Sunday, August 23, 2009

Interview with Ebony (LoveBug Studios)

Quilts, for many, are more than just pieces of fabric. They are memories: people, places, events. They become an integral part of life's routines, celebrations and sorrows. Whether they are utilitarian or decorative, traditional or contemporary, quilts symbolize moments in time and reflect the varied, often colorful personalities of the people who make them.

Ebony is the creative talent behind LoveBug Studios. I met her through the Quiltsy Team on Etsy. She offers quilts, aprons, handbags and accessories, cards and journals, and other handmade items. Her specialty is to take ordinary, everyday objects and refine them into charming, fashionable pieces that reflect modern sophistication and flair.

Ebony offered to share some of her insights about life, working with fabric and starting a business. It is my honor to bring you this interview.

"My very earliest fabric obsession," Ebony tells me, "was with satin; my mom would buy me yards of the stuff, and I would make costumes, dresses, and I even made Valentine pillows with hand-sewn lace and sold those to friends, classmates, and family. I have had a needle and thread in my hands for as long as I can remember. I think I was born to create. I've always drafted my own patterns, but my clothing wasn't really successfully made until I learned more about garment construction!"

Ebony's love and passion for creating things, along with an obsession for fabric and all sorts of embellishments has lead to a lifetime of collecting fabric, lace, beads, buttons, sequins, paper, crayons and markers. "Anything," Ebony says, "I could get my hands on to make something with."

In college, Ebony loved dressing up and going places--to banquets, operas--anywhere she could get away with wearing an evening gown. Her fascination with satin continued. "I couldn't afford to buy evening gowns for every event, so I made about 2 or 3 gowns every year. As my gown collection grew, so did my scraps of satin because I was still in love with it and couldn't bear to toss it. I started making things with satin and mixing them with other fabrics. This included a return to my heart-shaped pillow making. Eventually, that turned into make some rudimentary quilts."

"Over the years," Ebony continues, "I've picked up a number of craft-related hobbies: crochet, cross-stitch, scrap booking, jewelry making, but I kept returning to this idea of quilts. I started buying fabric and making quilts for friends and sold a couple here and there. Quilting and sewing are passions of mine, so it was natural for me to combine these techniques and materials into the creations that inspire me daily. I didn't get serious about selling them until my friends and my mom encouraged me to take it more seriously and open a business."

Ebony opened her online shop in May, 2008. "I named my business LoveBug Studios for several reasons. I've been driving a little red Beetle for the longest time, and my last name is 'Love.' My friends started calling me LoveBug and any time they'd see me driving around town, they'd tell me about their LoveBug sighting. The 'studio' part came about because I always pictured myself doing other things besides quilts, and I didn't want my business name to be too limiting."

"I think that as I make more and more things," Ebony continues, "I'm starting to develop my own style and sensibility. I have a really upbeat personality; it doesn't take a lot to make me smile or laugh. I love surrounding myself with things that brighten my mood--bright colors, a cool pattern on a piece of fabric, flowers. So even though I try to make some things that are more subdued and traditional, I can't help but make things that are bright and happy and reflect that part of my personality."

A lot of work and experimentation goes into developing a successful online shop: taking quality pictures, writing interesting and accurate descriptions, finding the best venues, marketing and more. It is not as easy as it looks. "I recently had an 'aha' moment with my shop," Ebony offers. "It's really starting to have a cohesive look. I started working on a shop makeover to do a better job tying things together. Instead of referring to my shop as being filled with 'quilts and quilt-related items,' I adopted the phrase 'handmade sophistication.' I can really see my art and craft changing and improving and growing over time, and that is really exciting."

Everyone experiences challenging moments and, for Ebony, it helps to step away and do something else. "Often the challenges drive me to just do something with my hands. I tend to do things that are pretty mindless and allow me to work through whatever issue I have in quiet thought and meditation. Stitching a binding by hand or pulling weeds in the garden often gives me that quiet time to sort through things. Now, when that challenge in life happens to be directly caused by my creative process, that's when I just go watch TV!"

Like many of the other artisans interviewed for this blog, Ebony is concerned about social issues, and in particular housing, food and financial stability.

One of the charities Ebony contributes to is Modest Needs, dedicated to helping people with unexpected financial emergencies. "Financial stability can sometimes be the contributing factor in someone being able to stay in their home or feed their family," Ebony says. "One little minor disaster can set them on a downward spiral toward homelessness and joblessness." It is not difficult to imagine being in this situation--especially in these economic times. Imagine having a moderate income, doing okay, but the car breaks down. Fixing the car means using the money you planned to use to pay the rent. Not fixing the car means being unable to get to work to earn money for rent. Not paying the rent means getting evicted. "Many people are living on an edge as thin as a razor wire. The money contributed to Modest Needs doesn't go directly to the recipient; it goes directly to whomever the creditor is, so you know that the money is being spent for what it was intended."

Ebony also participates in Feeding America, a hunger-relief charity. "I do what I can to volunteer at the food pantries or to pack supplies or donate whatever I can."

On occasion, Ebony also donates blankets and quilts to Project Linus, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer "blanketeers."

And, finally, Ebony supports housing by participating in Habitat for Humanity building events. "A few years ago," Ebony says, "I traveled with a group to Slidell, LA to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina." The city of Slidell is located in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana and was just one of the areas to be destroyed by the hurricane in August, 2005. Habitat for Humanity has been working in the area (and around the world) to build simple, decent, affordable housing in partnership with people in need.

As an aside, Ebony offers, "It was on that trip that I discovered that there really is a bug called a lovebug, and they are not cute and cuddly like they sound. They are pretty harmless, but very annoying!"

For relaxation, Ebony loses herself in fantasy-type books (like The Hobbit) or in the classics (like Anna Karenina). "It's my way of taking a mini-vacation to a world I would never otherwise get to see (because it doesn't exist anymore, or it never did!). I lean the same way with movies. It would probably horrify people to learn how often I watch the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice while working in my studio! Any music with a good beat and lyrics I can sing along to also helps, especially when I'm not feeling my normal self!"

As for what shoes Ebony wears? "I think sling-back, peep-toe heels describe me best. The heel is for high-spirits (my personality), the peep-toe is for my generally introverted nature (takes time to coax me out of my shell--people often mistake my upbeat personality for an outgoing nature), and finally, the sling back is because I don't like to be confined or boxed in. I need room to grow and spread my wings!"

You may learn more about Ebony's life and work by visiting her shops LoveBug Studios (Etsy) or LoveBug Studios (Artfire) or checking out her website LoveBug Studios. She is also a columnist for and publishes a twice-weekly column on the love and art of quilting.

Ebony is a member of the following groups:

Carried Away Bag Team
Chicago Style Crafters
Fiber Arts Guild
Quiltsy Team


Sewinggranny - Mona said...

Beautiful interview on a very interesting artist!

CinfulArt said...

A wonderful interview. Inspiring. And nice to learn a little bit more about our Quiltsy Team Members. Well done!