Maker/creative/mil-spouse Emily Ullo Steigler carries many skills in her tool belt, but her most important one is not being afraid to venture into a new creative endeavor.
MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.
Emily: I met my husband when I was in high school and before he was commissioned. We both grew up in Pennsylvania and met at our respective summer jobs. We didn’t actually start dating until college and he was well into his ROTC journey. I became a military wife about a year after I graduated from grad school as a medical illustrator. I worked remotely as a medical illustrator for almost the first ten years of our military life – from Clarksville, TN to New York, NY, and through multiple tours in the National Capital Region. My perspective and goals changed when our twins were born in 2014, and I officially began my business, Scout & Indiana, when we were stationed in South Carolina. We moved back to the National Capital Region shortly after, and I really thrived in the local maker community; my business began to really take off as well. This summer, we moved to Stuttgart, Germany so it’s been a bit of an adjustment and quite a bit of pivoting for me professionally, but I’m excited to see what this new adventure brings to my creative process and work.
MilspoFAN: How did you become a fashion designer?
Emily: I identify a bit more broadly as a maker and creative as I’m only just now starting to get into true fashion design, and I’m largely self-taught in that area. I come from a very creative family. My mother is an accomplished quilter, so I learned to sew at an early age and have done it periodically all my life. When I had twin girls, however, I found myself wanting more clothing options for them besides cutesy pinks and purples, which was never really my style. I began making small things like harem pants and hair bands, then I progressed to onesies and tee shirts, then jackets, dresses, etc. My business truly began as a collection of the pieces that I most enjoyed making for my kids and seeing them wear.
MilspoFAN: Describe for us your creative work and the aesthetic of your art practice.
Emily: I would describe my style as a little edgy and maybe a little more urban than what I was seeing in most children’s clothes when I was dressing my babies. I like creating things that are unusual and that stand out in the crowd.
MilspoFAN: How do you cultivate your creativity?
Emily: I cultivate my creativity by spending time with my kids – whether it’s hiking, going to a museum, or just listening to their thoughts and stories. They have such a pure outlook on life, and the perspective of a child is always a bit humbling and clarifying which really helps me get out of my head and into a creative space.
MilspoFAN: How do you meet other artists or plug into the local arts scene when you PCS?
Emily: It’s always a little scary trying to break into the local arts scene after a PCS, but I generally look for people who are doing what I want to be doing, whether it’s markets, workshops, or groups, and get involved in those things as soon as I can. Meeting people and networking is really the only way to understand the local scene and where you can fit into it.
MilspoFAN: What is the most practical piece of advice that you would give to other artists?
Emily: The most practical piece of advice I can give to other artists is to just get out there. It’s always scary putting yourself and your art out for others to see, and you will absolutely make mistakes, but it’s truly the best way to learn. Every single thing I’ve done as an artist has taught me something – even if it’s that I never want to do that thing again. The best way to get started is to just get started – there’s no perfect time or right amount of preparation, within reason of course. Life as a military spouse definitely teaches us to adapt on the fly, and that’s a great skill to have as an artist and small business owner!