Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Michelle. I’m a first generation American with roots in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I live in a little house in the suburbs of Gilbert, AZ, with my husband. I love to travel the world and study different cultures. In the past few years, I have found that creating handmade items is a huge passion for me. I am constantly thinking of what I can make next, and I spend hours in my studio – it is like therapy to me. I can hardly wait to see the finished product. When I do finally finish a project, I’m so completely excited that I have to run to my husband and show it off!
I discovered Etsy a few years ago when I was trying to find a way to make extra money to send to my parents during a difficult time. Eventually, my parents told me to stop sending them money, but I couldn’t pull myself away from my shop – it has become a part of who I am. I recently closed my old shop down and opened a new shop, Chick Lit Designs. I own a second shop as well, Yesterday and 2day, where I sell found vintage items. I love hunting for vintage items at estate sales and thrift shops and then researching the history in each item so I can share these beautiful and unique treasures with other people who will appreciate them just as much as I do!
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I have a full-time job as an advisor working for a company that sends American college students abroad to study other cultures in the foreign countries. In my free time, I am obsessed with international travel. I love to read, watch movies with my husband, and do geeky things like visit waterparks or play mini golf. I love going on picnics and visiting local cultural events like the Polish festival or Oktoberfest.
What would be the title of your memoir?
Rebinding – One Stitch at a Time. I think that what I do creatively definitely mimics how my life has played out. Life is constantly about changing, working with circumstances, and trying new things. I feel like this completely parallels the ups and downs of running your own business and the creative process.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m inspired every day by vintage items, bookstores, colors and patterns. Just looking at an interesting pattern can really drive my creativity. I’m also inspired by Etsy. It’s a complete melting pot of creativity and a place where I can be myself and create. Not only is it allowing me to follow my dreams, but I see the community it has created with other sellers.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade is my life. It’s where I came from, it will always be a part of who I am. Growing up, I remember my father making everything. We would get handmade gifts for Christmas. If my mother wanted something from the store, my dad would simply make it for her instead. Handmade to me is the passion, love and effort you put into an item: something that comes from the heart; something to remember a person by. It carries with it a history and a story.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My father has definitely been my biggest influence. He showed me that life is what you make it. He built the house that I grew up in. I watched him dig out a pond so we could ice-skate in the winter, and make a see-saw so my brothers and I could play outside. Every week he had some new project. He has been going through a rough patch lately, and I know the one of the things that helps him get by are his projects. Both of my parents have good hearts and amazing traits that make them very special, and I’m lucky to have received the creative traits passed down from my father.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I knew I loved art from a young age. When I was about 6 years old, I wanted to be an art teacher when I grew up.
How would you describe your creative process?
My creative process starts by going to the local bookstore to see what I can make next and what patterns, illustrations, and stories inspire me. I usually come out with more books than I possibly need and immediately head over to the nearest fabric store to pick out matching fabric for all of the new books. Then I lock myself up in my studio and start sewing. I love watching movies and TV shows on my new Kindle Fire while cutting fabric, and I’ve recently become completely obsessed with watching the TV show Lost.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
James Plumb Studio. These two individuals make the most amazing items out of old vintage finds. They have made dressers from old suitcases and a chandelier from old vintage lamp shades. It’s amazing what they think of!
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
One Christmas, my mom sent me a painting she made of Slovakia. I love it because of how much time she spent and all the care and thought she put into creating it. It’s now the central feature of our guest room!
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
I try to do something relaxing — I go to the pool, watch a movie or just go somewhere to let my mind rest. After having had some time to myself, I pull up Etsy and read Quit Your Day Job posts. After reading some, I almost immediately find myself getting up to go find new books and start new projects!
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I would love to spend about a third of my time living in Slovakia and the rest here in the US. In both countries, I see us nestled in our own little haven surrounded by beautiful greenery, trees, and streams, but never too far from civilization. I can envision living in a peaceful area with my husband, raising our kids and making a home as special as my parents did for me. I imagine my business being even more developed, eventually leaving my day job behind and making my creative passion a full and complete priority. I’m so interested to see what exciting things will develop for me, my business, and my family in the next ten years!