Meet the Maker: Amy Cluck-McAlister of Amy is the Party

meet the maker amyAmy Cluck-McAlister, whom I met two years ago when she donated some wonderful handmade jewelry to a fundraiser I was organizing, is a creative force to be reckoned with in the Sacramento indie community. She runs Amy is the Party, where she shares party styling ideas, DIY projects and the places and people she loves in Sacramento. She is also the founder of IndieSacramento – an online gathering of local creatives. She also happens to be doing all the behind-the-scenes design work on my new blog platform, which will be launched next week!

Today, I’m so pleased and honored to share a little more about her!

First, tell us a little about yourself!

Hello there, I’m Amy! I am a web designer with a passion for parties, decor, and desserts.

Some might say I was born in the wrong era. I believe in home cooked meals – in thank you cards – in baking from scratch. I strive to be the “hostess with the mostess”. I couldn’t agree more with Julia Child when she said “A party without cake is just a meeting” – although I think it’s perfectly fine to substitute cake with cupcakes or pie (or whatever dessert you find fitting). I also believe in creating memories – special moments of time that your friends and family will carry with them, long after the celebration is over. I believe in celebrating everyday with the little bits of joy that living creatively can bring.

As a blogger, entrepreneur, and web designer, I have been involved with both the online and local crafting community for several years.  A socially awkward socialite, I spend my free time supporting small businesses and events in my hometown of Sacramento, CA. I also enjoy searching for vintage treasures and indulging in the shenanigans of my husband and two cats.

Image Credit: Amy Cluck McCallister. DIY Tassel Necklace and Bohemian Bracelet. Click the photo for the full tutorial.

Image Credit: Amy Cluck McCallister / DIY Tassel Necklace and Bohemian Bracelet / Click the photo for the full tutorial!

How did you get into graphic/web design?

I took a commercial art class in high school. We mostly made posters and learned calligraphy but I knew that I wanted to use my artistic skills for advertising or something along those lines. I took a few graphic design and beginning web classes at American River (Community College) while getting my general ed out of the way. By the time I graduated, I knew I was specifically interested in designing for on-screen (computers). The closest degree program that Sac State offered was Graphic Design so I stuck with that for a year until I saw that a new Multimedia program was being added. I quickly changed majors! The Multimedia program sort of focused on making interactive CDs, which isn’t a really a thing nowadays. It’s hard to predict the direction technology will take us! When you get into something like graphic and web design, you have to be flexible and you have to continually educate yourself on new techniques.

What about entertaining and DIY’ing?

Both my parents and my grandmas on both sides were into DIYing different things. I grew up making handmade Christmas gifts and baking dozens of cookies for the neighbors. I lived for holidays and family get-togethers. I didn’t think about it much, plus I don’t think it was considered cool to be into domestic stuff when I was younger. After graduating college, I started to get back into crafting a bit. Then I started finding all these people online who were into making items that were actually trendy and I felt really inspired. This was about 10 years ago when sites like Craftster and GetCrafty were just starting.  I jumped right in and started making and selling jewelry. I gradually started to gravitate towards party planning since it incorporates all of my loves: baking, dessert styling, decorating, DIY, and graphic design.

What pushed you to start your blog?

Finding other people who were making crafts and selling them really inspired me. It seemed like a lot of those people were starting blogs and I wanted to be a part of it too, not just to show off what I was making but to show off what other people were making as well.

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck-McCallister / DIY Hostess Gift Tags / Click the Photo for the full tutorial

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck-McCallister / DIY Hostess Gift Tags / Click the Photo for the full tutorial!

What is your creative process like?

I come up with ideas, scribble them on post-it notes, lose the post-it notes, forget some of the ideas, and don’t have anywhere near enough time to follow through with all the ideas that I don’t forget about! Occasionally, I actually get to follow through on something. I’m an impatient crafter but I’m also a perfectionist. Sometimes I forget to enjoy the creating process because I’m so excited to get to the end result.

What inspired you to start Indie Sacramento?

