A Crafty Questionnaire: Stephanie Monroe

Stephanie Monroe is a very happy person. Embracing life to the fullest, she says she feels most complete while creating. And her joy in that process is expressed in a rainbow range of colors. Poppy yellows, sky blues, hippo pinks, earthy greens, big reds, soft browns, are all present in Stephanie's shop of hand-crafted designer toys and accessories, The Honey Pie Tree.

Asked by friends opening an earth-friendly toy business to make a few T-shirts with felt appliques for their store, Stephanie quickly realized she'd found a way to have fun and build a business. The project brought back a lot of happiness, reconnecting her to the sewing she loved to do as a kid. As Stephanie is quick to point out, it's a good feeling knowing someone is walking around with something you've created especially for them. Making little things that are unique and leaving a smile on someone's face makes life worth living.

Right now Stephanie is focused on fabric, working with felt and other natural materials. But her interests are wide and varied, and she could just as easily be designing things for the home, making soap, creating beauty products, sewing a line of clothing or bags, or building 3D sculptures. If it speaks to her creatively, she knows she can make it work. Perhaps one day she'll succeed in creating her dream project -- a global art work that is constantly evolving. People from all over the world would keep adding a bit of their own art to it, making a living piece of art that never stops growing, available for all to experience.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
To be surrounded by endless art and sewing supplies.

What is your greatest fear?
That I will not have time to create everything I want to share with the world.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Um...I have to get back to you.

Which living person do you most admire?
I most admire my mom. She has a sweet spirit with a creative soul. She is my best friend.

Do you have a theme song, and what is it?
So Fresh and So Clean by Outkast. It just makes me want to strut my stuff like I'm untouchable.

What is the trait you most like in yourself?
A thirst for knowledge. If I don't know how to do something and I want to learn, I study it until I have a thorough knowledge of how it works and then I apply it to my life. I do that with everything I'm interested in. It never gets old, because there's always something new to learn.

What is the trait you most like in others?
An ability to heal and forgive. To forgive someone when they have done you wrong and to be able to move on with your life is a learning process in itself and takes great discipline and a reexamination of oneself.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Well, I'm still working on that one.

When and where were you happiest?
My happiest times were between the years of five and eight. I loved my neighborhood, I loved my family and friends, and anything and everything that had to do with art was the equivalent of a warm burst of sunshine.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Graduating from my dream school, The School of Visual Arts, during the midst of great trials and tribulations.

If you were to be reincarnated as a person, animal, or thing, what do you think you would be?
Probably a chameleon. I have so many different styles. One of my aunts used to jokingly call me a chameleon when I was younger, because she said she never knew what look I was going to come up with next. I tend to adapt easily to my surroundings and draw inspiration from my immediate environment. I also get bored easily and my moods change often, so my artistic expressions tend to reflect whatever mood I am currently in.

What is your most treasured possession?
My dignity and respect for myself. Although it is not tangible, it is something that belongs to only me and can never be taken away.

Which talent or skill would you most like to have?
I wish I was a math genius! I know, it sounds boring, but there's something so amazing about understanding the complexity of numbers and how they relate to the universe. To math geniuses it comes naturally, just like creativity to an artist.

Who are your heroes in real life?
First, my grandmother. Ms. Belle was a very strong women with style, dignity and an angelic spirit. She embodied the term "Super Woman" because she lived life gracefully and to the fullest. She achieved many great things in her lifetime, acquiring respect and true friendship, overcoming boundaries, and always standing up for what she believed in. My grandmother touched lives and changed them for the better. I want people to remember me that way.

Second, believe it or not, is Wesley Autrey, the 50 yr old man who jumped on the tracks of the subway in 2007 to save someone's life. I know it sounds cheesy, but there's something about his character that I admire a great deal, especially in this day and age when everyone has become so self-absorbed. This guy didn't give it a second thought and basically was willing to give his life to save a complete stranger. I mean who makes a decision like that in a split second? And he had his children with him! Such a selfless act with a tremendous impact. That is the epitome of a hero. Plain and simple. No frills, no glitter.

Third is the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who had a dream that we could all live together in peace and be able to respect one another. He is my hero because he was able to look beyond what most of us still cannot see, the fact that we all are people of the same creed. We bleed the same blood, we need the same things to survive. He held onto that vision at a time of great division in this country. He held onto that vision even though he knew he would one day die for believing in it. He had the courage to stand even if no one else would stand with him. And he did it out of love for humankind. That is a hero.

What is it the one thing you dislike the most?
Not being able to creatively think and freely express myself.

What is your motto?
Not to lose my creative voice while still being able to keep current with new designs and trends in the art world!

Who are your favorite artists?
I love Pablo Picasso's creative expression. He dared to be different and he enjoyed every bit of it. He was very much in touch with his creative voice and wasn't afraid to speak out in his art.

Is there any invention you wish you had thought of?
The ice cream maker. Who'd have ever thought you could make something so simple that pleased just about everybody on the planet? I also wish I had thought of the bicycle. Actually the wheel, then the bicycle. No brainer.

What's the first thing you remember making?
A cow out of construction paper. I was in kindergarten and at free time we could choose any activity we wanted: instruments, pretend play in the kitchen, board games. But the only thing that was ever on my mind was the art center.

In addition to Stephanie's Etsy shop, The Honey Pie Tree, you'll also find her work at The (Makers) Market in Park Slope. For more about what inspires Stephanie's designs, visit her website www.thehoneypietree.com.

Sue De
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