Soaking up some success

rpulley@lsjournal.comDecember 13, 2013 

Michelle Spigarelli turned to hand painting tea towels to earn money this holiday season, after she broke her foot and had to delay going to her new job. She’s selling them through social media and at Good Looks in downtown Lee’s Summit.

RUSS PULLEY — the Journal

Michelle Spigarelli turned bad luck into a new part-time business this gifting season.

The Lee’s Summit resident’s hand painted tea towels are getting a “great response” and helped her rekindle her art career.

She formerly was painting furniture and murals in children rooms, but it was small business that was difficult to sustain. So she moved on.

She had landed a sales job she was to start and was getting married in October when just before the wedding she broke her foot and had surgery.

She was warned she couldn’t drive for at least six weeks. Now she’s walking around with a big medical boot on her foot.

Her new employer allowed her to delay starting work, but she wondered how she’d contribute financially to her new marriage during the interim. She had three adult children, but one is still in college.

“I wondered how I was going to pull my own weight,” Spigarelli said.

She also needed some holiday gifts. In November she thought of buying some plain, white flour-sack tea towels, and using waterproof paints, decorated them with Christmas holiday scenes.

She posted pictures of them on Facebook as activity she was doing while laid up.

To her surprise, people started asking to buy them. She priced them at $10.

She reconnected with friends from her home state of Connecticut who are buying the towels. (She’s lived in Lee’s Summit about 12 years.) Soon she was shipping towels all over the U.S.

A friend, Steve Collins, lets her sell them through his downtown shop Good Looks. He comes by her house to restock the towels, since she cannot drive. A sister is selling them in her store in Virginia.

So far, she’s sold about 125 of the towels, and she’s started getting custom requests for other seasons like Halloween or Easter.

She paints the colorful and lettered towels free hand, making about 10 a day. Spigarelli said she needs to be calm as she works with the permanent paints making fine lines.

“If I’m not in the mood to do them, I don’t, because I’ll mess up,” she said.

She said she hopes to build a bigger business, each time she takes an order she admonishes that person to tell the next about the towels. She said she plans to keep growing the part-time enterprise after she goes to her full-time job.

“I’m opening myself up to doing it again (art) and I’m really happy about it,” Spigarelli said.

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