We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Michel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I never thought I was much of a risk taker until I had no choice.
For the past 4 years, I have been a single mother and full-time student. My business has always been part-time and has gotten me by while in school. In 2019, I was mainly focused on creating hand-made garments worn to Pow-wows and many other events. Then Covid hit which meant that there was no more gatherings and events where my garments could be worn and purchased. My only source of income was no longer going to be able to get us by. I panicked. As a single mom, how was I going to provide for my child and myself?
I remember laying in bed one day. This was when everyone was isolating during the beginning. Tiktok was becoming a popular social app to help pass time – so I decided to make an account. I was scrolling through the videos and ended up on “small business/side hustle” Tiktok – specifically, Procreate and custom stickers/apparel Tiktok. The lightbulb went off in my head and I decided to spend the last of our money on an Ipad & Apple Pencil.
I had to take a chance on myself. I had to believe in myself. I knew I was capable of figuring it out on my own because I am a self-taught seamstress and artist. But, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared of failing, especially for my daughter.
I got home that day and I drew for many days and hours. I researched different sticker companies and I got them printed. Tiktok blew up one of my videos and I sold out on my first launch of my “Indigenous Sticker Collection!” Customers were asking me to create apparel… so I did. Then I started getting requests for Ally/Solidarity merch… so I did!
Currently, I’m now preparing for another Indigenous collection release with many new products! I still create my hand-made garments, but now I have another source of income that can support my daughter and I – all because I decided to take a risk. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a self-taught seamstress and artist, it took a lot of patience, time, risk, trail & error to get to where I am today, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
I remember making my daughter her first regalia in 2014. I had no idea how to sew and I couldn’t afford to buy her a new regalia, but I was determined for her to have her own jingle dress for an upcoming pow-wow. The threads were loose and some of her jingles were hanging, but, she got to dance in her first jingle dress that weekend. That was a great learning experience. I reached out to other Indigenous artists/dancers and asked for any tips they may have for me. I also took initiative and watched tutorials on YouTube to teach myself to sewing stitches, how to properly “troubleshoot” my machine when I have issues, and even, how to create my own patterns. The quality of my sewing increased with each project and I never stopped educating myself. By 2018, I was receiving requests for custom orders from Indigenous dancers all over Canada and USA.
Adapting and taking a risk was one of the biggest challenges I had to face with my business. When Covid hit, I knew my sales would be down (no pow wows or events, loss of income for many people). I had to change directions with my business in order to continue providing for my daughter and I. I was scared, but as a Mother, I had to do what I needed to. Purchasing an Ipad was one of the biggest risks I made. I never drew on a tablet before but just like I taught myself to sew, I knew I could teach myself to draw on a tablet. I used my drawings to create my first Indigenous Sticker Collection and sold out when my video went viral on TikTok! I used that money to pay my bills, get our essentials, and then invested back into my business and purchased a Cricut. Not only do I sell my own sewing creations, but now, I sell my digital art through stickers, apparel and more. My customers are Indigenous allies and Indigenous friends and family from across Canada and USA.
Currently, I am researching methods to screen printing. I am building my business up slowly all because I just decided to go for it.
Believe in yourself. Invest in your passions. Do what you love. Take initiative, and never stop learning.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my best friend was visiting the area I would plan a week long trip camping at the lake! Canada B.C. is so beautiful and there is always so much to explore and do! I love being outside, breathing in the fresh air, surrounded by nature, no cell service. We would be sleeping in a tent overlooking the lake, surrounded by mountains.
Each day we would wake up and make fresh ground coffee with eggs, bacon and fresh fruit. On days we didn’t feel like cooking we would have yogurt and granola.
Lunch would be something easy like a bagged salad and sandwich because we would spend the warmest part of the day at the lake kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, or laying around at the beach.
Before dinner we would pack some snacks like nuts or bars and go for a nature walk, hike, bike ride, or explore around and find a waterfall.
Dinner has to be something cooked over the fire! We would have smokies and marshmellows!
On days where its raining or if the weather wasn’t great, we would set up our hammocks and read a book and listen to the sounds of nature. We would have board games and a deck of cards to play or we would set up our phones and make funny tiktoks together.
It is so important to take time for your self. When I go camping, its my time away from everything. Its my time to reconnect and ground myself because I always want to put good energy into my creations.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My daughter, Aveah, has always been so proud of me. She is the reason why my business exists. She is the reason why I push myself to be a great mom, good person, & always reminds me to not take life so seriously. I want to be a good role model to her and show her that you can do anything you set your mind to.
My mom, Vicki, has always supported me financially, mentally, emotionally & spiritually. She was also a single mom raising kids on her own. I can always depend and trust in her for help or advice because I know she wants me to succeed.
My sister, Alecia, has always been there by my side, helping me cut fabric or sew well into the morning hours. Without her help, I definately would have fallen behind on many deadlines. Plus, we always have fun and laugh when we are together.
My Grandmother, Charlotte Manuel, helps me with the tasks I sometimes find too repetitive and tedious like sewing one bead onto a regalia piece at a time. She also helps me with my daughter whenever I need it. She has modelled to me to always have patience and good energy into everything I create.
Instagram: 4GenerationsCreations – https://www.instagram.com/4generationscreations/
Facebook: 4 Generations Creations – https://www.facebook.com/4generationscreations/
Other: Tiktok: 4GenerationsCreations – https://www.tiktok.com/@4generationscreations/
Picture with 2 models (Nikita Eberle and daughter Hazel). Photo Credit: Kiara Farough Fellhauer or Setse7 Photography Picture with 1 model (Sashae Quilt). Photo Credit: Kiara Farough Fellhauer or Setse7 Photography