Phyllis Mitchell is the owner of Phyllis Mitchell’s Island Style Marine Canvas & Upholstery in Kemah, Texas. Since its opening in July of 2013, the company has been specializing in the design and fabrication of all things sewn on a sail or powerboat. Here, Mitchell shares her thoughts about the industry, the challenges her company faces and the perks of working in a profession that values creativity.
How did you get involved in the company/industry?
I have been a seamstress all my life, inspired by my mother, a master seamstress. I came to Kemah, Texas, from Arizona in search of a yacht to go cruising on. I found the perfect sailboat and during an extended refit, I saw a need for functional, high-quality marine canvas. So I bought an industrial sewing machine, started sewing and fell in love with this business and the opportunity to be a part of people’s boating experiences.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
Deadlines, patterning and installations while dealing with unpredictable weather.
What are the biggest rewards?
Solving the customer’s problem or concern in a highly functional and aesthetically pleasing way. I love to get the customer’s reaction when they first see the work we have done for their yacht—how we have addressed what might have seemed to be an impossible task. The creativity is very satisfying.
What do you anticipate for the industry in the next five years?
I see improvements in materials available to us, all the time. I feel that will continue. I believe the use of color will broaden as the years go by. In our shop, we already encourage interesting color schemes and canvas and upholstery. We also constantly strive to design a better enclosure, more functional cushions and better covers of all sorts.
Why did you join IFAI? Which services/benefits do you use the most?
The stimulation of new ideas and products presented by IFAI is of great value to me and my shop.
What was the first job you ever had?
Around the age of 11 or 12 I started a macramé company. I made macramé products for all the local nurseries and art shops in my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. From there, I went on to making my living through sewing and art for the majority of my life.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
I love to travel and I am an artist. I enjoy working in fused glass, Henna, silk dying techniques, sewing, watercolor and I very much enjoy free-form beading.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice that has served me well throughout my life is to always remember anyone you’re dealing with has a story. You may not know what’s going on in their life, so even in difficult situations, always treat everyone with honesty, kindness, compassion and in a calm fashion.
Who has been your biggest influence, personally or professionally?
My mother and father gave me a deeply rooted love for knowledge, travel and independence. My daughters continue to give me an enlightened perspective of the world we live in.