Almost the Life Story of JULIE MOORE
First, let’s get one thing straight, I’m an artist, I’ve been telling people that since I was three years old. I have degrees in Illustration and Graphic Design with minors in biology and psychology from the University of Missouri in Columbia. I came into business ownership and management with a completely open, if not blank, mind. OK, that’s not totally true, I learned common sense business principles from working in, and eventually managing, my father’s dental office. And I supported myself in dental management into my 30s.
Eventually I stepped out of dentistry and worked in large corporations doing technical documents, graphic design and executive assitsance for a number of years; all the time working on my own fiber art pieces, mostly portrait quilts.
Eventually I began to combine my loves for illustration and quilting, I created a series of continuous line quilting designs I called Earthlines. These patterns, still sold around the world, are available through Linda’s Electric Quilters web site, www.lequilters.com. .
In 1993 I opened Fiberactive Organics. My business model was developed from my experiences in medical management, my own ethics and creativity. My philosophy has always been, if you don’t know how to do something you do it the way you think it should be done. As it turns out, my way of conducting business was so unique and became so sucessful I’ve been asked to write papers, I’ve been featured in magazines, and I even guest lectured to business students at Duke University.
As a fiber artist, I taught quilting techniques in shops and symposia all across the country. My designs and I have been featured in international quilting publications and I’ve appeared in magazines and on television. Fiberactive’s organic products have been featured on the Today show, in magazines such as Natural Home, Textile Intelligence and QuiltMaker, Vogue Sewing, Better Homes and Gardens Decorating, Sew News and many more.
I’m an artist turned businesswoman, and the standard business suit doesn’t fit me very well. My philosophy is Business Is Personal. I don’t think outside the box, in my world, there is no box. In building Fiberactive’s line of products I have let the market lead me. If a customer asked for a specific something, I would develop a whole line then introduce it to the rest of the world. One thing lead to another and I began to see where there were holes in the organic fiber industry. To shorten a very long story, I’ll just say that in 2007 I partnerned with YLI Corp to bring Fiberactive Natural organic cotton thread into the world. In 2012 we partnered with Forbitex of Holland and now Fiberactive is the North American distributor of their Scanfil organic cotton thread.
Along with the thread, Jim Miller of YLI Corp developed a braided tape made on an antique braiding machine using 16 strands of Fiberactive Natural thread. The braid is about 1/4″ wide and my customers use it for all kinds of things – the Montagnard ladies and I love to knit with it! We’re now offering custom made, hand knitted shawls. I swing one around my shoulders on chilly days and they’re a natural for bridal wear. (Sorry for the pun, I couldn’t help myself)
OK, I said there is not box in my world, but lately there are lots of fabric vessels. I use a technique of wrapping cotton cording with strips of fabric to make cremation urns and even caskets. Yes, I said urns and caskets – as in natural burial products. I’ve always wanted to be wrapped in a quilt and laid in the ground someday, and I find that there are a whole lot of people that want that too. I started making urns in 2012, the Associated Press did a story on me and my urns in 2015 and since then I’ve beeg getting orders from around the world. I started making caskets in 2014; I started with infant caskets as I learned to apply the technique to larger and larger pieces. It is gut wrenching to think of my caskets will be used for; but, if the care that I put into my work helps those grieving parents in some small way, it’s worth it. I try to put some love into every stitch.
I started my brand of natural burial products under the name of Earth To Earth Burial in 2013. My latest project is coming soon, it’s the Death Faire by Abundance NC in Pittsoboro. I’m part of the Guiding Board and coordinating the vendors in an event that is probably the first of its kind in the world. People being able to talk about death and plan for the end of life is important to me. I’ve been asked to conduct funerals and make all kinds of burial products. It’s a joy to serve people in such a profound time of their lives.
The latest developement in this long saga (the older I get the longer my saga gets) is Studio 17.
In October of 2016 a friend, Andrea Batsche, called me and asked if I’d like to become a partner in her fiberact shop in downtown Pittsboro. Of course I jumped at the chance, so on February 1st I opened my half of Studio 17, on the courthouse square in historic Pittsboro. It’s a little shop where Andrea has her sewing studio and sells her upcycled fashion. I have half of the retail area where I sell all the fun fiberart and garments that I dream up.
