Rhody artist ~ Elsie Collins ~ North Providence

Name: Elsie Collins
Location: 58 Waterman Ave. N. Providence, RI 02911-1132  Phone: 401-231-4343
Etsy shop: Thistle Cottage Studio
Website: http://www.orsinimedici1951.etsy.com/
Blog: www.merchantcircle.com/blogs/thistlecottagestudio.
Twitter: orsinimedici195
Facebook: Elsie Collins

1. Tell us about your work
I am an apparel-costume designer, master dressmaker/patternmaker,milliner, and teacher.

image: etsy

2. How did you come to be a professional artist/crafter?
I've been a designer who has always pushed the boundaries of my creativity, always looking to try new mediums. I am predominantly self-taught, and attended Rhode Island School of Design in the 80's, where I studied apparel design and pattern drafting.

I spent 3 years as an apprentice to an Italian tailor, and at that point considered myself a true professional. Read on, for the details of my career progression, as a shop owner, and costumer in the theater.

3. Where do you draw your inspiration?
The short answer is that I am lucky to have always kept my creative channel wide open, and ideas simply pour into my mind and heart like rain!! I love history, art history, fashion history, the Renaissance, the Victorian, and Edwardian eras, beautiful textiles, other artists, movies, nature, and so much more--I guess that's more than a short answer!!

4. What’s your favorite item to make?
At the moment, I just cannot stop making hats, and am learning new, professional techniques of blocking and sizing my hats with millinery materials I've never used before. It's VERY exciting!!!

image: etsy

5. What’s your best seller?
My bestseller has been, hands down, my line of Peruvian Inspired Crocheted Chulla Hats. they are very folk artsy, and very rich in colors and textures. They are beautiful, cozy, warm, and lots of fun to wear!! And they are also very affordable!!

image: etsy

6. How long have you been in Rhode Island?
I have lived and loved Rhode Island all my life, with the exception of having lived in Seattle, WA for 7 months when I was first married.

7. What do you {heart} about Rhode Island?
What I love about Rhode Island is it's incredible beauty, it's small size, and it's rich historical heritage, combined with a very complete art scene, including our award winning Trinity Repertory Company, where I spent 2 years sewing costumes!! I was bitten and smitten with the theater bug as a Project Discovery kid in high school, and have been involved with the theater off and on throughout my life, even having survived summer stock twice!!

8. Please include anything else you’d like to add:
My contribution would not be complete without including a little bit of my family history, which is my Etsy usuer name, orsinimedici. This is from my Etsy profile page.

The name Thistle Cottage Studio comes from a trip I took to the south of Scotland in 1995, and was so charmed by the fact that people name their houses. I adore the U.K., English decor, shabby chic, antiques, vintage textiles, European and particularly Italian Renaissance history, art, art history, mask making, period hats and costumes, period movies and books, Jane Austen, J.W. Waterhouse, mythology, poetry, period and Celtic music, and a more gentile way of life. The name orsinimedici comes as a result of the research I did, while costuming an original opera about the life of Michelangelo, in the summer of '08. In the process, I began to connect myth with reality! I would hear tales in my childhood, of how the Orsini's were once royalty in Italy, and that we had royal blood in our veins. My mother was an Orsini, and my grandfathers' ancestors were the Orsini's who married into the Medici family in Florence in the 1400's. These two dynasties went on to build all of Florence(
Fiorenze), and much of Tuscany, making it the center of art and culture in the Renaissance world, and as we know it today. It was also the Orsini-Medici fleet of ships that defeated the invasion of the Port of Venice, by the Ottoman Turks in the 1500's. A tower in the port commemorates the event.The Orsini's were the owners of the now Castello Odescalchi in Bracciano, until the 1700's! It is the same castle that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were married in!! There were 3 Orsini Popes, several Cardinals, including Cardinal Orsini, who was poisoned by Alexander Borge, in his ruthless efforts to gain the throne of the Italian Papacy. Even Mary Queen of Scots shows up in our family tree, as the daughter-in-law of Catherine de Medici, when she was married as a young girl to the Dauphine of France. Learning that my mothers' ancestors were responsible for the patronage of Michelangelo, DaVinci, Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Bellini, Brunelleschi, and so many more, is someth
ing that I may never be able to fully absorb. Now I understa!
nd my bones, and why my mother was such a creative genius!! Who needs a PhD, when you have this kind of DNA?!

Rhode Island School of Design/Apparel Design
3 yr. Apprenticeship to an Italian Tailor
1987-95 Owner of Samsara Designs/Retail & Custom Design, Prov.,RI
2002 RI State Council on the Arts and Humanities Award Grant for my
Exhibition: One Hundred Years of Fashion:1850-1950
(over 200 pieces of authentic designer vintage, and my reproduction clothing, hats, accessories and wall art).

Theatrical Costuming for:
Trinity Repertory Co.(RI), The Walnut St. Theater (Phil.PA), The Shakespearean Theater of Maine at Monmouth, Celebration Mime Ensemble(S.Paris ME), Everett Dance Ensemble, Opera Providence,
Opera RI, Looking GlassTheater, Barker Playhouse, CCRI, Bristol Community College, American BioTechnologies TV commercial, and most recently (2011) "Triangle" for Hope High School. This play is heading to the Fringe Festival in
Edinburgh, Scotland this August..
I now create merchandise for my ETSY shop, and teach apparel design and textile related courses in my studio to adults and children as young as seven years old!
I have been sewing since the age of ten, at my mothers side. I still use and teach on her
ca. 1976 Bernina 830 sewing machine!! I'm certain that she is watching over my studio, and is very happy to see her Bernina humming away with little ones learning to sew on it!!


  1. Thank you so very much, Erika and Bear!! This is such an honor to be featured in your gorgeous blog about our beautiful little state!! So much talent packed into such a small place!!!!!

  2. Thanks Erin! One of our favorite things about Rhode Island is the tremendous amount of artistic talent!


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