When she was younger, Stephanie Miller wanted a career in education—art, to be exact. She never became an art teacher, but she most definitely became an artist and a teacher.
For over 25 years, Miller has built her life around one of her true passions—ice skating.
Spending many years at ice rinks around Metro Detroit, Miller became a successful competitive skater and an impassioned stylist. Bored with the uninspired costumes available to her, she started beading her own skating outfits. Before she knew it, other skaters were begging her to help them spruce up their costumes.
“I’m the unlikely story. I got my ‘degree’ in skating,” said Miller. “I was a skater who had an artistic eye and before I knew it, I had a career.”
Accident or not, the trajectory of Miller and her partner, Luanne Williams’ business is nothing short of impressive.
Once a week, Miller leaves her small town of Kingsley, just 15 miles outside Traverse City, and travels to the Detroit Skating Club, where she and Williams (from Grass Lake) take over the rink’s Club Room. There, skaters wait in line to meet with the designers about upcoming competition costumes and what will make them stand out on the ice.
The two have created costumes for an impressive list of world-renowned skaters, including Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
Davis wore one of Miller’s designs when the duo won their gold medal in Sochi. She has designed Davis’ costumes for nearly 20 years— a testament to the trust and respect the skating community has for Miller and Williams.
“I am always on the skater’s side,” said Miller. “I listen to their music, to what they like or don’t like and I encourage them to listen to their gut. They are the one that has to go out and perform in this costume. They have to love it.”
While many have recommended that Miller collaborate with an apparel shop to mass-produce her designs, the costume veteran can’t fathom it.
“My heart is in custom, original designs,” she explains. “I love having a new piece of artwork to focus on. Otherwise, I would be bored out of my mind.”
When she’s not creating fresh designs and meticulously adhering stones, Miller is a coach at the Traverse City Skating Club. She’s become the teacher she always wanted to be—grooming a new generation of skaters and possibly even clients.
When she drives home at the end of a day of coaching, she’s inspired by any number of things, a billboard or the pure aqua blue of Traverse Bay. Before she knows it, there’s a new idea for a costume for the artist/teacher who always seems to be working.
“I see something like the water in the bay and all I can think is how great that color will look on the ice.”