A couple national craft shows (Bazaar Bizarre and Renegade) popped up that were different from any craft show I had been to before (“not your gramdma’s craft fair” as they would say). The vendors made trendy items that I would actually wear or display in my home. Both shows were located in San Francisco (as well as other cities) but not Sacramento. I had started networking with local crafters and I knew we had enough local talent to put a show like that on here so I started IndieSacramento.

I felt like IndieSacramento was a pretty successful event, but it was also A LOT of work and a lot of stress. I decided that an online collective of local crafters was the way to go so I quit holding craft shows and choose to expand the website instead. Of course, now I have other ideas of what I’d like to do with the site but there never seems to be enough time!

How do you feel about the creative community in Sacramento?

I’m really proud of how our creative community has grown in recent years. It wasn’t so long ago when we were in need of a venue for “alternative” crafters and artists to sell their goods at. Now we’ve got all kinds of events like the Indie Craft Fair and GOOD, just to name a couple. I’m also really impressed with the amount of networking I’ve noticed among talented individuals in different industries – we’ve got bloggers and crafters, boutique owners, restaurateurs, photographers, event planners, etc. all working together to promote each other to put on awesome events together.

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck - McCallister / Amy's DIY Wedding / Click the photo for the full details

Photo Credit: Amy Cluck – McCallister / Amy’s DIY Wedding / Click the photo for all the details!

Favorite places to get your supplies (craft, party, etc) in town?

Wrapped All Up is a really fun warehouse type place that carries every kind of ribbon or wrapping you could want. The Paper Garden is a great place to get inspiration for paper crafting – plus they also carry some fun washi tapes and baker’s twine that you can’t get anywhere else locally.

If somebody wanted to start working on DIY projects, where would you tell them to go first?

There are so many resources, it’s hard to say! Brit.co is one of my recent favorites because they feature a variety of trendy and easy projects. I would also suggest joining a crafty forum or two. Cut Out + Keep is one of my favorites. You can check out other peoples projects and tutorials, network with people, and upload your own projects.

My husband and I just bought our first home (yay!) so I’m sure amy is the party will start featuring more home decorating projects (just like I started featuring more wedding related content before we got married). I think my blog will always branch out to fit my current interests, as long as it’s still related to entertaining and creative living.

Click the photo for the full DIY

Click the photo for the full DIY!

My plan is for IndieSacramento to include small businesses of all types, not just crafters. It will be kind of a directory for people to shop local and to find unique and fun businesses to support.

You can find out more about Amy and all the awesome things she’s doing at Amy is the Party. Want to be featured in Meet the Maker or know a special someone who should be featured? Leave a comment here and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Meet the Maker: Melissa Camilleri of Compliment (Giveaway included!)

Meet the Maker MelissaI met Melissa Camilleri – a fellow Sacramento native – through Instagram (I’m telling you, I love that app) when I was organizing a fundraiser. I asked her to vend at the event but she couldn’t attend, so she donated a beautiful pair of earrings. Though the fundraiser didn’t work out, we kept in contact and since she her business and philanthropic spirit are so inspiring, I wanted to share her story with you.

Melissa started Compliment – her stationery and jewelry line that is just as precious as the words that are written on each and every package – when she was a high school English and AVID teacher. She had been making jewelry since she was in elementary school and when one of her students asked her to make ring to match her Homecoming dress, Melissa realized that people were digging her stuff.

Compliment was officially founded over the Thanksgiving weekend of 2011, and since then she was taken the leap into full small business ownership.

Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

I love your story and how you got started with Compliment. Do you feel like your writing plays a big part in your business?

Writing plays a huge part in what I do.  I never set out to be a jewelry designer.  I just kind of went with where I was called.  My road has been a winding one, but each stage has definitely informed the next.  So although I went to grad school for writing to publish for magazines, and write a book, I’m finding that it’s still a HUGE part of my marketing for my business to be blogging right now.  I’m going to write a book someday, though. 🙂

How would you describe Sacramento in terms of a small business owner? Do you feel it’s a good city for your business to thrive in?

