We had the good fortune of connecting with Andria Niles and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Andria, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
My undergraduate and graduate degrees are both in geology and I worked as a paleontologist for a time before pursuing a career as a high school science teacher. I loved teaching, but decided to take some time off while my kids were young. During that time I started sewing and doing embroidery for people. It was also during that time that people started asking me to teach them how to sew, and I realized there was no place around that really offered sewing classes for people. The more I researched and talked to local people, I felt very strongly about the importance of creative outlets for people. Sewing is generally not taught in schools any more, yet it is a very important like skill, as we learned during covid. So, I set out to create a welcoming, artistic, fun space where people can learn to sew and explore their creativity with fabric! I also do custom embroidery for people which is a way I can tap into my artistic side as well. I have found that many people are scared or nervous to take the first steps in learning to sew or quilt, and so one main objective of my shop is to welcome and encourage those who feel nervous or like they ‘can’t do it’. Sewing and quilting are art where art meets function (most of the time) and I love to help people find and explore that side of themselves.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I feel my shop is different from others out there for several reasons. We truly get to know our customers and go out of our way to help them in whatever way they need. Whether it’s helping them decide on the perfect pattern to make, helping them pick out the perfect fabric for a project or teaching them how to sew, we are there. We welcome and encourage beginners, including kids. And, most importantly, we help our community at any opportunity. I offer our classroom space for volunteer groups on a regular basis. We have volunteers who sew Angel Gowns (burial gowns made from wedding dresses for babies who have passed away at birth or before), Linus Blankets, Birthday Joy Pillow program and any others who need our help. I believe that I have a responsibility as a business owner to give back to my community however I can, and often times sewing is an integral part of helping others. Quilts and pillowcases are often made for foster kids, families experiencing trauma (domestic abuse, violence, etc.) as part of their healing. We had customers send quilts to Uvalde after the devastating shooting. There is something extremely comforting in a handmade quilt or blanket – it’s almost like being given a hug. It is not easy to run a small business, but I truly believe I have been given an opportunity to use my store for the greater good, and there are many days when that is my driving force. My shop has become a community. It is a place where people sometimes just come to visit or share a joy or struggle in their life. We celebrate and mourn with our customers. That kind of community space is not common these days, and so wile we sell fabric and sewing supplies and do embroidery, we offer so much more than that. And that is what makes us different.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We would visit Galveston to see the beach. I would take them to some of our favorite restaurants – B1895 tavern in Friendswood, Hugo’s in Houston, Marais in Dickinson and we would visit some of the museums in Houston like the art or science museum.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Many thanks to my husband Paul Niles for encouraging me to take the leap to open a shop. And to my Mom who helps me every single day. And to my friends Molly Kistler, Megan LaBauve, Jaimie Ryan, Elita Caldwell, Robin Foster and so many others who encourage me and mentor me. And to my kids Thomas, Sophia and Zoe who put up with a lot by having a Mom who owns a small business. And to my customers because without them, I would not have a storefront!

Website: www.thesparklyelephant.com

Instagram: @sparklyelephantsewing

Linkedin: Andria Niles

Facebook: @sparklyelephantsewing

Image Credits
Alyssa Jeanes Photography

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