At the Muses studio, you can feel the energy of the intimate group of students crowding around a sewing machine. Their concentration is palpable as they direct their full attention to the demonstrations by their skillful instructors. There’s no doubt that the spirit of each class is fueled by the diverse students, who come from a vast array of backgrounds and experience levels, but the core of the Muses curriculum is their amazing team of instructors.
Rosie Casey is one of the first instructors for the Muses training program. As an instructor for Muses, Rosie faces typical challenges and rewards that come with leading any class, such as keeping track of how well students understand the concepts, and the joy of seeing students making extraordinary work. However, the Muses studio is not an ordinary classroom, and with that, instructors must find ways to face the unique challenges that come with it. Luckily, Rosie’s creative background has given her a range of skills to tackle anything that comes her way.
Rosie has had a lifelong love for fabric and sewing, learning how to make garments from commercial patterns since the age of 11. After receiving a BFA at the University of Michigan in an interdisciplinary program where she focused on surface design and textiles, she spent a year and a half teaching ESL in Japan and traveling to Montreal and Nepal. After spending time traveling and honing in on her interests, she found herself in Seattle in 2010, where she joined the Apparel Design and Development program at Seattle Central College. Upon completion of her program, she landed a position at Tommy Bahama as Assistant Apparel Designer, where she was eventually promoted to Associate Designer.
Seeing the economic disparities in the world during her travels motivated her to use what she knew to make a difference through ethical and Fair Trade apparel. After a serendipitous online search in 2014, she found Muses, and joined their team in time to help with their first fundraising event just a year ago. With her teaching experience, technical skill, and desire to be involved with ethical fashion, it was a perfect fit.
The Muses classroom has an average of 7 students each term, making it a focused learning environment where student and teacher communicate directly each class. As many of the students have immigrated to the US from other countries, language barriers are a challenge that Rosie faces regularly. Though, having lived abroad while teaching ESL, this is familiar territory for her. She finds that exploring new ways to teach concepts that don’t rely on language alone is a very human and natural experience of communication.
After 3 sessions of students, Rosie says that one of the best feelings as an instructor comes from when students achieve their goal of finding employment in the industry. Since Muses courses began, students have been employed by various companies such as Filson, Northwest Safety Clean, or Nordstrom; but one of the most rewarding moments was working with a student who didn’t have any previous sewing experience in her third round of students.
Muses typically seeks to find individuals who have some sewing experience, and after conducting interviews, instructors get a sense of prospective students’ skill levels with a sewing test. One student came to the interview with a friend and didn’t have experience, but Rosie saw from the beginning that she had the right attitude to learn, so she invited her to join the class. Rosie recalls that the “energy in that class was warm and positive,” and was able to help that student gain the skills she needed to complete the program and successfully learn the skills necessary for a job in the industry.
Fueled by a desire to continue working with her hands and on a machine, Rosie has now found a new career path at Swift Industries, a bicycle bag company based in Ballard. Her passion for ethical business practices and excellence in handmade goods is the common thread in all aspects of her career, making her an integral part of the Muses team.