About Shop Sesh: Every month (or so), I’ll visit the curators, artists, builders and designers who enjoy a little kush to help them push their creative boundaries. It just so happens they’re all also doing pretty impressive things to cultivate the arts community in Colorado and beyond. We’ll have a smoke and a chat in the spaces that often inspire them most — their own. If you’d like to request a sesh or have one to recommend, email me here.
Shop: Share Denver, 2829 Fairfax St., Denver
Interview with: Becky Hensley, Founder and Ninja-in-Chief
Becky Hensley is building an entrepreneurial empire out of beads, paper and yarn. Thanks in part to the popularity of Pinterest, Etsy and Denver-based Craftsy, along with the DIY dedication among the Millennial set, it’s cool to craft.
I was first introduced to Hensley in 2013 when she took the stage at the Paramount Theatre for an Ignite Denver presentation at Denver Startup Week. Hensley shared the story behind “How to Build a Community in the Basement of a Bar with Glitter” about her wildly popular Denver Craft Ninjas events. Since then, she’s turned monthly meet-ups at Three Kings Tavern into a full-time career, transforming a former daycare center in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood into Share Denver — a 1,600-square-foot hobby headquarters for the craft-loving community.
In just over a year, Hensley, 39, has built a bustling hub for the study of “eclectic home-ec” with a lineup of classes including crochet, print-making, Tarot 101, brewing bitters, terrarium building, plant-based cooking and even a few for the kids. And she’s the hippest home ec teacher you’ll ever have — together with 80 other instructors in tow.
Since March is the designated National Craft Month, I stopped by Share Denver for a chat with the quick-witted quilting enthusiast and my favorite kind of arts-and-crafts session — one with cannabis.
Cannabist: How did Denver Craft Ninjas get its start?
BH: I moved to Denver about seven years ago and ended up hooking up with some old friends from growing up in Wyoming. They were all in punk rock bands, so I kind of fell back into a lifestyle that has been very familiar to me throughout my whole life – one that I probably shouldn’t have, but you know, lots of partying and going to lots of shows. They were all artists and musicians and I was just an appreciator of their work but not really doing anything on my own. So I decided to start hosting craft afternoons where we would meet in people’s basements and backyards. It kind of oddly became this big thing with so many people wanting to come. We started to need a bigger space, so we moved it to the gallery in the basement of Three Kings Tavern. They were so rad to let us use their space for four years! But it still wasn’t anything official and I was always dreaming it would turn into something like this, but just didn’t think it was possible.
Cannabist: But it was…
BH: Yeah, I had the idea of opening a space, but it was super scary! I had a friend who believed in the idea and she then became my business partner. We dove in and immediately found the perfect place for us. It was a daycare center before — complete with a full kitchen and a little window for serving lunches — so it had everything we needed. We opened our doors in August of 2013 and within just the last seven months, I was able to quit my full-time job (in real estate publishing). My partner has since moved on and now I’m running the show all by myself, which is just crazy!
Cannabist: Where was life pre-Denver?
BH: I lived in Missoula for eight years — went to the University of Montana and stuck around. I raised a lot of hell, I drank a lot, I was kind of a wacko. Which is what I think you’re supposed to do! I think a lot of people regret those times — I have no regrets.
Cannabist: You’re a funny lady — both IRL and on the Internet. Where do you get it from?
BH: I definitely get my funny from my mom. She is hilarious and a total teaser. She teased me relentlessly as a kid. But in a formative way, I think that helped me develop a sense of humor. To be resilient in spite of any shade anyone throws me. And I think it set the scene for the buffoonery I operate with as an adult.
Cannabist: Where do you get your inspiration for classes and crafting yourself?
BH: I want to say that I am constantly out getting inspiration, but so much of my role at Share Denver now is administrative. It’s kind of a bummer — we entrepreneurs start businesses hoping to do so much more of what we love. Then we realize that the business part of it is all-encompassing. These days, I let my teachers help guide the inspiration of Share Denver. They have all the brilliant ideas, the workshop schemes and passion … and I translate it into the program. All of them are so amazing and they constantly surprise me with their willingness to share their craft and skills! They help me stay courageous when I’m feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing. Also, Pinterest, Instagram, pop culture and a lot of music.
Cannabist: I love that you have a ringback tone (heard when I called to confirm our interview).
BH: Yeah, it’s one of my favorites. “Jailbreak” by Thin Lizzy.
Cannabist: You’re obviously still way into music. What’s on in the shop?
BH: It’s a lot of yacht rock right now! Christopher Cross, Michael McDonald — it just feels like my past. I have flashbacks to my mom driving me to go fishing or something and us rocking out to Foreigner. I love shoegaze. The new Charli XCX album — holy shit, it’s so poppy, but it’s amazing! And I just saw Sleater-Kinney at the Ogden and basically freaked the fuck out just being in the same room as those ladies.