love of art, art for love

Artist Profile: Amy L Cattell of Amy’s Elegance by Design

In Artist Profile on March 17, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Amy L Cattell of Amys Elegance By Design

We hope you enjoy this conversation with Amy L. Cattell as much as we did. Check out her website for examples of her beautiful designs.



What is your artistic training?

I started sewing when I was little.  My mother used to make clothes for my sister and I when we were little.  Our Great-Grandmother would send a package of material for Mom to make dresses, play clothes & nightgowns for us. 


My sister & I used to spend a week at Grandma & Grandpa Carpenter’s farm in the summer. There were beautiful quilts on Grandma’s beds that she had made.    Grandma showed my sister & I how to embroider and hand sew.  One summer she helped us with a small project that I later learned was called Trapunto.  You would take fabric with a picture on it, layer a piece of cotton behind it and embroider a stem stitch around the picture.  Then make a small cut in the backing fabric and lightly pad the picture with stuffing.  It gave the picture on the fabric a 3-D effect.  Much later in life I learned that the Trapunto quilting style originated in Italy between the fourteenth or the sixteenth century!  I guess it just shows you how little things we learn every day are still passed on over the centuries.


I had a pretty typical childhood for the mid-west.  I was in 4-H as soon as I was old enough and learned all the basics of sewing at that time.  I had made a couple of dresses and a reversible jacket, put in zippers, bound button holes & etc. by the time I had home economics class in 7th & 8th grade.  Then I had to make a simple apron and could not do anything the way my teacher wanted!  But I guess I am as stubborn as my Dad says, and did not let that dissuade me from sewing!   I went on to make my own prom dress and was given my own sewing machine as a high school graduation gift!  I was making a dress almost every other week my senior year of high school, and I think my Mom wanted her sewing machine back!


I did not go on to college, but started working right away.  I got married and we started a family by the next year.  I continued sewing for my own children.  My daughter was very tiny, weighing 4lbs 12oz at birth!  I made many of her clothes.  It was like sewing doll clothes!  Her christening gown was so tiny!  By the time my son was born, it got pretty busy around our house so I could not sew quite as often.  Once the kids got in school, I was able to pick it all back up.


Although I have not had a lot of “formal” training, I have always read everything that I could get my hands on regarding technique.  And have made many friends over the years in my favorite fabric boutiques that trade ideas on techniques.   I have always done a lot of sewing and alterations for other people so I have learned much about fitting clothes to all body types from my own experiences. 


I also do custom home décor.  I create tapestry or quilted wall hangings using customers home photos put on fabric, custom bedding & window treatments.  Basically whenever someone calls and asks “Can you do this?”….


I have collected by own library about custom fitting, sewing, embellishments, home décor and more to use as references.  But the strangest thing is when a problem comes up in a technique that I am doing, I will finally go to bed.  Then about 2am, I wake up just knowing exactly what I need to do!  It is like an epiphany.  I really think someone does sit on our shoulder giving us a hand when we need it!


How does art influence your life?

There is art in everything we see, hear and do.  I have music playing all the time!  I have things around me that others have made.  Grandma Carpenter used to do china painting.  My Mother used to create with flowers that she and my Dad used to grow and dry themselves.  I have an oil painting on the wall that my sister painted and jewelry that she made too.  I have an oak library wall that my brother built to house my collection of books.  And I have Koi swimming around a beautiful pond with a double waterfall next to a brick patio that my husband dug & built by hand!  We visit our son who lives in Yosemite National Park, CA and marvel at the mountains, waterfalls, wildlife and wild flowers.  And we play with our daughter and other son and the six grandkids whenever we can.  Art is in everything you do and live.  Art is life itself!


What is the process for having a custom dress made?

I talk in depth with the customer about what they like.  We discuss the basic style, the cut of the garment, neckline, sleeves, flow and length of the skirt (or pants!).  I am there to assist them in creating “their” vision or design.  I show them fabric samples, letting them feel the difference between silk dupionni, charmuese or dutchess satin.  Then we discuss the different types of lace or trims.  I take measurements or fit muslin directly to them to create the pattern we need.  Since there will be multiple fittings, we discuss the schedule of completion.  Realizing how busy everyone’s schedule is, most fittings are usually done in the evening or on the weekend; and can be done at their home or mine.  My main concern is that of fit and comfort when wearing my garments.  And I look for the expression on their face when they look in the mirror to tell me if they are satisfied!


How can the dress be integrated into occasions?

With destination weddings being so popular, I try to ask what type of wedding they will have and where will it be.  I recently finished a “gown” that had flowing charmuese pants attached to the bodice instead of a skirt!  There was an overlay of beaded english netting lace and a detachable train also of charmuese.  The bride wanted the train to “flutter behind me” when walking down the isle; but to be able to remove it and be comfortable to “play” in Las Vegas the rest of the night!  So knowing the setting of where the garment is worn is important in suggesting the correct fabrics for the occasions.


Fred & I were married almost 12 years ago in Grass Lake, MI.  We had a small gathering of about 50 relatives and close friends.  Our wedding was held at a restored stone train depot.  My daughter was my maid of honor and my son walked me down the cobblestones to a little gazebo for the ceremony.  Half way through the ceremony we had to stop talking to let a passenger train enroute from Chicago to Ann Arbor fly by!  My new father and mother-in-law renewed their vows during our ceremony that day too.  He had survived a stroke and open heart surgery, so he asked if they could share our day with us.  We thought it was great!  And we were glad to catch everything on tape that day, from the train interruption – to Mom crying so hard she could hardly say “I do”!  I would not give up that memory for anything.


 Since I work out of my home, people can contact me by phone 517-851-4627 or cell 517-652-4157, email or see pictures on my website .  And I have a slide show of pictures from things I have done in the past.  I will meet with you and do a consultation at no cost to see how I can be of service.

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