When I met Michelle, I was around 20 years old and had got a job working with a remodeling contractor, named Carl Schwamberger, as a helper over the summer. She had been working with him for a while, I remember thinking how awesome she was when I met her. I was kind of in awe of her because she was so different than I am. She was quiet and worked at a really steady pace, never complaining about the hard labor part of the job. I loved what we were doing, but I wasn’t used to standing in the blazing sun all day on a ladder or carrying tons of stuff in to load a job sight for the day. I always thought her job seemed ‘more glamorous’ because she was doing more of the skilled labor parts of the houses, like installing windows and doors, while I would be scraping paint off of the entire side of a house or something!
We didn’t hang out much on those jobs because we were on different tasks, but I always kind of looked up to her. When we were that young she seemed like an ‘older’ girl too, even though she is only four years older than I am. After the summer ended, I turned 21 and started working at the Java Roaster, then the Knickerbocker too, and going to school. I ended up there for over 3 years and she was doing the same thing. Taking different jobs and going to Purdue for Fine Art. She actually ended up working a different contracting job again where she did stained glass repair, and that is where she started really getting into the art form. She had left Lafayette after Purdue, moved to New York, and like so many of us, returned to our town because of the friends she had made here. She worked at the Knickerbocker for awhile after the contracting job ended, and found herself doing stained glass at the dining room table. People began asking for small pieces and she swears she even got invited to some weddings for the gift they knew she’d bring of glass! Soon, she moved to the garage and expanded into more commissioned pieces, including her first ‘big’ window job, that happened to be for Carl, the great guy who had hired us both back in the day! He still has that window, and it is one of her best works because she was so nervous to do a perfect job. It was $200, which was huge for her then!
These days she is in her favorite part of our town, the downtown character perfectly complementing her welcoming, artistic, gallery studio. When she got the space she had every detail drawn to perfection based on the gorgeous chandelier in the entryway. But, as things often do, the space evolved on its’ own path to end up as a gallery. Michelle and other talented people sell a huge variety of art styles and mediums. Her goal is to give artists an unintimidating place to showcase pieces regardless of their status in their carreer. It is hard for people who don’t have a full portfolio presentation to book shows at some galleries. Having a chance to showcase $20 art pieces next to $3500 pieces gives the store a one-of-a-kind appeal, and artists the confidence to keep producing what they love. I ended up becoming good friends with her when I ran into her again at the park a few summers ago, and now that I work right across the street from her, I get to stop in and chat a lot.
Michelle herself is an amazing woman who balances all of her passions in life with her biggest passion, her family. Her daughter Rosemary is a rambunctious, happy, sweet 4 year old girl, who gets to come to the store every day with her mom, and see what it takes to make a family business run. She has a busy little schedule filled with caring for her dog, playdates with her many friends, art classes, and helping her mom. Every day they pack their lunch together and eat at the little table in back they have set up. They have a couch, lounge area, where you will often see her cuddling her dog and telling him stories. She is learning first hand what consumerism and following your dreams means. If you buy a little item from the gallery, most likely it will be Rosemary who puts it in a box and bag for you. Then she will be off like a flash to her next task! She keeps her mom very busy. Michelle knows this balance is, at the same time challenging, for her as a business women, and the best thing she could ever give her daughter. It is worth every struggle to keep it all going, to be teaching her daughter the way real life works, and following her dream to create.
She also squeezes in time to run half marathons and support her husband, Chris Vogland, of Artisan Electric, along with maintaining GLAMS, a 400 member local mom’s group she created. You will see a post on the group coming up. Her photography, hand made pendants and paintings are available along with her stained glass talent at Willow Studio. I love driving by on my way to work and seeing her and Rosemary opening up the front door, letting the jazz music out onto the sidewalk and reminding me that that is what life is about. Family, following your heart, and home.