About Sandy Hunter and Material Luxury
Material Luxury is a lifestyle. We all have things that we value and enjoy. Looking back in time, there was an emphasis on elegance and refinement of living. Of course, today people still arrange their homes, and the things in them, just as they like. It doesn't have to be expensive, just a pleasing combination and personal preference. Some prefer more casual, some more formal, but it is your own happy place.
Material Luxury has a emphasis on the luxuries of the past. We have a wonderful collection of antique linens for the home: for the bedroom, the dining room and bath, many with beautiful monograms and embroidery. Elegance from a time gone by, still valued and enjoyed today.
A love of hand sewing and fine fabrics and lace has been a passion of mine from a very early age. I can remember from my childhood, ironing my fathers handkerchiefs and boxershorts. Not that those were "fine" things, I just loved to iron.
After my first son was born in 1974 and began to outgrow his beautiful handmade outfits, I discovered that there was nothing in the stores to replace them, so I began designing and making clothes for him. I had found an old pattern for smocking and fell in love with that special type of handwork.
Right away, friends would ask if I would do some outfits for them, and so a little business began. The birth of another son meant more outfits, including big brother and little brother.
By this time, it was getting to be more that I could do, so I started teaching smocking lessons at our local community college. It became more and more popular so I decided to make a book out of my lesson plans.
English Smocking Step by Step (currently out of print), with the yellow gingham cover, was the result.
A friend connected me with Diane Durand in Tennessee who was also interested in smocking. She began going to needlework Trade Shows, promoting my book along with her things. It took off like I could not have even imagined! I really hadn't intended to be "in business" but many books and patterns followed. Soon I was going to Trade Shows, marketing my own books, patterns and offering imported fabrics, laces, and notions., as well.
From that friendship, The Smocking Arts Guild of America, began. We gathered a few people together who were in the "smocking business" as well, to see if they liked the idea. That was in 1980. Today SAGA is a thriving, international organization. Look it up!
Meanwhile, people wanted smocked and heirloom clothing more than ever, so I opened a shop downtown offering materials, smocking supplies and more clothing. By that time I was discovering people who would smock and sew for me in their homes, so a Cottage industry involved.
I began travelling all over, doing home shows and taking orders for the clothing. We did a big business making Junior Cotillion Dresses in Charleston and Palm Beach, also weddings, baptisms and special occasions. It was exciting, fulfilling and a lot of work!!!!
A local sewing factory contacted me when they decided to close their doors, and I bought their industrial sewing machines and hired some of their people to sew. We were cutting, smocking, and constructing continually.
One of the nicest things about this very busy time in my life was the families I got to know through their weddings, births and baptisms, birthdays, Easter, Christmas and other special occasions, year after year. I sewed for one family for over 20 years!!! They are all dear to my heart to this very day!!!!
Antiques linens and fun vintage finds became an addition to my business. Repair, cleaning and storing was all part of that. People wanted to know how to take care of treasured linens and beautiful garments, so I wrote
The Laundry Room and began a business of archival cleaning and storage.
As I was thinking about retiring from my business, an opportunity came from "out of the blue", in 2006. I stared working at The Episcopal Church of Saint John in the Wilderness as Director of Christian Education. It was just wonderful working there with Father Alex Viola and I couldn't believe how the years had flown by when I retired in 2017!!!
I had kept a store front location, to have a place to keep inventory and meet customers. As an artist, you never "retire." The ideas and passion had kept flowing. Without a team of home sewers, however, it wasn't possible to operate as I had in the past. I still have a "museum" of beautiful fabrics, lace, antique linens and wonderful, assorted curios to offer. Operating with a new website and meeting people by appointment has worked out well.