Michelle Smith of Raleigh leads a creative life. Both her grandfather and grandmother were painters and Michelle inherited their artistic abilities. She began by putting those abilities to work for herself.
"I couldn't find the pillows and tea towels that I wanted, so I just created them for myself with my own artwork," she said.
Those items--pillow cases and tea towels--have become the things that customers of her business want most.
"I sell 'em all over the country and they're a really big hit in Australia for some reason," said Smith.
There are all sorts of other items to which Michelle has applied her touch. Those range from paper products, to apparel, to fabric.
"I've sort of unabashedly have a feminine aesthetic and, you know, that's what I like and so that's kind of what I create," said Smith.
All of the items that Michelle makes have her own unique look. She takes elements from her photography, combines those with her graphic design training and develops patterns that can then be used for all sorts of products.
"Along the way I realized that if I took the photographs and used my graphic design skills and started putting those, making those into my own patterns, I could put those onto products," said Smith. "There aren't a lot of people doing it in the way that I do it, which is combining this sort of photography, illustrative style into the patterns."
From Michelle’s perspective the work combines the old with the new. All of the design elements are put together on the computer and then applied to items that have been around for ages.
"I really wanted to see that my new media translated into this old, traditional sort of, form," she said.
There’s enough of her own work to keep Michelle busy but she is now on a mission to help others in the creative community.
"I just really, really feel called to spotlight other people's talents," she said.
She formed a group called IndieNC and is behind the Rock and Shop Market and the newly opened Kindred boutique. those efforts provide assistance and markets for dozens of artists who have left the traditional workforce and are now supporting themselves.
"A lot of people don't have, you know, they've lost their jobs and this is a creative way to come up with more income," said Smith.
As for her own work, Michelle figures things will evolve and it might get to the point where she will make fewer things and instead market the designs themselves.
"I really want to expand more into licensing, which means that other people will manufacture my goods and they'll pay me a percentage of that," she said.