Tuesday 6 October 2015


“Our apartment is very tiny and my studio is really just a cleaned-up portion of the garage but it is just enough for me to be content. It is my space that is untouched by others and is a place of inspiration and imagination. I really love having the room to work on my work as well as other projects that may begin from a spark of inspiration and motivation.”

After Michelle Housel’s last year at college she spent her last $200 buying a one-way ticket to Nantucket. She had fallen in love with the island and its people after she helped a high-end boutique from her native Florida to set up a second location there. While Michelle, also known as Dancey Pants Disco, had grown up in Florida and graduated with a BFA in Illustration, “I always knew I wasn’t meant to be there,” she says. “Being a red-head in the sunshine state was a bit brutal.” Soon after arriving on Nantucket she fell in love, had a son, Odin, and has pretty much called the island her home ever since, although she is now focussed on buying land off the island to build “the house of our dreams”. As well as creating illustrations, Michelle is perhaps most well known for her beautiful rag dolls. There’s a wonderful interview with her on Kirsten Rickert’s site too - about the steps she takes to live a more earth-friendly life.

1 As a child I used to wear... dresses, dresses, and more dresses. I also really love Native American culture so I tried to wear leather pouches and beaded garments whenever possible too. My Nana is Mexican so embroidered dresses were also a part of our childhood wardrobe. As I grew into a teenager, I rebelled by wearing striped tights and plaid skirts, my mom hated it but I think that made me like it more - I love you mom!

2 My bedroom was... small, but bright. The windows weren’t very big but I always had the curtains open. I had a desk with a sewing machine where I would sew doll clothes as a teenager. There was a tall shelf that reached almost to the ceiling, each shelf contained a separate collection. I’ve always been a collector so I still have little collections on display in my home now. When I was young I would rearrange my room almost every month - I loved the change and craved in constantly. 

3 When I was a teenager I used to... sew, draw, journal, listen to music, and paint. My childhood was a fairly protected one and I never snuck out to party or do anything I wasn't supposed to. I was very much a goody two shoes. I didn’t mind it much then because I really didn't know any different, but now I wish I had done a bit more rebelling or had a bit more freedom. At the same time, I am glad that I was at home a lot - I played around with building an HTML website and sold doll dresses for a specific type of doll for about $75 to $100 each at only sixteen years old. I wish I still journaled regularly, it was really helpful through harder times.

4 After high school I wanted... to go to college. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go for early childhood development or for art, but eventually I chose art. I wanted to be an illustrator and still do, but am glad I get to share this journey with my own little man. He inspires me daily to seek out the magic in life which makes it easier to feel inspired when it comes to the art-making.

5 A seminal moment was... when I met all of my Nantucket friends. I had a very sheltered childhood and every single one of my Nantucket friends had already experienced so much more than I had because of the freedoms allowed to them. That summer I gained a sudden independence and confidence that I didn't have before. I came back home at the end of the summer, quit the job that had proven many times that I wasn’t appreciated, and actually enjoyed my senior year of college working at a vintage clothing store and making massive amounts of art. 

6 I never thought I would... be making dolls as my “job”. I’m working on some other things that seem to be going well, but I never thought doll-making would be one of them. I made little rag dolls in high school for friends and then made dolls a little closer to the ones I make now while in college. I always thought it was a gift making hobby more than a possible career path but I’m so grateful it’s turned into what it has.

7 I’ve learnt to… appreciate food and handmade goods. As a teenager, I made things that I sold but never felt like they were worth what I should have charged. Now, I am aware of the work that goes into a craft and how much materials can be in addition to all of the training and trial and error before reaching the point of production. The same goes for food. We were around a lot of fast food when we were young and I never learned to cook until after college. Now that I grow my own food and try to buy food locally, I appreciate cooking it and the meal that we eat at the end. Growing or foraging for our food makes meal planning exciting and for me, it seems much more fulfilling.

8 I know... that magic exists in the mundane. I’ve practiced seeking it out and it really boosts my morale. I have a much easier time thinking positively when I can see little bits of magic everywhere.

9 I share because... I love the community that evolves through it. Sharing bits of myself and befriending those who share bits of themselves that I find magical. 

10 If I had an unexpected morning to myself I would... ah! Everything? Can I fit everything into a single morning? Make tea, read some of my favourite books or the newest issue of Taproot Magazine, listen to some melodic music while embroidering, go for a bike ride, jump in the ocean, and practice the ukulele. I could probably fit all of that in, right? Ha!

image courtesy of michelle housel of dancey pants disco

1 comment:

  1. From when we were tiny kids to now, youve always been an amazing person and an inspiration. Im so proud of who youve become and how much more youre going to change the world. Love you forever, brian