Sacramento is on the verge of so many cool things.  I think there are a lot of young people here who want to see their hometown thrive and support local growth.  Old neighborhoods are being revitalized and there is a definite sense of community here among artisans and people who believe in shopping local to support their community.  

I feel like Compliment is definitely able to thrive here.  I have a lot of local customers who stop by my studio and that I’ve met while having a booth at an event.  There’s a nice momentum.

Can you tell me more about the Scholarship Fund? When, how and why did you start it? How do you hope it will better the community?
YES!  This is where my heart is.  I started Compliment when I was still teaching full time as a high school English and AVID teacher.  I thought it would be a fun, artistic way to help some of my most needy students out who had so much potential but not the means to go to college.  I believe education is the only way to break the generational cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction.  So whatever I can do to help facilitate that for young people with a dream, but with little other support?
 
My scholarship has, for the last two years, been donations out of my own pocket.  We’ve been able to give over $1000, which is an amazing blessing for me to even say.  As my company grows, the scholarship grows.  This October, we are having our first ever benefit dinner and dance at Silverado Design Center and I get giddy just thinking about how much more we will be able to give because of it!
 
Melissa with this year's scholarship winners. Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Melissa with this year’s scholarship winners. Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

What is the Soul Care Series about?
Because my natural inclination is to teach, I wanted my blog to be of service to my readers.  I noticed that there were some pretty amazing women around me doing some pretty amazing things in the world, living whole-hearted lives, and learning how to take care of themselves.  I started the Soul Care Series because I wanted to talk to women I admire and by whom I’m inspired.  And I like to share!  Thus, the Soul Care Series was born!
 
How do you feel about the philanthropy in Sacramento? Do you feel it could use some more? What are some of your favorite Organizations?
I think there is some amazing philanthropy happening in Sacramento, but YES there could definitely be more.  Having worked in the schools so long, I know that so many kids go without.  So many teachers are spending out of their own pockets to help get kids through their formative years.  So I’m always excited about those organizations–ones that help kids rise up and make good choices with their lives and learn to be civically engaged.  
 
Why do you think it’s good to donate and be a part of the giving?
A close friend just reminded me of this Roberto Clemente quote today:  “If you have an opportunity to make things better and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on earth.
 
I agree with that sentiment.  I feel like I am blessed in many ways.  What good is it if I keep those blessings to myself?  Joy multiplies when it is shared.  I was raised that way– if you can be of service, do that.  It’s the whole basis of my company.
 
Gratitude earrings. Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Gratitude earrings. Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed (PS – the blue ones are offered in a giveaway today!)

How do you hope to empower young women with an entrepreneurial spirit?
I employ young women to learn the behind-the-scenes of running a small business.  Like I said before, it’s in my nature to teach, so I see my business as an extension of that even though it’s out of the classroom now.  
 
What do you enjoy doing on your downtime?
People are often surprised that even though I’m social and I’m comfortable talking in front of people,  I’m very introverted, so I like to be quiet during my downtime!  I like to read, go for walks, meditate, try out new restaurants with my friends.  Hang out with my family.  Float in the pool when the weather allows it.  
 
What do you have planned for the future?
Oh gosh… During these past two years, if I’ve learned anything it is that even if I make plans, often God has other ideas of where I’m headed.  Compliment was never “planned,” and come to think of it, anything that I’ve actually planned out, has just been a stepping stone, not the be-all, end-all.  So I guess my plans are to stay open to this wonderful, exciting, abundant journey, wherever it may lead.
 
Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

Favorite places you frequent in Sacramento?
I live pretty close to McKinley Park, which I LOVE.  So I like to head there to walk.  I also love seeing live music at Harlow’s and Marilyn’s on K.  And I’m a big fat sucker for the burgers at The Hideaway in Curtis Park.  Oh and I go to Cafe Bernardo probably like once a week.  That mushroom salad is off the hook (and I never even liked mushrooms!)
 
