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!

Yo Momma Monday: Tiffany McCauley of The Gracious Pantry

yo momma mondayAfter I had Cecilia, I got really interested in clean eating and living a clean lifestyle and one of my biggest inspirations was The Gracious Pantry. Tiffany’s recipes were simple, easy to follow, I didn’t have to search endlessly in a health food store for the ingredients and best of all – they were good! I was even able to trick my boyfriend into eating healthy. I learned about cooking from scratch from her website, and it forced me to slow down a little in the kitchen.

This is why I’m so happy to feature Tiffany in this week’s Yo Momma Monday!

Tiffany, 40, lives in Sonoma County with her son, whom she lovingly calls “Mini Chef” in her Facebook posts and recipes. She became a stay-at-home-mom soon after she found out she was pregnant, as her difficult pregnancy did not allow her to work much. She and her then husband had already planned on raising their son on their own, so that pretty much sealed the deal.

“The balancing act is always something I struggle with. The truth is, if you are giving your full attention to work, you will be lacking something in your mothering. And if you give your full attention to mothering, you will be lacking something in your work. So it really is a juggling act.

I think the most important thing you can do is forgive yourself for coming up short every once in a while. While most moms like to think they can do it all, it just isn’t humanly possible to actually do it all. So you have to focus on doing your best and forgiving the rest.”

Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Tiffany is a self-taught cook who says the most valuable lesson she could pass down to a beginning cook is that burning your dinner is not the end of the world. She assures that just because you burned it one time doesn’t mean you’ll burn it again. “You can’t give up because of one mistake,” she says.

“I also learned that when you start out with making a casserole and end up with soup, you don’t throw it away, you have soup for dinner! Cooking is a very creative thing. It’s an ongoing experiment. Evolve with the food you make instead of trying to make the food conform. You never know, you might end up with a new family favorite!”

Now that she is comfortable in the kitchen, she heavily involves her son in cooking, and says that she never questioned whether or not he would cook.

“And I think that is the very reason he loves doing it. It’s not a matter of teaching your kids something they already like, it’s a matter of teaching them to like something they absolutely must do to survive. Showing them that cooking can be fun. After all, the memories made in the kitchen just can’t be made anywhere else.

It’s really just a process of getting your kids involved with the everyday functioning of your life. They are definitely their own people, but when you function as a family unit, everyone needs to contribute in some way. Making time in the kitchen a regular thing is important. And I have found that most kids naturally gravitate towards cooking. They love learning about food and how to prepare it. It’s usually a naturally fun thing for them to do. You just have to present it the right way, and set things up so it’s not intimidating for them. 
 
For my little guy, that involved a stepping stool so he could reach the counter, an age-appropriate knife with careful supervision, and apron that was just for him, and even a special pig spatula that he got to pick out at the store himself. When you set kids up to succeed in the kitchen, you’ll find very little, if any, resistance.”
 
Kid-Friendly YoNuggets

Kid-Friendly YoNuggets / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Tiffany realizes the importance of teaching kids how to cook, and she says our society has become incredibly removed  from the very thing that sustains us.
 
“I’m finding that many grown adults these days were raised on boxed and packaged food from a freezer or on food that came through a drive-thru window. I know kids today who get three meals a day from a fast food restaurant. It’s a sad state of affairs. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fix it.

 
I think that teaching kids about food is the most important gift we can give them. Because it not only empowers them to feed themselves and their own families some day, but it also gives them power over their own health. Anybody who has health problems can tell you how important that is. Particularly when the life expectancy of our children is now getting shorter instead of longer. All you have to do is step back and take a look at the bigger picture where the health of our country is concerned to see why teaching our kids about real food is so critical.
 
Gone are the days when we could “trust” a large food corporation. And I would argue that those days never really existed. Because if you really dive into food politics at all, you’ll see that the stuff they label as “food” is actually very far from it. Our bodies were meant to run on food. Not food-like products. So it’s easy to see why health can go downhill so fast when you are not giving your body the fuel it needs.”
 
Tiffany talks a lot in her blog about how she dealt with body image problems through much of her life, something she learned from her mother. She says that the hardest thing is to not pass those problems down to her own child.
 
Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

“It’s a constant struggle and sometime I fail miserably. When you have been raised to view your body a certain way, it’s a very difficult thing to change. Sometimes it feels impossible. I don’t think I’ll ever really get past it completely, but I am learning to respect my body for the things it does every day and appreciate it for what it can do.
 
I mean, this body of mine made an entire human being. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me!! But I do still struggle with body image. It’s not an easy thing to overcome, no matter how much I try to show it respect. I think becoming a mom has simply made me far more aware of how badly I can put myself down sometimes. Not wanting to pass that on to my child has been a huge motivation for me to overcome this.”
 
For Tiffany, the biggest change she noticed after adapting clean eating to her lifestyle was how clear her skin was.
 
“I also lost some weight and started to feel much better. I noticed I actually felt full after a meal instead of wanting more and more food. I later understood that it was because my body was actually getting the nutrients it needed. I chose this lifestyle because I believe that real food is the answer to many problems we face today. My own personal eating plan is constantly evolving to suit my needs, but it’s always based on real food.”
 
Clean Eating Blueberry French Toast Casserole. Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Clean Eating Blueberry French Toast Casserole / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Before The Gracious Pantry, she had several other blogs, so she know she loved the blogging process. With this site, she wanted to track her own progress and share recipes she created.
 
“The best part about the blogging community is how small it really is. There may be a million blogs out there, but the community itself has sort of a “small town” feel to it. Once you start to grow, you get to know everybody and everybody gets to know you.”
 
Since starting The Gracious Pantry, Tiffany has also wrote a cookbook, which she says was a long and difficult process, but one that is filled with creativity and passion, one she equates with giving birth.
 
“You work really hard, sweat some, cry some, spend a lot of money, and in the end, you have this wonderful, amazing thing you can hold in your hands. You forget all about the difficult stuff and can’t wait to do it again! And at the end of the day, you are doing something you love and something you hope that others will love as well.”
 
Clean Eating Vegetable Basil Macaroni Salad. Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Clean Eating Vegetable Basil Macaroni Salad / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

She posts every other day without fail, because she wants to show people the endless variety of dishes they can make with real food. She wants people to learn that real food is delicious and to not be afraid of the kitchen. She also hopes people will learn that their health really will improve when they focus on real food and that cooking food does not have to take a lot of time, or money.
 
“The best compliments I get are the ones where people tell me that their lives/health/bodies have improved since they started cooking with my recipes. I think that sort of compliment is the most validating thing a health blogger could ever ask for.”
 
Her favorite recipe on her blog is the plum torte, and while she never posts a recipe that she does not like, she has had some fails – like a low carb brownie recipe that she is still working on. As for her favorite blogs and magazines, she likes iBlog Magazine and Will Write for Food.
 
“I tend to gravitate towards the blogs with the magazine quality photos. Really great photos are something I aspire to.”
 
Plum Torte / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious  Pantry

Plum Torte / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Now that Tiffany is in culinary school, she would like to host a cooking show in the future and to continue writing more books. “I’d also love to start teaching healthy cooking classes to kids. I’ve taught one or two and they are just so much fun,” she says. Her biggest advice for people who are beginning a clean eating lifestyle is simple: take it slow.
 
“Take it one meal at a time. Realize you WILL make mistakes. But the secret in success is using those mistakes. If you throw in the towel every time you goof up, you’ll never stick to anything. Using those mistakes to learn. A mistake isn’t the end of the world and it shouldn’t be the end of your healthy endeavors. Just keep at it. Success is found in perseverance. Come back to it again and again, no matter how badly you mess up.”
 
You can find out more about Tiffany and her recipes by visiting The Gracious Pantry. And for all you awesome moms out there, I still have two spaces left for a Yo Momma Monday feature so drop me a comment and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Yo Momma Monday: Tiffany Reese of Lookie Boo

yo momma mondayA while ago, a photographer friend of mine posted some photos she took of two adorable and stylish kids for her friend’s website. Through some serious social media stalking, I met Tiffany Reese, who runs Lookie Boo – a website dedicated to styling for littles, parties included.

