Artist Profile: J. Marsha Michler

J. Marsha Michler is best known for her crazy quilting, but has been doing a lot with wire jewelry lately. Her most recent book was the Art of Wire, but she is the author of many books on crazy quilting, jewelry and knitting. She has written articles for magazines and has won awards for her crazy quilts. She actively pursues various needlearts, jewelry, spinning, graphic design, photography. She also gardens, builds stone walls, travels and enjoys sushi with her husband. She is an active member of Embroiderer’s Guild of America, Society of S. Maine Craftsmen, and other organizations. From Appleton, Wisconsin, she now lives in her “paradise”—actually, Limerick, Maine, a small village in the foothills of the White Mountains. You can visit her website here, her blog here and her gardening blog here.



Q: What is on your workspace right now?
Wire earring stands made out of 16-, 20-, and 24-gauge brass wire. Our local library is putting my jewelry on display, and I wanted to make something original for hanging earrings.

Copyright, Courtesy of J. Marsha Michler 2011.

Q: Why do you make art?
I’m not aware that it was ever a choice! I guess it’s said that you should do what is in your heart—I totally agree!

Q: What’s your current favorite, can’t-live-without-it tool, supply, material, or junkyard find?
An antique hand-forged nail puller that I found in the woods. The craftsmanship is remarkable. It’s hanging on the wall so I can gawk at it, next to a rusty old horseshoe and a logger’s spike also found here.

Q: What is your least favorite technique that you still use anyway?
I love exploring many techniques and can’t think of any that feels like a chore. It seems like there’s always more to learn about all of them.

Q: What’s your favorite tool or material?
A hand stitching needle. I like to sew beads to beads, beads to fabric, beads to leather, as much as I love embroidering with silk threads on silk fabric. My second favorite is a chain nose jewelry pliers; it’s
like an extension of my hand.

Copyright, Courtesy of J. Marsha Michler 2011.

Q: What do you listen to when you create?
Public radio, with classical music as background in the morning and the speech hour in the afternoon. Helen Caldicott is my favorite speaker, but I also enjoy hearing about the latest science on environment, biology, social issues and whatever. For project that are long hours, like embroidery and beading, I like  audiobooks.

Copyright, Courtesy of J. Marsha Michler 2011.

Q: What’s the best book you’ve read lately? It’s all research lately—we got our new dog, Murphy this summer—he’s six and the only command he knew was “sit.” So I’m studying dog training methods, and also learning about edible wild mushrooms and getting some ideas for the stonework that I love to do. And I have an audio book on my iPad by Wilkie Collins.

Copyright, Courtesy of J. Marsha Michler 2011.

Q: What’s the most inspiring trip you’ve ever taken or adventure you’ve ever had?
Back in my twenties, I left middle-class Wisconsin suburbia behind and moved to New York City. I loved  New York. Spent oodles of time doing photography and looking at art in museums and galleries and  also worked in an art gallery. I enjoyed hearing the Patti Smith band a lot—they practiced in our loft  building. After some time there, I flew on Freddie Laker to London with only a backpack of stuff and knowing no one there. Had a fabulous year in England before moving in with my sister in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Then I did some hitchhiking, discovered Maine and found home. I still love to travel, but the way we go about it seems awfully tame.

Q: What’s the last thing you cooked? Made a big pot of soup out of a beef soup bone. In it I put a big fat turnip, chives and kale from the garden. Home-grown food is the best.

Q: If you could surround yourself with only one color, what would it be?
I’m doing a self study Master Craftsman course in color through the Embroiderer’s Guild, and my  appreciation of color and the many facets of it has definitely moved forward. I’m now more into the effects of color, than any particular color. To get away from “color” color, I painted my studio in “Plum  Black Absence.” An interesting name, but it’s actually a barely off-white.

Q: Do you have a talisman/power garment/magical thing you wear?
I don’t think I need that. It seems like my life has been magic; some really neat things have happened. I feel privileged. There’s some long stories… Join me for campfire and wine sometime…!

Copyright, Courtesy of J. Marsha Michler 2011.

Q: What’s your favorite place in all the world?
Right here, right now, with the life that is around me. I love where I am. It took a long time to get here. I’m here.

Q: What one thing do you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
My next book.

Q: What’s the best day you’ve ever had?
Definitely the day my son was born. And secondarily the day that was the first day of spring on which  my husband and I were married.

Q: What’s today’s Words to Live By?
Being true to myself is something that works for me. I attended a writer’s workshop given by author, Carolyn Chute and read a couple of pieces that were factual. Everyone thought they were made up. It’s true that fact can be stranger than fiction. I like facts, and I like the truth, and those are things I’m always seeking in this lifetime.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
There are many things I love but none I feel guilty about. Chocolate, sushi, Brie cheese, hot tubs, fine wine… bring it on!

Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
When I found that I could manipulate rocks into a pretty decent rock wall, and continue the process for
all of two hundred thirty seven feet, well, I guess at that point I felt no need for any superpowers.

Q: With whom would you love to spend one day making art?
Frido Kahlo, Isadora Duncan, Alexander Calder, Joan Miro, Salvadore Dali, Georgia O’Keefe.

Q: When is your favorite time of day?
Most of my days consist of creating, writing, working outdoors, playing with dog and hanging with my husband. I can’t pick a favorite out of that!

Q: What is your earliest memory?
Probably that of sitting on the floor of mom’s sewing room cutting into fabric scraps and stitching clothes for my doll.

Copyright, Courtesy of J. Marsha Michler 2011.

Q: What was your first job?
Oh, really bad! Jobs and me don’t go together! No-o-o-o!!!

Q: What’s your one favorite material thing?
You’re making me pick! I guess my denim shirts, I have maybe six of them. The latest I got in Paris at a farmer’s market for Dix Euro. It’s way too big and I love it.

Q: What’s your best piece of advice for artists?
Get up and stretch once in awhile.

For more J. Marsha Michler inspiration, visit her website here, her blog here and her gardening blog here.


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