Meet Stacy Michell

July 20, 2010 in News

Every artist or designer has a completely unique perspective. But occasionally, an artist’s talents, experiences, and circumstances come together perfectly, allowing him or her to carve out a truly unique place in the world. As a Georgian textile artist who has found fame in the Japanese quilting world, it’s safe to say that Stacy Michell lives a life that is truly one of a kind. Through her company, Shades Textiles, each day is colorful, creative and closely connected to the other side of the world.

As a child, Stacy always knew that she was born to be creative. She began sewing at the age of four and by fifth grade, she was teaching her classmates how to quilt. Stacy also loved finger painting and developed a strong connection to color. In fact, it’s Stacy’s eye for color that eventually led to her career. While visiting quilt shows in 1986, Stacy noticed that the industry was lacking in fabric colors.

“The fabric business was a very different creature at that time,” said Stacy, “Companies only offered 65 colors. I saw a need for someone who was providing more colors and a better range.” Stacy began experimenting with dyeing fabric, selling her creations under the name Shades Textiles. In less than a month, she decided to expand beyond solid colors. “I was only three weeks into this career before I said, ‘Boy, stirring buckets is boring.’” Stacy laughs.

Stacy says that her first few shows were “scary”, but soon, one customer would change the course of her career, and her life, forever. “Right off the bat, I met a man from Japan and sold him a lot of fabric and jumped right in,” she says. That man, Japanese textile artist Akio Kawamoto, introduced her to the export market place. “Before that, I really had no idea they made quilts in Japan. In ‘86, you just were not aware of what was going on in other countries.” Soon Stacy’s business took off in Japan – a rarity for a small business owner in the pre-Internet world. “In a way, it was nice. Back then, I would just get an envelope in the mail with samples and a cashier’s check.

Stacy’s gorgeous fabrics, created primarily with one of five techniques, eventually built a large fan base in Japan – and one fan would eventually lead Stacy through the next phase of her career. Famed quilting master and author Kathy Nakajima first used Shades Textiles fabrics as a quilting student of Kawamoto. Nakajima, a well-known Japanese television personality, began featuring Stacy’s fabrics in her many quilting books. As a result, Stacy saw a huge boom in popularity.

“Sometimes I say, I’m like the girl who does flowers for Oprah. I dye the fabrics for Kathy,” Stacy explains. By the time Stacy first visited Japan, she was expecting a crowd of 50,000 quilters at the World Quilt Show, and was greeted by 150,000 quilters instead.

Through her experience with Japan, Stacy was exposed to Hawaiian quilts – an appliqué technique where fabric is folded and cut into Hawaiian floral designs, much like a paper snowflake. Encouraged by Nakajima’s books, Japanese quilters began using Stacy’s colorful fabrics to create Hawaiian quilts – particularly her round hula hoop motifs Рas opposed to the traditional two solid fabric colors. Stacy saw an opportunity to create a line of appliqué designs for these quilters.

“Kathy was my inspiration to turn traditional Hawaiian appliqué into machine appliqué – she does everything by hand; I grew up on a machine.” In 2000, Stacy and her associate Toshiko Hashimoto joined forces in Atlanta to create a line of “Hawaiian but not Hawaiian” appliqué designs, using the folding and cutting techniques of traditional designs without the Hawaiian themes. Today, Shades Textiles has created over 130 “All Around Appliqué” block designs featuring themes such as holidays, animals and sports.

“Hawaiian quilts were influenced by paper-cutting German sailors who taught Hawaiian girls how to make snowflakes. At the same time, American missionaries were teaching girls how to do patchwork quilting,” Stacy explains. “Hawaiian women were too proud to do patchwork with only one color of fabric, so eventually they folded it and cut it like snowflakes. So it felt very appropriate to me, 100 years later, to team up with a Japanese fabric maker and use a machine, and not be so heavy in the flora and fauna.”

Today, Stacy continues to paint and dye beautiful fabrics, create All Around Appliqué designs, and publish quilting books. Although she is based out of Atlanta, she continues to visit Japan a couple times a year and stretch her career between the two countries.

Stacy has also returned to one of her earliest talents – teaching quilting. “I love teaching and being at the shows. The energy that you get from a customer or student, it’s a very important part of the situation,” she says. “I find a lot of inspiration from my students, and it’s very important for me that they find success in my products. My customers here wish I was in the studio more, but I have to go out and see the people.” Stacy is even planning to teach quilting on cruises to Hawaii, the Caribbean and other locations.

Stacy advises enterprising quilters to “always listen to your mother” – adding that her mother, quilting entrepreneur Marti Michell, “has always been a great mentor and friend.” She also recommends to “do something different. To be successful, you’ve got to make it on your own.” After almost 25 years of doing exactly that, Stacy has a thriving career, a dedicated following, and literally a world of inspiration in front of her.

1 response to Meet Stacy Michell

  1. Thanks Stephanie for ur valuable info
    i really enjoyed ur blog

    creative motherhood Embroidery designs

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