Tiffany, 28, resides Roseville, CA and has lived in Northern California her entire life, although she moved around a lot growing up. She is the mama to those two adorable kids – Jude (4), Ruby (3) and is expecting baby #3 in February.

“We LOVE Roseville, its very conveniently located to things, the schools are wonderful and there is always tons of stuff to do with the kids.”

A stay-at-home mom, Tiffany was planning on going back to work full-time when Jude was two. However, just before his second birthday, Jude was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and was officially diagnosed with Autism last year.

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Photo Credit: Ryan Doyle Photography

“With his special needs, I have needed to stay home longer and couldn’t be happier with the doors this has opened.”

After Ruby was born, Tiffany needed a creative outlet.

“I studied Fashion Design in school and since having children I had become obsessed with tiny clothing. I decided to start a blog combining my two biggest passions, fashion & my kids and Lookie Boo was born”

For Tiffany, the feeling of community is her favorite thing about the blogging world.

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Photo Credit: Amanda Rose Photography

“I have lots of blogging friends I’ve met over the years now and I speak to some of them on a daily basis now. I’d say the aspect I dislike is the ego of some people you can run into, but that can exist anywhere I suppose.

I have too many favorites but my friend Morgan at the818.com really motivated me to start a “real blog” and has really mentored me along the way without ever asking for anything in return. She is the same person online and offline, she is brutally honest in a thrilling and hilarious way. “

Since her kids are anti-naps, Tiffany gets mos of her work done on her phone while she’s on the go, and when they are in preschool or after they go to bed.

“Summer is the most challenging time because the kids are home all day and we all just want to play and ignore my email.”

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Photo Credit: Amanda Rose Photography

When Jude’s first birthday was approaching, Tiffany wanted an original theme, so she started styling her own parties. And with a name like Jude, a Beatles Themed First Birthday was the perfect fit. And totally awesome.

“The response was really great and I loved doing it so much, I just kept planning the next party. Now I’m styling for clients too, its so fun! I try really hard to base the parties around what the kids ask for now, for example Ruby’s most recent birthday she wanted a “flower kitten” party, considering how random it was, I liked the outcome.”

Through her blog and other outlets, Tiffany has been very vocal about her experience with Autism.

Honestly, I just want them to know that children with Autism come in all different “packages”. I can’t tell you how many times people have said, “He doesn’t seem Autistic”.

I think they usually mean it as a compliment, however I find it as an example of how ignorant we still are about Autism. I am still learning every day. I’ve so appreciated the connections I’ve made with other families online and in person.”

Ruby’s Spring Kitten Party / Photo Credit: Amanda Rose Photography

Tiffany says that her family’s sense of humor is what makes them unique.

“It is simply required in our household. If you scream and throw a tantrum, someone is probably going to mock you. If you poop your pants, we will all laugh together. That is how we handle the not so pleasant parts of life.”

And when they need to unwind…

“Usually I’d say drink straight vodka once a month but you know, I’m pregnant so now I just eat cookies. My husband Michael is a chef and is at his restaurant A LOT.

We honestly don’t get much time together and if we do, we like to spoil the kids or watch football. When I’m home by myself in the evenings and I want to unwind, I usually watch horrible television like Real Housewives and feel better about myself.”

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

While she would like to find some more affordable small businesses to support locally, her favorite stores in Roseville are H&M, BabyGap, Target, Old Navy and thrift stores. As for her parties, she partners with other Etsy shops and loves Shop Sweet Lulu, but still does a lot of DIY – especially for clients.

Tiffany opened her own store last year, but it proved to be too much for her family at the time.

“Once all my kiddos are in at least Preschool, I’m hoping to be able to dedicate more time to the site on a full time basis and hopefully have the income to hire staff as well. My ultimate dream of dreams would be to design a line inspired by and for my kids”

Meanwhile, she loves featuring kids on her blog, and says all the parents need to do is use #lookieboo on Instagram, or e-mail her.

“That’s my favorite part of my job!”

Image from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Her advice for new moms is to be gentle with yourself.

Sometimes you get all the things done and sometimes you sob into your wine glass at 10:37pm because you’ve had a hard day and you think you’re the worst Mom ever.”

And what does she hope her kids will learn from her?

