Stephanie Barksdale is a local Memphis Maker, who quickly answered the call to help those fighting on the frontline against COVID-19. Stock & Belle sat down with Stephanie to ask a few questions about her background and what inspired her to join in the fight to help serve our essential workers.
- Tell Memphis a little bit more about you?
I am a wife, mom of two college boys and two Labradors. I also am a quilt maker
- How long have you been sewing? What got you started?
I have only been sewing for about 1.5 years. I don't think I had ever sat at a sewing machine before then (much to my Mom's dismay). We moved downtown to the Lofts building almost 2 years ago. One of the first neighbors I met, Missy George, invited me to her loft a few times. Each time she would have a beautiful quilt covering her legs while we visited. I had never been a "quilt person” but became intrigued. I HAD to have one. She offered to teach me to sew and helped me make my very own quilt. Well, I was hooked!! A monster was unleashed. Fast forward, I began making them for my husband, boys, dad, brother, friends, etc. You get the picture. I was all in. I watched tons of videos and tried all kinds of new patterns trying to perfect my technique. I also became a little obsessed with beautiful fabric, hence the size of my fabric stash.
- Do you work from home or studio?
I was working from the bedroom of my loft, but quickly outgrew the space. I was so fortunate to hear about the Rowdy Department and leased a space. I volunteer with Les Passees Stock Exchange and was able to furnish my space with items from the amazing yearly sale. The move downtown meant that I no longer had a garden and a yard to putter in, so I needed the space to be my getaway, my home away from home. It HAS become that.
- What pieces are you usually commissioned for?
I am usually commissioned to do throw size quilts. The concept of my studio - I call it Studio B - is meant to be an interactive experience. I love for my clients to come see me at my space and have a hands-on part of the design process. I have patterns they can look at, design walls they can use to play around with fabric. I love to have them pick what I call an "inspiration fabric" and go from there. I keep them involved with sneak peeks during the process. I also make quilts for charity silent auctions and donate to various fund raisers. I have recently been asked to get into the T-shirt quilts. I have a few in the queue right now.
- Has your business been affected by COVID-19?
My business never really has a deadline, except during the holidays when I was trying to get all the quilts finished that were Christmas gifts. My clients are being very understanding and are happy to wait for their quilts.
- What inspired you to begin making masks?
One day scrolling through Facebook, I saw a group posting about the need for masks. I love a challenge and love to be useful, so I immediately joined the group (Mid -South Medical Mask Makers (4M!!!). I began cutting fabric and delivering it to other people who were sewing masks that were being distributed throughout the region to those with the most need. I am able to use my quilting cotton (my stash) to provide this service, saving time for the people sewing and helping people that don't have fabric on hand.
- Are you producing masks for a certain group (essential workers etc.)?
Yes, a group of friends and neighbors in my amazing building, The Lofts at South Bluff, set up a mini mask production factory in an empty retail spot in the front. Thank you to the Turley family for their generous donation of the space. We all came together to combine our supplies, skills, and enthusiasm to create masks. They were given to residents, delivery people, employees, etc. We made 50 alone for Constance Abbey, a volunteer group that works with the homeless and gave a bunch to a resident to distribute among the homeless on her daily runs and volunteer endeavors. We've made them for nurses, doctors, policemen, etc; anyone that asked was provided as many as they needed free of charge.
- Approximately how many masks have you and your volunteers given away?
Individually and collectively, I would estimate that at least 500 masks were distributed throughout the community and even further. Through the generous donations of our recipients, we were able to donate $680 to various local charities. I can't thank all the volunteers enough. Just WOW!
- What is the price for individuals? And what sets your masks apart from other masks on the market?
Due to the extra high demand and material/labor costs, yes I am now charging for masks. Unlike other mass-produced masks that I have seen, mine are thoughtfully and meticulously made with quality fabric and interesting patterns and combinations - making them truly unique and mini works of art. I want to continue to be creative while also fulfilling a need in the community. I do no replicate too many of the same pattern combinations which keeps them fun to make. I have partnered up with Stock&Belle and will be selling them directly through their new (YAY!) online site. Masks are $20 and a portion of the proceeds will be donated directly to the Mid-South Food Bank. We have a variety of men's and women's reversible masks available and they all come with a disposable filter pad.
When this is all over, I plan to get back to my quilts (if I have any fabric left). Everyone I have made a quilt for now understands what it means to be a "quilt person". Everyone should have one. I love putting unexpected colors and patterns together. They make me smile. Being in my studio makes me smile. In the meantime, I will continue to make as many masks as I can to possibly help slow the spread of this virus. And of course, they will be made with my pretty fabrics. In the words of Erika Smith "Stay Stylish - Avoid the Virus". I love it!
Hope to see ya'll at Studio B soon.