1. Hi there! Will you tell us a little bit about what you do at Shimelle.com?
Allo-allo! Shimelle.com is both my blog and my teaching hub: I’ve been teaching online classes since 2004. I’m a crafty girl with a serious love for scrapbooking, so my classes usually have that sort of angle, but I don’t teach classes that are all about measuring, cutting and gluing to make identical projects. Instead, I lead workshops in pushing your writing and creating so everything is your very own work. My very favourite thing about teaching is seeing how everyone makes something unique – that is bliss to me!
2. How did you get started and what are you most proud of to date?
My grandmother is an incredibly crafty lady and she inspired my love of creating things from a very young age. She taught me to sew and bake and add flowers to pretty much anything to make it pretty. I discovered scrapbooking when I was at college and my first supplies came in a really horrible kit from a discount store, but I loved it. I made my first scrapbook while I was in a play and all of the cast added a little something to the album in the dressing rooms between scenes, then we gave it to the director as a present at the end of the run. Although my creative style has grown up a lot since then, the spirit of making something that preserves good times is still present in pretty much everything I make. I started the business side of things after a few people emailed me to ask how I made some projects I had posted on my blog – what seems like a million years ago – and they lived too far away to come to a class in person. Suddenly it made sense to try to share the ideas online – and that is certainly what I look back on as my proudest moment, breaking ground and starting something that was so new. At the time, I said I was going to teach classes on the internet and people responded in disbelief with lots of ‘that will never work’ type comments. In 2010, no one would ever think that was a ridiculously outlandish idea. That is a definite ‘yay’ in my book.
3. Who/what are your style icons?
Definitely the girls who did things with class and just the right amount of cheekiness too. Mary Tyler Moore has always amazed me – so much so that the first dance at our wedding was Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’ with lyrics about her. Growing up I loved watching her shows and I was also really transfixed by Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In! Wait, does that just completely contradict what I said about class?! I blame that and far, far too many viewings of The Beatle’s Yellow Submarine for my love of 60s-style kitsch. I also love the personal style of Lisa Loeb and Lily Allen, so maybe I just identify with girls with big hair and a good eye for accessories. Plus a friend and I are going to see Orla Kiely speak on Friday and I am very, very excited!
4. Where do you get inspired?
Beyond anything else, I am inspired by places. All sorts of different places and everything that goes with them. I grew up in a small town in Kansas, but I live in one of the world’s biggest cities – London. Both places inspire me in different ways, but London felt like home to me from the first time I walked along the pavement and stood at a bus stop. If I get stuck, I go for a walk somewhere in London and I always come back totally unstuck and with a million ideas bubbling away. This place inspires me absolutely all of the time. But I am also very inspired by places that aren’t home – by going somewhere new and progressing from that feeling of being lost to finding the rhythm of another culture. Iceland and Japan are the two places that have made the most dramatic impression over the years, and I daydream about spending more time there when I’m creating things. (We followed Sigur Rós on the tour through Iceland that became the movie Heima and it was seriously the most inspiring week of my entire life.) Both places have amazing visual styles all their own when it comes to art and fashion, but also beauty in the natural landscapes. Every place I go seems to create a new story in my mind, and letting the story unfold is the magical part.
5. What is your biggest goal for the next year?
I’m very much a next-big-project rather than a calendar motivated girl, and the next big project here is a huge adventure. My husband and I are setting off for a long trip, visiting twelve countries over three continents in fourteen weeks. We start in Thailand and backpack through Southeast Asia, eventually working our way to Australia and New Zealand and then fly to South America to travel through the Andes before we come back to London at the end of March. The biggest challenge is that we’re doing all this without any checked luggage – just one small backpack each. Of course this gave me a huge worry about what to wear, how to live with one pair of shoes and how to have cute hair with pretty much nothing but bobby pins! But I’ve worked out a plan for all of that now and am super excited to go everywhere. Although I’ll be writing and taking pictures all the time, it’s the longest I’ve ever gone without crafting or baking or some sort of making things in pretty much my entire life, so I think hitting the road with just a camera and a pen will be something that gets to the heart of why I do all this crafty stuff – setting it aside for a little bit will make me relish it all the more when I return. At least, I like to think of it that way and not that I’ll forget how to glue paper together between now and April! So perhaps there isn’t a way to sum that up into one goal – probably more like three dozen goals all wrapped up into one little backpack and a plane ticket.
6. What do you love about teaching online?
I love that every class has people from all over the world who come together to share the learning experience. My favourite class of the year is Journal your Christmas
(which you can join any time – it starts on the 1st of December every year) and there are more than forty countries represented in the participants. The stories they have shared about their own traditions throughout the holidays give such perspective to why Christmas is so special and how we all celebrate in our own way. Last month I taught a class called True Stories
all about writing and it was fabulous to see people really give real writing a try and not tell themselves that it’s too hard or they didn’t have something important to say. Before I was a full-time crafty girl, I taught English in a secondary school and half the battle was confidence, and I see that now that I work with women too – it’s easy to tell yourself that you just need to get things done and your stories aren’t so important, but that’s not the truth at all. Seeing someone have the confidence to write, create and share a little part of their own life story is super, super amazing. Plus teaching online means I can work from pretty much anywhere, which suits me perfectly!
7. Share a little secret. What’s something that most people don’t know about Shimelle?
Most of my secrets come from high school! Living in a small town meant one could sign up for pretty much anything, so I signed up for… pretty much everything. My geekiest secret is that I was a state debate champion, and I also know every single word to REM’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It — and if anyone reading that knew instantly why those two things go together, then you are as geeky as me and I promise to keep your secret too. Did you know that one of the things you do on a debate team is practice talking with a pen in your mouth? It’s supposed to improve speed and enunciation. Seriously weird though, right?!