Melissa is so awesome that she agreed to do a Giveaway for the pair of gratitude earrings (valued at $32) that she originally donated to the fundraiser! In order to enter, leave a compliment for Melissa on the post in the comment section or through any of my social media sites!
 
unnamed 2You can find out more about Melissa and Compliment by visiting the website and you can click here to donate to her scholarship foundation. Know someone who would be a perfect fit for this series? Leave a comment and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + and Pinterest!

Respect Your Mother – A Fundraiser

Respect Your Mother

Quite some time ago, I happened upon Out of the Dark – a nonprofit in the UK where volunteers work with underprivileged kids to restore old furniture. The furniture is then sold online and the proceeds go back to the charity. Pretty awesome idea. I was so inspired by this, that I decided to bring it to Sacramento.

Luckily, I have volunteered for Vox – a local nonprofit art studio – on a fundraiser before, and I love the people behind it. I told Eric, one of the directors, about my idea and he loved it. We decided to get a fundraiser going to support the program, and there, Respect Your Mother was born.

Since Vox is near the closing of their brick and mortar and concentrating on working more in the community and supporting different local charities, this is the perfect time to reach out to another nonprofit. So we are working with another amazing local nonprofit Sol Collective, and the fundraiser will be held there.

The fundraiser will be held May 10, and we are even doing a couple things before the event:

  • Clothing Drive – We are working with California Clothing Recyclers to hold a clothing drive where people are encouraged to donate a large bag of clothing and/or linens at any of our participating locations. Those bags will be picked up by California Clothing Recyclers to be recycled, and the money earned will be donated back to our Charity.
  • Online Fundraiser – We are planning an online fundraiser for the week of May 4 – 10 and we are hoping to work with different eco-friendly online businesses to raise money for Out of the Dark, since they inspired this program. I haven’t worked out all of the details but I’m hoping to do something where people could purchase something and then enter a code for the proceeds to go to Out of the Dark.

At the fundraiser, we are hoping to have ten pieces of furniture that have all been painted by local artists and will be auctioned off. There will also be a raffle with goodies and gift cards from local businesses. We’re looking for ten eco-friendly vendors who want to purchase booth space for $25 to sell their goods and we’re hoping for an acoustic musician or two.

I’m still working on getting all of the information and graphics out, but I’m feeling really good about this event. I hope this program will succeed, because I would love to be able to work with kids on creating beautiful pieces from unwanted furniture. I think it’s so good to teach kids about working with their hands, taking pride in what they do and restoring something from start to finish.

If you would like to participate in this fundraiser, please let me know. There is lots you can do – whether you are in Sacramento, or across the globe. I will be posting more information weekly and you can contact me through e-mail or through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google +. I will also be posting some inspiration on Pinterest so check that out, too!

Finding my Style

Last week, it dawned on me. It was past 9 pm on any given night, and I was still in my PJ’s. No, I’m not depressed. I’m a happy stay-at-home mom who doesn’t get out and about as much I used to and sometimes I forget to change out of my PJ’s. And sometimes I shower and then put clean PJ’s back on.

And this is when it dawned on me. “Wow–I have really let go of myself,” I thought. But have I?

Me, my baby, and my PJ's

Me, my baby, and my PJ’s

I’ve never been a big fan of fashion. Style, yes. Fashion, no. Only recently did I discover there was a difference. I always just wore what I thought was cool – and sometimes other people dug it, and other times, random people would say “uhhh…what’s that on your head” “It’s a head wrap, people! I just don’t know how to wear it. Dang!”

During high school, we Catholic school girls had it pretty easy in the outfit department. We wore uniforms and sometimes I would paint my shoes with nail polish and wear argyle socks to be different. I’m a real rebel. I had a small group of friends and we cared more about music than anything else in the world.

After high school, I got a job at Picture People. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a photo studio chain that specializes in babies and dogs. I worked there for four years, and by the time I left, I could categorize the customers by what time of day it was. Weekday mornings – afternoon: stay-at-home moms and dog lovers, weekday afternoons – business moms who schlepped their kids from school to the mall for their annual photos, weekends – dads.