What’s next? My new brand of organic cotton thread! I’m in the development stages of bringing a new brand of thread to market that is stronger than what we’ve made before and will expand on the colors that Scanfil comes in. I will start with a heavy-duty thread, Tex 70, then I’ll expand into multi-purpose thread, Tex 45.
My artwork takes several forms now, it’s all fiber, of course, but, now that I’m not overseeing all of the Montagnard women I have time to devote to my own studio work. My urns and quilts are now sold at Cocoon Gallery in Apex, NC, my fabric vessels and new line of rugs are sold at Ramble Supply Co. in Raleigh, NC. And I’ve just designed a new style of organic cotton shrouds which I sell at Renaissance Funeral Home and will have online soon.
Outside of business, I have recently become ordained so that I can christen babies and officiate weddings and funerals. I never want to have a church of my own, or preach to anyone; my life is my sermon, take what you like and leave the rest.
Fiberactive Organics, a History
Fiberactive actually started out life as a quilt company in 1993; I designed and made quilts on a 45 year old Elna Supra and a Nolting Pro quilter. After being told by three separate doctors that I should be wearing a respirator in my studio because of the carcinogenic chemicals on conventional fabric, in 2005 I started the transition to organics.
I wanted beautiful rich colors for my quilts; but in those days organic meant earth tones. So I started dyeing fabrics myself at home using fiber reactive dyes and low immersion techniques to minimize the environmental impact.
In the summer of 2006 life came to a crashing halt. Due to long years of tendinitis, I lost the use of my right hand; I went into a deep and terrible depression. After months of therapy I was able to do basic things, but still functioned mostly with my left hand. I had recovered from my depression and it was time to get a life again, but I needed a right hand.
A few years earlier, my church sponsored several Montagnard men, refugees from terrible oppression in the mountains of Vietnam. These men had escaped through the jungle leaving their wives and children behind, so when they were settled here efforts began to bring out their families. The first of the wives to arrive was Jum.
Jum had spent her whole life gathering food in the jungles of Vietnam, she had her first baby when she was 14. She worked for the Vietnamese farmers, sometimes felling large trees with a machete, one baby on her back and one in her belly. To say that she was a strong woman is to put it mildly, and yet she was meek and helpless in our high tech society. On her first day in my studio it was hard to tell which of us was more needy. She had never used scissors or threaded a needle, I could barely show her how. There were no translators for her language which was spoken only in her mountain village so we had no way to talk to each other. Suffice to say, overcoming all those obstacles created a bond between us, she became my right hand.
We changed Fiberactive’s focus from quilt production to organic cotton table linens because they were easier to make. After working a whole day to produce one napkin, Jum was dumbfounded that we had spent that much time and resources on something to wipe your mouth! Jum taught me how to forage for food in my own yard, I taught her sewing, English, and important concepts like, lunch. Jum’s niece H’tonh soon joined us. Suddenly, life was full again.
The company grew. We expanded our line of linens with beautiful fabrics from Harmony Art in California. Everything was organic except for the thread, and there was no organic cotton thread on the market anywhere in the world So, in November of 2007 I entered into a joint venture with South Carolina thread company, YLI Corp. to make and sell certified organic cotton sewing thread. With the release of our thread, the Fiberactive Quilt Company became Fiberactive Organics, LLC. (the “LLC” stands for “Looks Like a Company”)
Jum had a baby, Natalie, in March of 2008. By summer it was clear that we had outgrown my home studio. So in October we moved to 4224 Beryl Drive in Raleigh. Three times the space, sky lights filled the studio with light, we could walk to restaurants and the post office, on one side was the Arboretum and on the other, NC State’s dairy farm. More space, more work, more jobs for Montagnard women – welcome H’nam, Tuat and Klum. We usually had only two or three women working at a time because the children, too young for school, came to work with their moms. I got to be everybody’s grandma! Interns from NC State, just down the street, rounded out the staff.
