From Interior Design to Teaching Design: Career Journey of Carrie Hillis


Mrs. Hillis posing in her art room desk.

Whether it’s through the various art classes she teaches, or just by passing by her in the halls, many CHS students are familiar with art teacher Carrie Hillis

Hillis grew up in Saline, Michigan where she attended Saline High School and graduated in 1994. Growing up, she had a set-in-stone aspiration to be an interior designer. While she did attend Michigan State for two years with a major in interior design, she ended up walking out of college with a bachelor’s in graphic design. 

“I don’t know why to this day,” Hillis said. “I still ask myself, why did I do that again?”

After college, Hillis did freelance graphic design where she created specific designs for clients. However, Hillis soon became weary of working in a traditional office and instead thought about teaching. In due time, she ended up at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago for her master’s in art education. She taught in Chicago for a couple of years and eventually moved back to Michigan to teach future teachers at Eastern Michigan University for Art. 

Even though Hillis taught, she never gave up her graphic design career. She started her own business two years ago where she specializes in surface pattern designs–the home decor patterns that may be on your curtains, bed sheets, and more. The business is called “Hillis Designs” and Joann’s Fabrics even bought two of her designs which are now displayed in their stores.  

“I feel like I’m back to combining graphic design and interior design with surface pattern design,” Hillis said. “That’s really where my heart is.”

This school year, the art department has a new affixed curriculum. New projects have helped bring out students’ creativity and helped everyone involved learn and grow. For Hillis, the learning curve has been most apparent in her photography class. Although she took numerous photography classes in college, she never thought she’d be teaching it. 

“I’ve been learning as I go, and I actually really love teaching [photography],” Hillis said. 

Hillis doesn’t stop there, she still seeks improvements that could be made in the future such as new classes and events. Even though it takes a while for a new class to be added, Hillis is still excited to reach her goal of adding new art classes and having speakers come in to speak to students who may think of art as a potential career path. 

“I know so many people that would love to talk to everyone about what a career in the arts is like,” Hillis said.

Hillis is committed to the art program at Chelsea and is willing to do what it takes to take it to greater heights, but what really pushes her to do her best is her students in the district.

“The students are really kind and conscientious, and very independent,” Hillis said. “I find that to be a pleasant surprise because other schools I taught at that wasn’t the case. It feels like the students are there to learn and that they actually want to be there.”