by Rita Vainius
Sharee Dawn Roberts, founder of Web of Thread, grew up in southern Illinois with 2 brothers and 2 sisters. Her mother was a homemaker, devoted to her five children. Sharee adds, "She has an amazing high spirited manner of enjoying life to its fullest and always encouraged us to find fulfillment by nurturing our own individualism and passions. After all of uswere raised, my mom then started dabbling in portraiture painting. She is now an accomplished artist and also enjoys sculpture and pottery."
Sharee's father was a farsighted agricultural leader and entrepreneur, marketing progressive methods of fertilizing corn and soybean crops, ahead of their time. He established several clothing and department retail stores, a real estate developing company, a fiberglass outdoor boating factory, a small hotel and restaurant, among others. But his 600-acre farm has always been his true passion. Aside from corns and soybeans, he raised Black Angus cattle and pigs. Since his retirement, he has remained active in forest conservation.
Sharee's interest in crafts and drawing goes back to early childhood. She points out, "My mother convinced me that I was a budding Michelangelo. My other interests were climbing trees, swimming, fishing, hiking and caring for my menagerie of pets (skunk, parrot, duck, horse, dog, cat and others). I could not contain myself indoors for any length of time and embodied the word tomboy. Today, my art reflects my passion for nature and I often include all sorts of animals, real and imaginary, as subjects."
While in college, Sharee declared art as her major, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree with an emphasis in Textile Design from San Diego State University. This background and the opportunities it afforded strongly influenced her career direction. Her studies encompassed weaving, pottery, enameling, woodworking, sculpture, (including working in metals, cement, plastics and sand-casting), painting, silversmithing, silkscreen & batik, silk painting, etc. She is self-taught in crochet, rug hooking, paper mache, beading, embroidery, quilting, sewing and needlepoint. But she notes, "It wasn't until I was a young mother that I discovered the world of textiles. Up until then, I had never considered sewing as an art form. However, my textile design professor introduced me to fabric and, from that day on, I knew this was the medium for me."
Sharee's appetite and aptitude for learning different needlework skills and techniques is voracious. She began teaching quilting and machine embroidery at the local level and soon found herself traveling all over the world. She adds, "But, no matter where I went, I found the same problem. None of my students could find the appropriate supplies. This was in the late 80's and machine embroidery thread was almost impossible to find anywhere. I made arrangements with manufactures to buy supplies wholesale. I found a niche no one else was supplying and I always sold everything I took; no matter how much I "upped" the quantities. My students asked to purchase mail order and I found myself entrepreneur of a small growing business. Because I had witnessed my own father start various businesses, I was excited by my own business venture and felt I had a keen eye for marketing. I enrolled in several semesters of business classes at my local community college to learn more about the administrative aspects of business."
Sharee's shop is very auspiciously located in the quilt capital of the world - Paducah, KY. Paducah is sponsor to The American Quilters Society Show and Contest, held each spring. Over 25,000 eager quilters make their annual pilgrimage to this quilt Mecca. Additionally, The Museum of the American Quilter, which houses a spectacular collection, is open all year and located within walking distance.
Sharee's business venture grew in progressive baby steps. Originally she sold mail order out of her garage. After two years, the inventory had spread into many parts of her home - it was time to open a retail outlet. After two years at her first location, she realized it would be wise to move the store closer to downtown, where the quilt convention is held and where the Museum is situated. Paducah is very much a tourist destination, which attracts many out-of-town visitors aside from the hordes of quilt fans.
In the early years, Sharee's shop catered almost exclusively to the machine artist. It soon became evident that the materials that hand embroiders use were also appropriate for applying by machine. For example, Caron Waterlilies are beautiful pulled from the bobbin or couched with a zig-zag stitch. Sharee found herself exploring suppliers for unusual specialty threads. As she added to this inventory, she attracted a clientele that was primarily interested in hand embroidery. Today, Web of Thread serves both the hand and the machine artist as more customers discover the versatility of specialty threads.
Sharee has designed a line of patterns and often incorporates a variety of specialty threads into her projects. "Circle of Flowers," and "Dreams of Velvet," are prime examples. Circle of Flowers was inspired by a quilt pattern by Golden Threads. Sharee received permission to market her silk ribbon interpretation. Her goal in designing it, was to illustrate to her customers how they could use an existing quilt pattern as the basis for their own individual silk ribbon interpretation. Dreams of Velvet is an original design by Sharee, which she submitted as an entry for a National contest sponsored by RibbonWorks magazine. It won Best of Show. RibbonWorks then published it in a booklet, which includes 15 motifs on a velvet vest.
Periodically, Sharee self- publishes patterns for hand embroidery, which generally include thread kits. These are featured in the shop newsletter. She has also authored a book on machine art, covering embroidery, couching and appliqué techniques, and is a frequent contributor to magazines such as Threads, Creative Needle, and Sew News. Currently in progress is a new book for machine embroidery that she plans to publish herself, to be available by the fall. She finds herself teaching much less as the demands of the business grow. Sharee does accommodate cutomers by giving demonstrations on her quilt machine. As space for teaching at the shop is limited, Sharee takes to the road to teach at various symposiums by invitation. She instructs in all levels, primarily for the machine artist.
When Sharee discovered the Caron Collection, she immediately recognized the potential for the hand-dyed threads. She has employed them in serging, tassel making, machine couching and bobbin drawing in addition to the more popular needlepoint and cross-stitch applications. They are also a perfect compliment to the selection of hand dyed silk ribbons the shop stocks. Since the introduction of Sharee's signature series Pro-FreeHander Quilt Machine, a large part of the business caters to the machine quilter. She often uses specialty threads on the bobbin to produce innovative quilt designs as is evidenced in Wildflowers Heart and Wildflowers Bird displayed above. Her customers never cease to be amazed at how substituting decorative threads in imaginative ways can completely transform an otherwise simple quilt pattern. Sharee adds, "I just finished writing an article for Threads magazine showing unique ways to use unconventional threads for bobbin drawing. In this article, I have listed Caron Collection threads as great sources for bobbin work. Did you knowthat Double Dipped Rachael can be pulled from the bobbin? It is beautiful! I love to experiment, and the one of the best parts of my job (second only to meeting the most lovely, creative people in the world) is having the opportunity to expand my own artistic horizons by "playing" with such beautiful materials!"
Sharee hired her first employee while still working from home. After establishing Web of Thread as a retail operation, she offered classes, some of which she taught herself. For others, she hired outside instructors. Currently assisting Sharee in the shop, are one full time and three part time employees.
This year's American Quilt Show will be held from April 25 - 28, 9 am to 6 pm. Daily. April 24 is pre-view night from 7 pm to 9 pm. Beginning on April 16, Web of Thread will have extended hours from 9 am to 8 pm every day. Sharee reports, "The quilters come earlier and stay later each year!" Don't miss out on this gala quilting event!
Web of Thread
Website customers are welcome 24 hrs a day via the website, which includes a complete online catalog.
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