Again, the outfit choice was easy. We had a uniform (I’m seeing a theme here) and a spinny hat. Nothing else I could wear would ever distract anyone from the spinny hat. I would snicker at all of the stay-at-home moms, swearing that would never be me. As if I was doing any better.

Then, there was College. In Humboldt. I could honestly say I don’t even remember what I wore – it was Humboldt.

Then, there was my 20s. Oh, the 20s. Where I wore patterned tights with a patterned skirt and a tiger shirt. All different patterns. Because I wanted to, dammit. I would wear fedoras with jean shorts that I cut myself and were all jagged and rough. And I didn’t care.

Fake fishing near Lake Tahoe. I had a little boombox shaved into my head

Fake fishing near Lake Tahoe. I had a little boombox shaved into my head

And now, here I am. In my jammies, looking at my chipped nails and too overwhelmed by my closet to confidentially pick out an outfit. But look where I’ve come. I shower daily, I learned to cook and clean all in a little over a year, I’m going to the College of my dreams and I have an amazing kid and boyfriend. Not too shabby. But still, I miss that fearless abandonment I had every time I went through my closet. I miss wearing something truly unique instead of the same ol thing.

Kate Payne wrote in Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking that work-at-home-ians should shower and get ready like they’re going to work every morning. Make yourself look all business-casual and you will be more productive throughout your day, she says. Well, it can’t hurt.

I’m going to make it a point to go through my closet and stick with the clothes I truly feel speak to me. The rest, I can donate to our clothing recycling program we’re doing as part of our fundraiser for Vox. Then, I’m going to make it a point to get fancy during the week. To actually put on some adult clothes and maybe even brush my hair.

Because, as I tell Sam all the time – if it’s important to you, you will make time for it.

What is your style? If you’re a mom, do you feel like you lost any of it when you had your babe? How did you find it again? Let’s talk about it.

My February Wishes

Beautiful balloon photo from AC Photo. Design by me

Beautiful balloon photo from AC Photo. Words by me

Wow, that first week of school was brutal. It made me question if I really wanted to be in design school a couple times. But, I stuck it out, completed all of the crazy assignments I had and now I’m ready to conquer another week. Also, if I dropped out, I would have to pay back all of my college loan now – so that’s a surefire way to keep me in school. I see why they do that now.

The more that I think about it, the more I realize how similar that is to running your own business. Or anything, really. When you put all of your time and effort into something, when you truly believe in and want to accomplish something, you stick with it. When you invest money, or you are borrowing money (bank, school, parents, friends) and you have to pay it all back immediately if you just back out, you stick with it.

I have stuck with the things that are most important to me, and I have let go of things that would not be the best for me now. Maybe sometime in the future, but definitely not now. So, I am finally focusing on the things that matter, and I am fearless in pursuing what I love.

I have categorized each aspect of my life I need to focus on, and here’s what I want to accomplish this month:

Blog: The transfer to a self-hosted site is happening on the 15th and I could not be more thrilled. I need to organize my blog better and get rid of what has little or no importance at this point. This transfer is the perfect time to let go and start fresh. I will have a couple sponsors when I move over and I’m hoping to be at ten by June. So my goal for this month is just to get my new site up and running and add the sponsors I do have.

Vox: The fundraiser is happening in May. We have the time and place set, now I just need to come up with a name, and start working on all of our promotional stuff. We need to visit local businesses and get the community involved. So, this month I will focus on spreading the word.

Sweet Mariposa: We are going to get a booth at the Vox fundraiser and we have a couple other shops who want us to vend at their Second Saturday street walks, and maybe even sell a few items in their stores. So, this month we’re focusing on adding to our inventory. I hope to get at least one new item in the shop each week this month. I also have a few people who want me to sell things for them on eBay, so this will be the perfect way for me to get more comfortable on the site.

Pampered Chef: I would love to get four parties under my belt this month, one each week. I already have three people who want to host, I just need one more. This is going to be the perfect way to get me cooking and baking more, and to get me used to talking to a bunch of people at one time. I’m used to writing – not talking – to a large number of people at once.