I still take the women and children to their more complicated medical visits. I interpret medical concepts and procedures into words and drawings the Montagnards can understand. My biggest thrill is attending births, 17 so far, Jum’s was the first.
In the spring of 2009 I founded the Montagnard Community Garden at St Paul’s Christian Church, 3331 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh. Four wonderful interns from the Fashion Design school of NC State Univ. joined us and designed a line of organic children’s clothing, we hand dyed the organic fabric, and sewed each garment individually.
Fabric vessels made a big splash in the holiday season of 2009. Tuat and Klum wrapped miles of cording, Jum and I sewed them together on the sewing machines. We participated in several holiday fair trade markets in churches around Raleigh and Chapel Hill. Jum loves to do markets and though she’s not confident about making sales on her own, she does her best to converse with the shoppers – she’s very charming! We sold so many vessels we sometimes had to go back to the studio after a full day at a market, to make more so we’d have something to sell the next day.
At the urging of my friend Jane Hillhouse, I expanded the line of vessels to include cremation urns. Jane owns Final Footprint (www.finalfootprint.com), a company that sells bio-degradable caskets for those who want to have a natural burial. I became so enthusiastic about natural burial that that I began designing organic cotton shrouds, bio-degradable urns, casket quilts and pillows, and even infant/toddler caskets. I opened a new division of Fiberactive Organics called Earth to Earth Burial. My burial products now sell around the world. www.earthtoearthburial.com There’s something really wonderful about making something so prescious as a casket or urn. As I sew, I try to impress each stitch with love and peace.
When the recession hit, Fiberactive evolved again. The new trend was for your money to not only get you a product but also do something for the local economy and the environment. As doors closed across America, many who had been laid off took the opportunity to bring to market ideas for eco products that they’d been toying with for years. For those creative people Fiberactive Organics became the cut&sew resource they’d been looking for. My staff of Montagnard women were fully trained in sewing and we made everything from silk scarves to organic cat toys under many different labels. The more contracts I could find for us the more Montagnard women I could put to work.
My dream of bringing to market the world’s first colored organic cotton thread became a reality in 2010 with Fiberactive Natural which I produce with YLI Corp of Rockhill, SC. The certified organi cotton is grown and spun in Peru where it is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified. Needing colors, we became the North American distributor of Scanfil organic cotton thread in 2013. Scanfil is a multipurpose thread that comes in 34 colors, it’s spun in Holland and is also GOTS certified.
In 2011 Fiberactive Organics, LLC became Fiberactive Organics, L3C. That’s a new business designation that stands for Low Profit Limited Liability Company. To learn more about it, have a look at my blog post called “A New Name For Doing Good Business”. In 2011, Fiberactive became the 16th L3C in North Carolina.
At the end of 2012, I made the decision to close down the central studio. The Montagnard women have sewing stations in their homes and some have gone on to other jobs. It made financial and logistical sense for me to work from home too, but it was a huge effort to move – it took six Montagnard men to move my 400 lb bale of organic cotton. I sold off and gave away tons of fabrics and industrial equipment but finally got things pared down to functional size.
I now sell the left over finished products in my new retail location, Studio 17 in Pittsboro, NC. I’ve stopped selling fabric vessels and organic table linens at markets and, instead, offer them at Studio 17 and Ramble Supply in Raleigh. My cremation urns and fabric caskets have become the focus of my creative energy. They are in several online stores and Cocoon Gallery in Apex, NC.
The sale of organic cotton thread has grown and become the focal product line of Fiberactive Organics. Thread is so basic to every textile product, it gives me the greatest opportunity for worldwide environmental good. I am currently in the development stages of bringing a new brand of organic cotton thread to market that is stronger than what we’ve made before and will expand on the colors that Scanfil comes in. I will start with a heavy-duty thread, Tex 70, then I’ll expand into multi-purpose thread, Tex 45. I hope to have the first collection of colors available in summer of 2017.
Fiberactive Organics’ mission is to increase the market for organic cotton in order to promote organic farming throughout the world, especially in the US, specifically here in North Carolina.