Tell us a bit about yourself.
The Creative Chics (from left to right: Carol Shea, Yuriko Kettler, Debbie Mitchell, Freda Mayer and Debbie Pearson) all call Kansas City home. Creative Chics was “born” when my mom, Freda Mayer, and I (Debbie Pearson), dusted off our sewing machines after a 30-year hiatus. Mom taught me how to sew when I was in high school, and as a result, I made many of my own clothes. Then life got rather busy for us, and our sewing machines took up residence in the back of our closets.
Jump forward 30 years when both of us officially retired from our “paying jobs” and started sewing again, enjoying a pastime we had long set aside but never forgotten. It quickly became obvious we both had an insatiable appetite for collecting beautiful fabrics, and it wasn’t long before we decided the only way to support our hobby was to turn it into a business.
We were having so much fun but struggled to keep up with demand, and in less than a year we had invited the three other Creative Chics to join us. There is Carol Shea, who is my aunt and my mom’s youngest sister; Yuriko Kettler, my gorgeous and talented daughter-in-law; and my closest girlfriend, Debbie Mitchell.
The five of us work out of our individual home studios and meet every other week for a “show and tell” of our newest creations, photo shoots of the latest aprons, a shared lunch where we dish about family and life, and sometimes we even make time for an afternoon matinee.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
We all juggle having families and all the activities that come with being parents, yet we each manage to find time to pursue our other passions, whether it is attending Kansas City Royals baseball games or KU basketball games, gardening in our backyards, traveling with our spouses, whipping up new recipes, decorating our homes, or walking our dogs in the park. Some call us renaissance women— given our vast number of interests, I think this might actually be true.
What would be the title of your memoir?
When Work is Fun – Seriously! We all laugh at the concept that what we do is considered work. I speak for the whole group when I say we are like children, excited to get out of bed every morning and anxious to put our creative ideas together to create something new. We have all shared that many nights, we lay in bed, unable to fall asleep as we dream of new designs and fabrics that need to be birthed into beautiful new creations.
Where does your inspiration come from?
We find inspiration everywhere! We find it in fabric and clothing stores, on T.V. (Bree on Desperate Housewives always wears an apron!), the internet and from each other. Ironically, the five of us have very different taste in fabrics and colors, so it is always inspirational to see what each one of us creates.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade means that someone put a lot of thought, love, and attention to detail in their creation. We sew each apron one at a time to ensure it is made of the highest quality workmanship. We want each customer to open their Creative Chics package and feel they have received a very special gift made just for them.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
Each one of us on our team. We brainstorm together, critique each other’s work, and share ideas on new and better ways to make our product. I strongly believe it is a huge part of our success that we are able to work collectively together while also encouraging and honoring each individual’s creative uniqueness.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
Spend 10 minutes with any of us and it would become obvious we are all inherently creative souls. But like many people, work and family took precedence when we were younger and really didn’t allow time for us to explore our creativity. Now it is “our turn,” and we intend to make the best of it. The irony is that our apron business wouldn’t be this successful without all those years of experience we gained by working in the public sector. It really laid the foundation for us to realize our creative dreams.
How would you describe your creative process?
We usually start with an inspiration piece, such as a dress that we think would be super cute as an apron. With a bolt of muslin fabric in hand, we lay it on the mannequin and start snipping away at the fabric until we have the pieces needed to create an actual working pattern. Many apron mock-ups are made before we finalize the pattern, working out the kinks as we go. Once we have a pattern that we all approve, the real fun begins by picking through our large fabric collections to find the perfect color combinations to bring the new design to life.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Vera Wang! Seeing her creative process would be so inspirational and educational.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I cherish the first apron made for our store. It is a visual representation of how Mom and I started this new chapter in our lives, and a reminder of how far we’ve come in such a short period of time – in our business and in our relationship with each other.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
We still want to be doing something we love this much, something that gives us such great personal satisfaction while allowing us to have the best of everything in life – a creative outlet, family time, vacations, our hobbies, and our girl time together. I know we should probably dream bigger, but life is pretty sweet for all of us right now. I’m not sure it is supposed to get any better than that!