Michele Sobel, Michele Sobel Fine Art {Our NJMOMpreneur of the Week}


Michele Sobel, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, was born creative, using art as an outlet of expression but never considered it a possible career. That all changed once she became a mom—the former political news producer started Michele Sobel Fine Art as a side hustle and was excited to see where it would lead. So when a client asked if she could paint on her designer bags, Michele obliged, and a niche business was born. Now this Scotch Plains mom of two specializes in hand painting luxury goods (even sneakers) and transforming them into unique, personal pieces for her clients. We had a chance to talk to Michele about her transition to becoming a mompreneur, how her work has expanded to working with luxury retailers like Saks and Bloomingdales, and got the low down on her favorite local businesses and hidden gems for art inspo in New Jersey. 


Michel Sobel, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week.

Tell us about your work. You have such a unique specialty—how did you start painting handbags and other luxury goods?

I painted my first handbag in early 2020. At the time, I was painting more “traditional” wall art and creating personalized art prints for kids, so I had established a small client base. One of those clients suggested I paint designer bags. I told her I was grateful for the suggestion but didn’t have any luxury goods that I could practice on. She commissioned me to paint her vintage Louis Vuitton pieces, giving me complete creative carte blanche. That was really empowering. She fully trusted me, and I was determined to study the process, practice, and paint her something she would love. When I finished, she was so happy with what I painted that she posted the pieces to her Instagram account. Friends of hers started reaching out, and within a few months, I refocused my attention and efforts on creating original wearable art on my clients’ luxury goods, which include bags, small leather goods, and sneakers and shoes. In addition, in 2021, I began working directly with luxury brands and stores to create on-site customization experiences for their customers, clients, VIPs, and influencers. Over the past two years, my clients include Bloomingdales, Saks, Ralph Lauren, LoveShackFancy, Coach, and New Jersey-based Hamilton Jewelers, in Princeton.

Michele works with each client to customize her hand-painted designs to their style, like these Louis Vuitton pieces.

This was a major career pivot for you. What pushed you to transition out of your news producer career?

It was—timing is everything. I was a political TV news producer, booking guests for MSNBC and NBC through the 2016 election. After my children were born, I left my full-time post and gradually started doing less freelance work. I loved my first career but struggled to balance news’ unpredictable schedule, childcare, and wanting to be physically present for my kids’ early years. When I launched Michele Sobel Fine Art in 2017, I was lucky to be in a position where I could be a stay-at-home mom and hustle on the side. Once again, making art became a creative outlet I could pour myself into, and this time I had a mission— to create meaningful, personal art for others. I didn’t have an exact plan, but I had the fire in me and would hustle to see where it led.

Did you grow up with an interest in art?

My parents used to tell me I was born with a crayon in my hand. I’ve loved drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was always creating. Growing up, painting was my creative outlet that I always turned to to de-stress. I also just loved it! I was voted “Most Artistic” in my high school yearbook but never considered art as a career. It was only around 2010, when I started “accidentally” selling art at local arts and craft fairs, that it occurred to me, but I didn’t really go for it until after I became a mom.

Custom-painted sneakers have become popular requested items for Michele and make for great wow-factor gifts.

Where do you get your inspiration for your painting, and how do you decide how you’re going to embellish a particular piece?

Commissioning a piece with Michele Sobel Fine Art is very personal and collaborative. It is essential to me to create art that is an extension of my client’s individual style and reflects the things they love. I work directly with each client to understand what they like, brainstorm ideas, and then create a sketch for their approval, all before I begin painting their piece. Outside of the classic monograms, I have painted everything from realistic florals and jewelry to pop art and graffiti-style designs on my clients’ bags, leather goods, and footwear. 

What have you learned about yourself through becoming an NJMOMpreneur? 

So much—art started as a passion and a hobby. I had no idea I could be an entrepreneur. I’ve learned to lean into my community of supporters and fellow mompreneurs. There are so many of us, each with unique perspectives and talents. I love supporting other creators and mompreneurs in particular. I always try to think of mom-owned businesses for gifting needs and support them whenever possible. Likewise, I am so grateful for the tribe, clients, and friends who have supported Michele Sobel Fine Art.

Michele Sobel Fine Art

Michele and her husband enjoying some beach time with their two kids.

Do your children have an artistic or creative passion like you? What do you think they learn through watching your business grow?

My daughter loves to paint with me and to create. Whether or not she chooses to incorporate it into a career at some point, I hope she can enjoy it and that it will be a positive outlet throughout her life as it has been for me. I hope both my kids (who know that I paint from the moment I drop them off at school until pick up, and then often go back to work after they go to bed) can see that hard work is important, but also know that doing what you love makes it so much more enjoyable.  

Michele’s work extends to luxury goods like wallets, sunglass cases, and more, like her customization event at Ralph Lauren.

Tell us about some of your favorite local NJ businesses and what you love most about them. Any fun, artistic spots that are hidden gems?

I have so many favorite New Jersey businesses and mompreneurs to support and follow: Evalyn Dunn Gallery is an art gallery with great gifts in Westfield. Dee Works is a fantastic face painter at the Turtle Back Zoo who does kids’ parties. Beadstein is out of Tenafly and creates kids’ custom jewelry. Livtoshop has cute, trendy clothes at reasonable prices in Livingston. Serve In Style in Montville is my go-to for luxury tableware and gifts. I love Nanis Cheesecake in Westfield; they have the cutest giftable mini cheesecakes. Lana Platin Creative in Demarest makes super happy hand-stitched clothes and cute college gear. And Cre8ive Crayonz in Montville has the cutest personalized crayons. Some hidden gems for art include Downtown Westfield, which has several public art installations that bring life and color into the town (including the murals installed under the train overpass on Central Avenue, one of which I painted). We love walking around Westfield and seeing other local artists’ painted butterflies and murals throughout the downtown area. Downtown Cranford also has some significant public art installations. If you’re looking for inspiration or love pretty flowers, Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit and Morven Museum Gardens in Princeton are two of the prettiest locations I’ve enjoyed visiting.

What piece of advice do you have for another aspiring NJMOMpreneur?

As Ruth Bader Ginsberg once said, you can’t have it all, all at once. Start small. Start somewhere. Put the time in when you can. Follow your heart and your gut. Do what feels right. Go for it—you never know where your dream could lead you.

To learn more about Michele Sobel Fine Art, visit her website, Instagram, and Facebook page.


About Author

Marisa is a mom to two sweet boys and a little lady (all under 4!) as well as one precious girl in heaven and her heart. A true Jersey girl, Marisa loves raising her family here and embracing all that being a #NJMOM has to offer. Whether it's summer days on Spring Lake beach or down on LBI, or heading out to sample some of the state's best eats (Montclair and Jersey City are favs), family days out and about together are her favorite way to spend a weekend. A former news anchor turned on-air lifestyle host and expert, you might also catch her on TV or in the kitchen cooking up something delish for the littles.