By Diana Brement, Jewish Sound Columnist
“I’ve been doing geometric designs my entire life,” says Dorienn Medrano, whose designs were featured on the front and inside cover of a recent Jewish Day School alumni newsletter. But surprisingly, Dorienn adds, “I didn’t realize I was artistic” until a few years ago.
“I’m not that good at drawing, but I’m creative,” she claims. Readers can judge by going to her two websites, one for her T-shirt company, www.chasmclothing.com, and the other for her portfolio, www.Doriennmedrano.com.
Dorienn performs almost every function for Chasm Clothing, which launched a year ago this month. She built and maintains the website, creates the designs for the shirts, and fills the orders.
“The inventory [is] very neatly stacked up in my apartment,” she says. “I make, fulfill and offer.”
Dorienn compares the company with having a small child.
“It takes all my sleep and my money and my stress, and I keep showing pictures of it to people,” she quips.
Her signature t-shirt designs show anatomically correct hearts pumping things she loves — Husky and Seahawks colors, and musical notes.
On top of this, she works full-time in sales for TalentWise, a human resources software developer. Her coworkers and management know about her sideline and are very supportive.
Dorienn’s big dream is to design a concert poster. She attends a lot of concerts, which is a form of relaxation she describes as “a few hours of letting go,” after which, she says, “I go back to being a workaholic.”
An inveterate doodler as a child, the idea for Chasm Clothing started with a Mother’s Day gift two years ago. She presented original artwork to her mom and grandmother, Rose Yorsh. Rose was ecstatic, and insisted Dorienn had to start a company.
“This probably wouldn’t have started if my grandma hadn’t guilt-tripped me two years ago,” Dorienn says.
You can see the blue and purple mosaic-style heart that started it all on the inside of the JDS newsletter.
Dorienn draws her designs by hand, using Sharpie pens and a light table, which was a gift from her dad.
“I’m thankful that my parents” — Michelle and Michael — “have been so supportive.”
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During last month’s Camano Island studio tour, I struck up a conversation with ceramic artist and painter Susan Cohen Thompson, looking for an interesting interview.
Indeed, Susan had a story to tell about her obviously Jewish name (obvious to Jews, at least) and a time during her teens that she wasn’t that pleased with it or her identity.
Originally from Queens, N.Y., she started life in a strong Jewish community in an ethnically diverse part of New York City. When she was 9, her family moved to White Plains on Long Island where “I really felt a shift in people’s ability to accept me,” she says, as she suddenly became a religious minority. “Being accepted is a huge thing for me,” so she would disguise her identity, telling people she was Susan Harrison, “so they wouldn’t exclude me” (borrowing from the Beatles’ George Harrison.)
“I remember thinking, ‘I can’t wait to get married,’” she says, but that didn’t happen until she was 43.
Living in Boston, she met and married Clay Thompson, who was getting his doctorate in engineering from MIT. She didn’t want to lose her long career connection to her birth name, but still wanting “to be on the same team” as Clay, she kept both names.
Her husband is originally from Federal Way and wanted to move back, so they came to Camano 11 years ago.
“We looked at a satellite picture of Puget Sound,” she recalls. “Clay said, ‘It looks like the view would be good from here.’”
While her degree is in ceramics and sculpture, Susan was a painter for most of her career, returning to ceramics when she moved west. She works in all media now, and her range is well represented at www.thompsonartstudio.com.
The natural world is her primary inspiration. Trees and birds dominate, and her carved ceramic tiles were a sell-out during the tour. Hundreds of people visit her studio during the annual three-day tour and by appointment throughout the year, she says.
While her Jewish influence might not be obvious, she says it formed an “ethical, inclusive” foundation, “respectful of all life” and giving her an “ability to see different points of view.” The “desire to do something important and be compassionate,” is something she relates to her upbringing.
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Short Takes: The newest Bronfman Youth Fellow from our state is Mika Koch of Seattle, a junior at Lakeside School. Mika serves on the school’s Lakeside Judicial Committee and Leadership Institute. She volunteers with One by One which seeks to end obstetric fistula in Kenya and was part of the U.S. State Department’s 2012 Iraqi Youth Leadership Program and spent that summer with Iraqi teens. Also, Robbie Cape of Bellevue, founder of family calendar company Cozi, announced last week that his nine-year-old company had been acquired by Time, Inc.