Leslie Shockley found inspiration from enjoying tea with family and friends in her front yard to brand her company. Tea With Iris is a nod to the family’s pet desert tortoise and the yard planted “to maintain her native diet.” Built around the idea of “upcycling” to create new products from used ones, Tea With Iris began with a line of children’s clothes repurposed from vintage materials and sewn on the 1958 Singer Slant o Matic sewing machine Shockley inherited from her grandmother.
What led you to start Tea With Iris?
After studying botany and marine biology at California State University, Fullerton and working for a year on revegetation at Chino Hills State Park, I spent 2 1/2 years working on coastal resources management with the Peace Corps in the Philippines. When I came back, I wanted to do something dealing with the waste issue, because it really affected me living in the Philippines, where they don’t have a waste management system.
How do you turn old fabric into hand-painted prints?
I press silver cloud, encelia, sage, and smoke tree from my yard and then use them as stamps with fabric paint. It gives me an opportunity to talk about their benefits.
Where do you sell your line?
Online [www.teawithiris.com], at the Crimson boutique in Riviera Palm Springs, at Greenspace in Santa Cruz, and at shows. Every first Saturday until April, I’m at the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center, where 20 percent of my sales goes to conservation. I also plan to return as a vendor at the Joshua Tree Music Festival in May.
How has the company evolved?
I added women’s tops and dresses. I recently sourced organic cotton and hemp for dinner napkins and home accessories. This year, I am going to focus on smoke tree prints. Gardening and composting consulting is something I want to start doing as well.
Do you have any other projects in the works?
I’m working with Anndee Laskoe, who makes jewelry from reclaimed materials, on a website called Coachella Valley Handmade, featuring local businesses with products that are sustainable and organic.
Ever think of competing on Project Runway?
[Laughing] I am not good with stress. It might be fun, but this year I want to focus on gardening, composting, and my new line.