For those who don't know her I would like to introduce the extremely talented Michelle May, Textile Folk Artist and Designer, successful businesswoman, author, interior design genius and lover of bunnies!
Thank you so much for joining us. I know lots of people will be familiar with you already from your lovely blog, The Raspberry Rabbits. Did you ever imagine your creative journey would lead you to becoming such a successful artist and author?
Thanks so much for inviting me Jules. I’m honoured to be here.
Did I ever think I would end up here? Well, I guess I could say yes. I’m one of those people that believe when you want something bad enough and dream big enough, it will come true.
When did you first start to stitch and quilt?
I took my first quilting class in 1989. I was 21 years old and a friend of mine asked me if I would like to take a quilting class with her. I had no idea what it would be like, but I was hooked right away. My quilting teacher was Charlotte Angotti. She is hilarious and made quilting so much fun.
You have a beautiful home and a keen eye for good design, often featuring other artist's work on The Raspberry Rabbits. Why do you think you were led to the Folk Art style in particular?
I think I actually came full circle on that. After working 12 years in interior design and custom home building, as well as redecorating my house a million times, I landed right back in the spot that felt most comforting to me. Folk art is simple, fun and welcoming. It’s how I decorate my home and it’s what feels like home to me. When I decorated houses for people, I always made sure it was a reflection of who they were. It needed to be their home.
Can you tell us how you came up your Folk Art Fusion technique?
Well, I had been looking at lots and lots of photos I had collected over the years of quilts, stitchery, houses, etc. There were certain things in each photo that were similar. I said to myself, “I should combine all those ideas together.” Then, one morning, I literally woke up with the word “fusion” in my head. My best ideas always come to me right when I wake up (I think it’s because my brain hasn’t had a chance to get cluttered up by the events of the day). Thus, “Folk Art Fusion” came to be.
What was it like creating your first book 'Briarside Lane'?
Oh gosh. It was fun, exciting, exhilarating, and at the same time, scary, exhausting and expensive. I overcame many learning curves and really had no idea how much it would cost to get a book from the idea in my head to printed copy. However; I always knew I wanted to write a quilting book. I literally just took a giant “hop” of faith and started. Years ago, a dear friend said to me, “Michelle, you can never get finished until you get started.” Her words are in my head with every project I undertake.
We can't go any further without mentioning your wonderful assistants, Harrington and Hannah who have quite a fan following in their own right! I know you're a huge supporter of rescue bunnies and a big animal lover – how did that all begin for you?
Ah yes, my beloved little fuzzy ones. I fell in love with rabbits when I was six years old. My parents took my brother, sister and me to visit some of their friends, whom had lots of children. The children had a Dutch rabbit named Love. They let me hold Love and I fell head over heels in love. All the kids went outside to play and I spent the entire day with Love. She was so soft, so gentle and I felt so happy just holding her.
I got my first rabbit when I was 15. I’ve had many since. They are fragile, beautiful, peaceful and wonderful little creatures. I can’t imagine my life without them. They bring me so much joy.
The Raspberry Rabbits is very much about community and encouraging new quilters and stitchers to take their first steps. You offer a free Block of the Month, every month. That's a major undertaking when you have a business to run – why is it so important to you to do this?
I’m a natural giver and teacher at heart. I taught quilting for 10 years before our local quilt shop closed. I loved every single minute of it. Seeing a smile on someone’s face, when they finished a project they were proud of, made my heart sing. Many of my students have gone on to be incredible quilters and designers themselves. Knowing I inspired them to let loose and have fun, the same way Charlotte did in my first class, is just totally awesome!
There’s so much sadness, bad news, stress, etc. in the world every day. To me, quilting and stitching are an escape from all of that. Not to mention it’s a wonderful way to meet some fabulous friends.
You've been through some big life changes in the last few years. Do you feel that your quilting and stitching have helped you get through difficult times?
Yes indeed. If I didn’t have this to look forward to, I would probably have curled up in the bed and cried forever. Quilting and stitching friends and the fellowship, is every bit a blessing as the act making art. It’s all intertwined.
What would your advice be to someone who wants to start stitching, but isn't quite sure where to begin?
Find a class, a guild, or a friend to teach you. I know this is the digital age and we tend to learn so much on the computer, but it’s not the same. You still sit alone, with your computer. It’s much more fun to learn, create, laugh and enjoy all the good energy that comes from being around creative people.
What's most important to you ?
To love what I do and who I am every day and share that joy with as many people as I can.
Thank you so much Shell.
Thank you Jules!
I have to say that I know from personal experience that Shell is a really lovely, genuine and generous person, who deserves every bit of her success, and I'm delighted to be able to share this interview.
Hop over and see Shell's designs (and the other beautiful things she features) at:
Oh, yes , I'm really sorry, Harrington, that should of course be,
'Hop over and see how completely adorable we two bunnies are' at: