Today is the second feature in our new series My Sister My Sidekick, all about sisters and the special relationship they have. The first post a couple weeks ago featured my own little sisters, Katrina and Becca, and I’m super excited about today’s twin sisters, Chelsea and Amanda James. I met these ladies years ago at a family camp when I was in college and they were in high school and I’ve been following their success every since and so excited to sit them down and drill them with questions! I doubt you could meet a more talented and beautiful duo. They’ve traveled all over the world and have the most amazing stories…how they switched places when they were little, married brothers, giving birth to twins in India!
But first, some introductions…
Photography by Utah based photographer Ashley Thalman for Say Yes. Produced by Ashley Aikele. Thank you Amanda and Chelsea for letting us put the spotlight on you!
This is Amanda. She’s a photographer whose work has been featured in galleries in all over the world. She just recently (last month) received her MFA from a private art school back east called University of Hartford. That’s not all, she has also published two differed books. One is called “Halfway Pretty” and was a collaboration with other photographers. The other book is called, “Sweet Little Lies”, and is a self-published book about being a woman, a wife, a mother, and an artist.
Amanda also has two children, a four year old boy and a two year old girl. She is married to her husband Cubby James, owner of Cubby’s restaurant which is one of my very favorite restaurants when I visit Utah (I’m sure all other locals will agree!). Amanda and Cubby like to travel and gather inspiration from different foods that they taste to implement into his restaurant. Amanda also helps come up with the concept and design for each restaurant.
This is Chelsea. She is an artist with paintings exhibited in galleries in San Francisco and Park City, Utah. She’s even had a piece featured at the Louvre in Paris! Chelsea is married to Adam James and has traveled around the world collecting items and gathering inspiration. Chelsea and Adam started a textile and design company called Bohem– along with other sister brands – Hokoda and Nomadik, ranging from bedding to designer leather goods (the gorgeous emerald green rug we had in Henry’s room was from Hokada). They just opened the doors to their first Bohem store in Salt Lake City showcasing a curated world collection, along with other handpicked designer goods. I visited their new store last month, it’s absolutely breathtaking! If you’re in the area, I would drop everything and go check it out. Chelsea and Adam have three kids (including twins!).
What kinds of things did you like doing together when you were growing up?
Chelsea: Exploring, building forts and riding our bikes. We were tomboys through and through. Coming from a big family, it was really easy to get lost, so it was so nice to always have a buddy.
Amanda: We had a lot of freedom as kids. We would go explore and catch as many animals as we could. My mom said that if we caught them we could keep them. We once had a scorpion as a pet, a baby jackrabbit, and a strange lizard that we found out later was an endangered species (oops!) We would hunt for animals from sun up until sun down. We would also treasure hunt for rocks, or anything we could find.
Amanda, what kinds of things do you like doing together now?
We love to do anything outdoors. We mountain bike a lot together, go for walks, go for hikes. It’s our favorite thing to do, but after having kids it’s not as easy. We pretty much do everything together. If we need to run errands, we run them together and and do kid activities together too. We are going to share a studio space so now we will be able to work together too.
Chelsea, were you close growing up? Are you closer now or then?
We were inseparable when we were little, we even had our own language that no one else could understand. We were partners in crime. We weren’t very close in high school or college, but now we are besties and see each other just about every day.
Amanda, what is one of your favorite childhood memories together?
We had a little condo in St. George growing up and my favorite memories come from there. We would go into the desert and catch lizards and frogs until the sun went down. We would walk for miles and miles.
Amanda, what did you and Chelsea fight about growing up?
We fought a lot about sharing clothes and sharing a car. Sharing a car was the worst.
Chelsea, what’s one thing that used to drive you crazy about Amanda when you were growing up?
We shared a room and she was messy.
Amanda, what’s one thing that used to drive you crazy about Chelsea when you were growing up?
She would never let me borrow her clothes.
Chelsea and Amanda, you are both so talented artistically… how did you end up doing what you do? Were you interested in art/photography at a young age?
Chelsea: I was always interested in art, anything creative, but naturally I was drawn to painting and drawing. I wasn’t sure about what I was going to major in and actually thought I was going to be a nurse, but I made a bee-line to the art department after just one nursing class. I threw practical out the window and accepted my fate as an artist.
Amanda: We were always really creative children, and very visual learners. I started doing photography in high school with one of my friends as something we could do for fun and ended up falling in love with it. We have a lot of creative blood in my family with my two grandmas being very creative and two of my sisters being painters. Sometimes we call it a blessing and a curse because I always feel the need to express myself creativity. I know Chelsea is the same way. I understand now why artists do art.
Amanda, describe Chelsea in three words.
Focused (and ambitious), sweet, caretaker
Chelsea, describe Amanda in three words.
Carefree, fun loving, generous
Amanda, what’s a quality or skill Chelsea has that you really admire?
I really admire how focused and ambitious Chelsea is. Growing up when we did gymnastics and diving, I was a little more passé, wasn’t competitive and didn’t really care about winning. Chelsea would always perform really well at competitions and it amazed me how focused she could be. I always wished I could be like that but it wasn’t in my blood.
Chelsea, what’s a quality or skill Amanda has that you really admire?
Her ability to always stay calm and happy no matter how stressful or crazy the circumstances. She amazes me.
Amanda, what is your favorite piece of clothing that Chelsea owns that you might steal if you get the chance?
She has the cutest clothes that she collects from all over the world. Every art show that she has, Chelsea goes and picks out a dress and doesn’t look at the price tag. It makes for a collection of the most cherished dresses you’ve ever seen. I would steal one of those for good.
