Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Featured Vendor: Michele James-Parham

I was born and raised in Oklahoma City, OK, but transplanted to the 'burgh in July 2005 with my family. My husband William, son Elijah and I live on the Northside, in Brighton Heights, on a little dead end street, with our two cats, Lain and Grey.

I come from a long line of crafty women. My paternal and maternal great-great AND great-grandmothers made every piece of clothing and linens that their families needed, which was a lot, because collectively, the 12 of them had 79 children! Next, came my two grandmothers (who had a much smaller army of only five children to craft for); both were seamstresses too (go figure). I spent a lot of time with my maternal great-grandmothers while I was growing up. Both of them lived on farms and were quilters. They taught me a lot about sewing, being farmers' wives and what it was like to be immigrants. I thought I was just playing and that they were just entertaining me, but they were really setting the stage for me to follow in their quilted and caravaned footsteps. My grandmother made me lots of clothes (as did my mother) when I was a baby and toddler. My grandmother also made me dolls, doll clothes and all of my baton twirling costumes, which I later learned to help with making. I think my mother, though she can sew, wasn't as drawn to the needle and thread like I have become -- she is a crocheter.

When I found out I was pregnant with our son, I decided to buy a sewing machine and make some baby clothes and cloth diapers. I was going to be so productive and not need to buy all of that stuff. I set out with the best of intentions, but realized that it was going to take a whole lot more patience and time than I might be willing to give the project. I did manage to make some stuff, but nothing too impressive and we bought plenty more than expected. Once Elijah was a little older, I set back down at my machine and began to sew. I'd stay up late to sew and get early to sew. I'd try to encourage Elijah to take extra naps and longer naps so I could sew. I became a pro at sewing while balancing a nursing baby on my lap. As I kept sewing, I started to remember what all those wise women had taught me. I began to really make things and to find a certain Peace or Zen in the process.

I don't know when I started selling the things that I was making. I remember giving things to friends and making things for friends, but I can't quite recall when sewing became a business for me. I eventually found and was hooked. Up to that point, everything I was making was all new or new from vintage material. In the last three or four years, I have started to up-cycle and recycle linens, blankets, sweaters and reconstruct second-hand clothing. I find a great deal of Joy in turning pillowcases into sweet little skirts, ties into belts, flannel sheets into cloth diapers, scraps into baby quilts, serger trimmings into pillow stuffing and cutting out hundreds of charming little gnomes to make patches that find their way onto many of my creations. It's therapy -- a creative outlet. And everyone needs some kind of creative outlet. If you don't find something to busy your mind, hands and soul with, you risk unleashing all that energy in other ways -- that can be a bad thing for some people (and for those around them). Or, at least that's how I see it.

My goal is to make someone smile when they wear or use something I've made and for them to know that they're holding a piece made by someone with a history rich with radical, wise and talented women. I secretly hope that I never grow up, but I really do want to learn to play the accordion.

I have a sporadically updated blog and when I'm not flea-ing, I sell stuff online.

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