I’m so excited to have our first interview on Feisonista! Artist Director of the World Academy of Irish Dance and ADCRG Julie Showalter owns and designs for Ellie Gibbler and she was so nice to do an interview to go along with a product showcase for Ellie Gibbler! Ellie Gibbler first caught our eye at the 2011 North American Nationals where they donated products for IDM’s raffle! I love her products and have always been inspired by her amazing dance dramas and I’m so glad I got a chance to talk to Julie!
Give us a bit of background on yourself.
Growing up, I danced at the Dennehy School on the south side of Chicago. For college, I went to St. Mary’s in Notre Dame, Indiana. and graduated in 1994, which is when I opened up the World Academy of Irish dance. I took the TCRG exam at 21 and actually opened up the school during my senior year of college. I’ve been teaching for 17 years now! I teach in Western Springs, downtown Chicago and Oak Lawn, Illinois and in South Bend, Indiana.
After graduation, I was a kindergarten teacher and ran the academy at same time. Eventually as the school kept growing and I had by first child (I now have three!), I had to choose a focus and decided to go with the World Academy. I teach every class and absolutely love it. We do solo, ceili and figure dancing as well as dance dramas.
How did you get started with Ellie Gibbler?
Well the name came from what I would call goats when I was little. I traveled the world with my parents – Africa, Russia, Denmark, etc. – and I would always say “Oh, there’s an Ellie Gibbler!” whenever I saw a goat!
The company started as I started making things for myself, really! I made a jacket for the ADCRG exam that was decorated and embellished with Swarovski crystals (what I use in all my designs) and I kept getting compliments on it! People would ask me where I bought it. So, I decided to try and see if I could make it work from a retail perspective.
I went to a trade show to try it out and did they sell! I brought some handmade wigs that I had made for one of our dance dramas and put them on mannequins at my booth. A cute little lady came up to me and asked if I would sell the wig! I asked her who she was and she said she was a Fairy godmother! I said, “You look just like biddy boppidy boo!” and said that I absolutely would sell her the wigs. She responded, “You just made my heart sing.”
So, that was in October and a few months go by. In August, my dad was very sick and about to pass away. Just as I was struggling with that, I get a call from this lady and I went to meet her and of course I remembered the fairy godmother right away. She said, “I’ve never met anyone like you! Would you like a store?” I couldn’t believe it. We went inside and I met her husband and after talking to my husband, I decided to go for it.
So, now I rent this tiny little store from her! It’s just been growing since then. So far I’ve sold products to as far as Australia, England, Ireland and Canada! I’ve started on a children’s clothing line and funky shoes. I focus on ornate work and do custom work as well.
Ideally, I’d love to see it become an international franchise but baby steps first. I’m still very much involved in Irish dance and will continue to be. But Ellie Gibbler is a passion during my free time. I love both!
How much do you adjudicate?
I’ll usually do one a month, but sometimes two! Recently I’ve done the Salt Lake City feis and the Windsor feis. I really enjoy it. I love seeing all the levels – I love it all! I really enjoy the competitions that are more than one day – you really get to see everyone and a wide array of dancing.
What’s your personal style like?
I’ve always been how I am and that’s truly what my style is. My friends now say to me that my style has finally caught up with my personality. I love color. I love design. I love to be creative. My husband was saying that every character that I craft for the dance dramas reflects what I would be like if I was that character – I delve all the way in. And that’s what I love! I see people’s uniqueness and try to bring out their own unique characteristics to their fullest.
And I definitely have always been unique – even back in the 80s! We were the first to start wigs, back in the 80s! I wore red dance shoes in the 80s, and used rhinestones back then as well! It’s all about expressing yourself fully.
People see the purple hair, but it really doesn’t define me. It started as a creative way to support cancer victims because my mom had been diagnosed with cancer. I liked it and kept with it. It’s not for anything else but that it’s what I like.
I dress the way I feel! It’s how I see things and how I like things to be!
What are your feelings on current Irish dance dress styles?
Well these days, styles are constantly changing and nothing is everlasting. I prefer dresses that have a little bit of the more traditional elements in them. I’m love the bling, but I also like to see more of the traditional elements. I think a lot of the newer styles have lost some of the creativity that’s truly Irish. Bring celtic designs and the book of kells back into the designs – they can be just as creative and striking as some of the less traditional styles. The only thing I really don’t like are the dresses that are way too short.
But every designer is an artist and I have to appreciate what they see and their artwork. As long as you like what you’re wearing, that’s all the matters.
Any advice for future entrepreneurs? Dancers? Dance teachers?
Be passionate about whatever you do in your life. You need to find what makes you happy to be successful. Throughout everything in my life, I’ve been passionate about what I did – teaching kindergarten, dance or now this. And it’s worked really well so far! Believe in yourself. If I can only say one thing, it would be to believe that you could do it. Have long term goals as well as short term goals, but dream big! You have to follow and have a set goal and then move forward. But overall, be passionate and follow your dreams.
So onto the showcase!
Here are some of the fabulous items that Julie creates! They’re bold and dynamic, with such ornate details. They’re also very adaptable – you can wear them during the day or for a night on the town! I love the color combinations Julie puts into the pieces. They’re unique and work perfectly together.
Here’s one of my favorite bags. It’s perfect for a night on the town, but you can also use it on any fun day! It would be absolutely perfect for a day when you need something to lift your spirits or a little extra confidence. You can’t help but be happy when you’re carrying it! It’s a great, stylish shape as well!
Need some bling to go with you money? Check out this great wallet! I love the ornate detail on it. It has an ethereal feel with the embroidery and color scheme. The detail work is absolutely amazing. How can you be stressed writing checks when you have such a beautiful wallet?
And don’t forget some bling for your head! I love this pink hat – it’s the perfect pop for a classic outfit. Just enough embroidery to give it that extra something!
Here’s a cute outfit to go with this very cute hat! Some inspiration for fall… It is sadly, right around the corner!
Anyone get lucky enough to win some pieces from Ellie Gibbler at Nationals? How do you wear yours?
Stay fashionable, Feisers!