Happy Feature Friday!
This week we are featuring Michelle Bolick! She is the maker behind all the amazing creations of PineNeedle Stitches. We love everything Michelle is doing in her shop from her wood slice paintings, hand stitched books to ornaments. When so many things are made in the masses and digitally viewed it’s nice to see natural medias and hand created notebooks still in use. She is also doing great things through the sale of her products through her initiative the, Love You More Project, benefiting Alzheimer research and awareness. As most of you guys know, we think it is so awesome and impactful when people use their talents to give back. To learn more about this project and Michelle’s journey behind PineNeedle Stitches, read on!
: Tell us a little about yourself.
: My name is Michelle and I am a high school art teacher by day, artist and small business owner by night. Creating is my passion and my high school art teacher inspired me to be where I am today. When I’m not working, I’m spending time with my husband, family or my sweet basset hound, Winslow!
: We love your shop PineNeedle Stitches! How did you start making both hand stitched books and wood paintings?
: Thank you so much! The concept behind my shop began with my paintings on slices of pine wood. My family and I have a tradition of going to a Christmas tree farm every year to get our tree. A couple years ago at the tree farm, I spotted small slices of wood lying around from where the bottom of trees had been trimmed. I saw this as an opportunity for a “canvas”, so I started picking them up, and especially made sure to collect the slice of wood trimmed from our own Christmas tree. I used these for my first couple paintings and loved the texture created through the application of acrylic paint over the roughness of the pine wood. I continued doing this, and before I knew it, students were collecting wood for me from their family’s tree farms and we were saving our own Christmas trees and cutting the entire thing down to get wood for me to paint on.
My passion for stitching books began in college when I took a bookmaking class during a study abroad trip to Italy. I really enjoyed the class, but didn’t work on making books again until around the same time I began painting on wood. I needed a new journal and decided to make my own. I rifled through my old notes from college and watched videos until I remembered how to do the coptic stitch binding. I became obsessed with finding interesting fabrics and paper to use for covers of books. The process became soothing and I loved making a book that began as nothing but a stack of paper, glue and thread, which could then be used as a journal or sketchbook.
: Tell us a little about the inspiration behind your wonderful initiative to raise awareness and fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association through the “Love You More” Project.
: I lost my Grandmother (my Memaw) in May 2016 to Alzheimer’s disease. She and I had a very special relationship and since I was very young, she and I would say “love you more” to each other. When I would say it first, she would always say “no way girl, I love you more.” It was very hard for me to see her disappear before my eyes as her mind was stolen by Alzheimer’s. Even after her memory faded, we would still say this to each other. Every time I said “love you more”, she always said it back. She never forgot.
This disease is devastating and I’ve learned that SO many families are affected by it. I decided to help spread awareness about Alzheimer’s through my work by using what was so dear to my Memaw and me. I create paintings on wood and hand letter the phrase “love you more”. Fifty percent of all proceeds from these paintings are donated to the Alzheimer’s Association. My hope is that someday, a cure will be found so that families will not have to see their loved one disappear before their eyes.
: You live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC. What about your environment inspires your work?
: Everything about living in the mountains inspires me. It is an absolutely beautiful place to call home and everywhere you turn, you have the opportunity to discover a new inspiration. I used to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to work every day, where I would often stop to take photographs to use for paintings or to simply enjoy the breathtaking views. Most of the mountain scene paintings found in my shop are inspired by these moments. One of my favorite views is early in the morning when the fog is rolling through and the sun is rising – there is a sense of peace you experience when you see this, like an “on top of the world” feeling. There’s something about nature and it’s beauty that fuels me to create.
: You have so many great patterns for your journals. How do you go about your design process?
: I mostly find my paper and fabric at Michaels or JoAnn’s. I sometimes buy individual sheets of scrapbook paper with interesting designs or a book of scrapbook paper, depending on its theme. Some of my best sellers I make with wood grain paper and are hand stamped with a variety of trees or a mountain range in a gradient of colors, reflecting the same style as the paintings I create.
: For many makers creating is therapeutic. How has making positively impacted your life?
: There is nothing more therapeutic for me than to create something with my own two hands. I love the process of seeing how separate materials can become one by using a particular technique or process. Any time I am feeling stressed or sad, I can pick up a paintbrush and it somehow relieves those feelings. It is the best form of therapy I could ever participate in!
: Do you have any customer feedback that has stuck with you and kept you going during the challenging aspects of being a small business owner?
: Any time a customer tells me how satisfied they are with something I have made, it makes me so happy and pushes me to work harder. There are several stories that have inspired me: a customer who purchased a journal told me it helped her through the difficulty of losing her son because she kept it by her bed and used it as a place to write all of her thoughts. Another customer told me how she and her husband planned to use their journal to write to each other and planned on giving it to their little girl when she grows up. Another was happy with her purchase of a “Love You More” painting because her daughter loved it and cried when she received it as a gift for her wedding. These are just a couple stories that I think about when I’m struggling and I need a little push to keep going.
: What does it feel like to get a sale? Do you have a happy dance? haha!
: There are no words! It is amazing to know that someone wants to spend their hard earned money on something you have made. Not everyone buys handmade, so when your work is appreciated, it makes a purchase feel very special. Doing a happy dance is definitely an understatement haha!
: Any advice?
: Don’t let self doubt bring you down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve doubted my ability/talents, my goals for success or my business in general after seeing what other business owners are doing and how successful they are. Use it as inspiration to push yourself harder. And as cliche as it sounds, believe in yourself and work hard. It won’t come easy, but if you put the time and effort into running a small business and surround yourself with people who support you, you will be successful!