible name would have been my name, Benjamin Kelly Garments, or something like that, which is an OK name, but it was just no fun. And so I wanted to create something that sounded kind of like a band. It actually kind of was a band, and I took it from my invisible band... Dinosaur Hampton is a band, it's a place, it's a person, and essentially it's nothing yet, until I start it.
I feel like Dinosaur Hampton is that cool dude - guy or gal - who's just kicking it and just confident with their style. And maybe that's not what they were born - their name - but they're just, they're chilling.
"A responsible name would have been my name, Benjamin Kelly Garments, or something like that, which is an OK name, but it was just no fun."
EO: What inspired you to create Dinosaur Hampton, a vintage-inspired embroidery brand?
BK: I come from a music background, which inspired me to be creative in any way that I could. I've always been obsessed with clothes. I met the people from Hackwith, and it was the first time I had seen clothes get made, and it blew my mind. I was like, "of course"!
And so I wanted to make clothes. I started trying to teach myself to make clothes, which was very difficult. Through that research, I learned what a chain-stitch embroidery machine was. I saw it online, someone using it, and I was like, "amazing! Where do you get those?", and realized that those were very, very hard to find. After losing a few eBay auctions or Craigslist buys and missing out on some machines, I saw one pop up in North Carolina. I did the "Buy It Now", and I drove down and bought it, or drove down and picked it up, and brought it back.
It's just this amazing, original art form that was created as such a fundamental piece for military coats, or if you worked at the gas station, or the Western Nudie suits. And a way to ornament things in a really efficient way, but it's still done by hand, and so it's this incredible middle ground of, sort of, innovation and technology that, to me, creates a beauty. There's a natural humanism in a chain stitch embroidery effect that is not, cannot be, recreated by a digital embroidery machine or even by, like, hand-stitching. It's it's own, it's own color.
"...it's this incredible middle ground of innovation and technology that, to me, creates a beauty."
EO: What do you envision for the future of Dinosaur Hampton?
BK: Literally everything.
My problem is often too many ideas or too broad of a scope, and, to me, what it's all about is creating things that inspire people's style. I think that's the most important. With that, it needs to be made well, it needs to have integrity, it needs to be made, if not locally, like, by good people, who know what they're doing, it needs to be sold at a price that everyone is taken care of, but at the end of it, someone's going to be wearing it. And are they wearing it because the color, or because it's the thing to do, or are they wearing it because they genuinely think it's dope?
I feel the most confident when I feel like my style is banging. Not because somebody else thinks so, but because I'm loving this look right now or this piece or whatever. And I see so many men scared - I come from menswear as a man, but this goes for men or women - I see so many people almost, like, afraid, like, "I can't pull off a leather jacket". And it's like, no, you totally can. Just wear a leather jacket. Or you can't wear white after whatever; doesn't exist, that's not true. You can do whatever you want whenever you want if you think it looks great. And I want Dinosaur Hampton to be pieces that inspire people's style. Clothes, furniture, I want to make cars, I don't know.
Clothing is an expression of yourself, which is a gateway to your vulnerability. Style, beyond fashion, beyond design, style is a way of life, and it needs to be instilled in more people.
"I see so many people almost afraid, like, 'I can't pull off a leather jacket'. And it's like, no, you totally can. Just wear a leather jacket."
EO: How do you see Dinosaur Hampton working with the local community?
BK: I think collaboration is the antithesis of competition, and I think that's the point. And I think a big problem with the world right now is competition. Especially in a creative world - growing up doing "Battle of the Bands" is just the stupidest shit. Because it's like, "this band does their music better than you". It's like, "cool, we're not making their music, we're making our music". And so, to me, there's enough room for everyone. There's enough customers, there's enough audience, there's enough stores, there's enough designers, there's enough stylists. There's enough ideas, there's enough colors. There's enough out there, right?
And so, to me, I love the idea of collaborating with other people because the greatest thing about doing creative stuff is being on a team. I hold that true. It's very lonely being a creative person, and so the best part of your job is when you finally get to be on a team. And to me, that teamwork comes with collaborating with a store, or another designer, and sharing ideas, learning to sacrifice, learning to move ideas together for the ultimate good of the next collaboration. We are collaborating with the consumer, the customer, the audience. And we all have to step in and be present in an agreement about a piece of the designer, piece of work, or a piece we're purchasing, and that's a big commitment on everybody's part.
And so, to me, it only makes sense that someone trying to create any sort of expression needs it to go through other creative minds for it have validity. So yeah, I want to work with every store in the Twin Cities. Because I love it! We have a great scene here. Minneapolis is it's own artistic ecosystem. So, we don't need New York. I love it, but I don't need it.
"It's very lonely being a creative person, and so the best part of your job is when you finally get to be on a team."
all photos courtesy of Dinosaur Hampton.