Chelsea, what is your favorite piece of clothing that Amanda owns that you might steal if you get the chance?
I would definitely steal her white faux fur jacket she scored at a vintage store in Salt Lake called Decades.
Amanda, tell us one way that you and Chelsea are a lot a like and one thing that is totally different about you two?
We have so much in common, it’s almost crazy sometimes. It’s like we don’t have one thing that is different in our views of the world or what we like to do. Especially after marrying brothers that has made us even more of the same because our husbands are very similar in their outlooks on life with traveling and playing and that has rubbed off on Chelsea and I. I guess the one thing that is totally different between us is that Chelsea would love to travel all of Europe while I would probably rather travel to a place like Costa Rica. I think she’s more sophisticated and I am more of a scrapper!
Chelsea, would you say it’s been more fun being a twin or having twins?
That’s an easy one – definitely being a twin. Having twins has been so much harder than expected! Ask me again in 15 years.
Chelsea, you lived in India for a while and even gave birth there! What was that like?
It’s a long story. A lot of good, and a lot of bad. It’s the land of contrasts. The birth was scary as hell and I’m lucky that we all came out alive and healthy. But on the flip side, I had a full time cook, caretaker and driver to help out. I felt like an Indian princess. The stars aligned on a very rare and special day on the twins birth, so the sky was full of fireworks and news got out that two American twin boys were born (boys and twins are lucky too!) and the hospital was crazed with people wanting a peek of Ira and River. They took the door off my room to accommodate all the visitors. It was insane.
During that time in India, I grew, became more patient, and learned a lot about myself. It was not easy. Amanda gave me some prime advice while I was there that really stuck with me – she said, “ If you don’t have a sense of humor here, you will literally go crazy.” So I tried to laugh things off and that really helped.
Chelsea, you just opened up a shop in Salt Lake? Tell us more about it!
Its been something my husband and I have talked about ever since we met ten years ago and I can’t believe its actually happening! We had traveled non stop since we were married and I’ve always wanted to open a special store like the ones we would see traveling. We began designing textiles, and selling wholesale and online and it wasn’t as rewarding as I had hoped. We would receive the products, send them out and that was it. It is really rewarding to see everything out and displayed, it makes it feel like all the hard work was worth it.
is a curated shop in downtown Salt Lake with our favorite items around the world from our travels, along with local artists and designers from Europe and America. Everything is handmade, completely special, and something you will want to hold onto forever and then pass it on to your children. You wouldn’t imagine how many hands are in the process of making just one of our items.
Amanda, you and Chelsea married brothers! How did you meet these brothers? Who was dating who first?
Cubby and I met first on a blind date. It was one of those dates where we hit it off right away. He took me to an Indian restaurant and we stayed there for 4 hours talking. I knew pretty fast that Cubby was it for me. When Cubby told me that he had three little brothers, I knew that Chelsea would for sure hit it off with one of them because of the connection I had with Cubby. He told me about his three little brothers and the one that stood out to me was Adam. He described him as someone who loves to travel (Adam was only 26 and had been to 72 countries by then), was a little more quiet, and was creative. He sounded like Chelsea’s type. We usually never fought over boys because our tastes were so different. I usually went for the louder adventurous guys while Chelsea usually went for the quieter more artistic guys. We set them up after we had been dating about a month. After their first date, Chelsea called me and told me she knew she was going to marry him. They stole our thunder and got married before us. They were soul mates, and so were Cubby and I.
Have you ever switched your identities to play a trick on someone?
Chelsea: Please. That’s our specialty. Teachers, boyfriends, husbands, you name it. We even got away with tricking Amanda’s husband for ten minutes. I don’t know why we didn’t take each others tests in high school, we could have really rigged that system.
Amanda: All the time. It first started in elementary school when she switched classes so she could take a test for me (Chelsea was the more responsible one). We switched on boys all the time. Her boyfriend in jr. high and my boyfriend in high school. One time we were at a hockey game. I was with my boyfriend and some of our friends came. Chelsea and I went into the bathroom and switched clothes and she went back down and sat by him. He didn’t even realize it was her the whole rest of the game.
Amanda, you and Chelsea have different hair colors now but how did people tell you apart when you were younger?
When we were younger my mom dressed us differently. We never wore the same outfits, and our hair styles were always different. Chelsea had really short hair, and I got lucky and got to have long hair. My mom always wanted us to have our different identities, but it’s really hard with twins especially with us because we are so similar. When our hair was the same and we dressed similar in high school, our close friends could tell us apart but other people kind of gave up and called us “Bentley”.
Chelsea and Amanda: Any advice for moms raising twins?
Chelsea (who has her own set of twins): This is something I have been really thinking about. It seems like everyone has their own take on this subject. I would say to really enjoy each twin as an individual, to encourage them to have a good relationship with eachother no matter what. And try your best to not compare. That’s just coming from growing up as a twin, but I am completely clueless with boys and I’m worried about those competitive years! Oh yeah, and if they fight, make them hug it out.
Amanda: Don’t play favorites and don’t pin them against one another. Twins have a special bond that sometimes can be very threatening to the parents but just embrace it. The bond twins have researches say is stronger than a child has with their own Mother. It’s a very strange thing but I feel so close with my sister it’s like we know what each other is thinking and feeling all the time. Competition is also going to come naturally between siblings, but don’t try and make it more competitive than it already is going to be. Also, make sure that they are individuals and aren’t seen as the same person.