Health : My mom and I started a new health challenge (I will talk more about this tomorrow), and our challenge for this week is no drive-thru. This should not be too hard for me, except for when it comes to my coffee. I must admit, when I’m driving, I have a problem with going through Starbucks to get my coffee fix. This will motivate me to go find more little coffee shops in town and not depend on the drive-thru Starbucks that’s just down the street. When I lived downtown, it was easy for me to just walk to a little coffee shop to get my fix, but here…it’s a little harder. I make my coffee at home, too, but I like a little pick-me-up when I’m out and about.

So, this should be good for the month. I’ll be writing more about each of these in detail during the week, I just need to remember to stick with what I love, and let go of the rest. It will save me time and unnecessary stress. What are you working on this month – what are your goals? Share them in the comments and on your social media sites. If you wrote about it, share the link with me so I can see! It’s a wonderful way to check yourself, and get support from others.

Creative Business Journey: Project 2014

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

I have a lot riding on February. I have thought about where I want my creative business to go, and everything I have lined up is for next month. So, February is all about being fearless. I have been waiting for a lot of these changes, and they are finally coming to fruition. I need to put my fears aside and go headfirst into everything I want to do.

I loved this post from Krochet Kids

I loved this post from Krochet Kids

Here is what I’m most excited for next month:

  • I’m finally getting a blog update! I’m making the switch to self-hosted, and since I learned my lesson from trying to DIY it last year, I’ve taken another route. I’m going through Amy Cluck-McAlister, who I met when she donated some beautiful and fun jewelry to the first fundraiser I helped organize for Vox. Her site, Amy is the Party, is not only about web design – she shares a whole bunch of crafts, party ideas and spreads some of her local love for Sacramento. So yeah, I love her.
  • After a lot of thinking, re-thinking and some more thinking…I have ultimately decided to start selling Pampered Chef. It’s not a complete DIY approach to running my own business, but it will sure help me get to where I need to be in order to grow my business. It also gives me an opportunity to practice cooking and baking as much as I can, and who doesn’t love them some Pampered Chef? I’ll share the link to my site when it’s up in case you are longing for some cookware.
  • Getting Sweet Mariposa on Facebook and promoting the heck out of our stuff! We have a lot of good stuff up there and I’m excited to share it. I’ve learned a lot about product photography and photo editing through this, and I love that all my projects urge me to learn new skills that have been on my mind for a while.
  • Organizing the fundraiser for Vox. We need to get down the specifics so we can start creating flyers, Press Releases and getting more people involved. This is going to be a whole lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.

be fearless

I have joined the Project Accountability Club through Oh My Handmade! Goodness, which has totally motivated me to get serious about my goal planning. I have simplified some and have limited my commitments to a few important things that really get me going. Since we’re doing this week by week, I’m sharing what my goals are for next week:

  • Hone in on my design inspiration for my blog and make a dream board specific to my blog. I already have a lot of ideas on my Pinterest, now I just need to pin down exactly what I want (see what I did there?). I need to pick the exact font, colors and theme that I want. This is so exciting! I am beyond thrilled to see what Amy comes up with. I’ve looked at her past work, and I love it. I know this will be good.
  • Get all set up on Pampered Chef. Sign up, get my website set up and then start thinking of some recipes I want to use with all of my fancy cookware!
  • Create a Facebook page for Sweet Mariposa and load all of our photos on there. Connect the page with our Etsy shop for a seamless theme. All of the other social media will be done through my blog account.
  • Meet with Estella of Sol Collective and Eric from Vox. Set a date and time and choose a name. Get started on the sign-up sheet for everyone who wants to get involved.

Ok, that should be it! This is all so exciting…I can feel the productivity flying out of my fingertips right now! I know if I can get all of this done next week, I’ll be on a really good start. What are your creative business goals? What do you hope to achieve this week? Share in the comments and connect with me on social media. Let’s ride this sweet rockin’ rollercoaster we call creative businesses together!