“Love. To love others and themselves.”

Photo from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Photo from Tiffany Reese/Lookie Boo

Visit Tiffany’s website to find out more about her family and Lookie Boo! Know an awesome mom who would be perfect for this? Leave a comment here and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Yo Momma Monday: Maiden Jane

yo momma monday

Meet Jane, 51, a quiltin’ mama of four from Cleveland, OH. She sells her quilts, pillows, totes and repurposed items in her Etsy shop and posts tutorials on her blog – Maiden Jane. I found her blog while searching for upcycled apron ideas, and I instantly fell in love with her story.

Before she was gifted one by her husband before the birth of their first one, Jane had never used a sewing machine. She did, however, love to create things and sewed by hand when she was a little girl. Although her mom never sewed “not even a button,” she supported Jane’s hobby buy purchasing her craft kits.

“So I am largely self-taught. My mother-in-law helped me in the early days and I also attended classes at the Sewing Expos that came through town.”

For Jane, most her inspiration comes from her daily life. If she has a need that she feels is not being met by the products on the market, she will try to create a solution.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

“That’s how my Oversized Tote came about. My husband and I tried all different ways of carrying all our supplies to the beach – plus the kids! We decided big bags would be the answer.”

She is also inspired by stuff that other people might be considered junk.

“I am a little sad when I go to a garage sale or the thrift shop to see all the stuff that we – first, buy, then, pitch. I hope that I don’t accumulate so much in my own life that will later be sitting on shelves.”

Her customers are also a source of inspiration, as they will ask her to make certain items that may end up spawning an entire line!

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

As a small business owner and mom working from home, Jane does not have a set schedule. She does, however, set goals for how much time she wants to spend on certain tasks. She will take breaks for housework and when her kids come home, and she sets aside specific days for her errands.

“…This year I am trying to be working by 7:30. So that means checking email early and then getting started working on sewing. I rarely work for more than two hours straight without doing something else…

I can fritter away a lot of time on social media, so I am trying to confine that to morning,
lunch, and evening. But it’s an important part of my business. So much of my work is custom and then the product ships out right away, so that means I have to photograph it within a day or two of being done.

When Jane and her husband built an addition to their home, they added a master bedroom. The designer wanted to add a glamorous bathroom or a walk-in closet, but it was Jane’s husband who offered up the idea of a craft room/office. And Jane couldn’t be happier with the decision.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

“One of the best things I have is a mobile table. It is on wheels so I can move it around the room or out of the way. The height of the table can also be changed. Side flaps on the table change the table size
to make it narrow. So the entire table can slide under the counters. We also have several mobile file
cabinets – which gives us storage and extra seating for when the kids are working in here.

Jane bought an entire Singer sewing book set at a closeout sale years ago, and she still refers to them often. She also likes Simplicity’s Simply the Best Sewing Book, The Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing and the Vogue Sewing Reference Book. For newer books, she likes A Bag for All Reasons by Lisa Lam and In Stitches by Amy Butler.

Jane says she has made and enjoyed a few patterns by Burda, and after she made some totes from Jennifer Paganelli’s fabrics – they all sold out!

“I get a little frustrated with the traditional pattern makers. It seems they have forgotten how to write a pattern for beginners.”

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Not only does Jane share her love of sewing and quilting on her blog, she also shares tips on practical living. Since she and her husband are both engineers, they thrive on order and solving problems that arise in their growing family. They are constantly changing and organizing things to adapt to their evolving lifestyle – like simply storing plastic grocery bags in an old milk jug with holes cut on the top and sides.

“Do you know, we still use that jug after 20+ years? My husband jokes that it saved our marriage! Since I am practical in nature and some of my products were borne of the idea of being practical, yet pretty, I used it as a basis for developing my brand.”

Jane gets tremendous satisfaction from working with her hands and making as much as she can. She started sewing for herself and her kids and would make gifts for people when she could. She created t-shirt blankets for her nieces and nephews as High School graduation gifts, and after encouragement from a friend, she opened an Etsy shop. Soon after that, she started a website and her business has continued to grow in the last five years.

“I almost feel selfish because I enjoy it so much…I love doing it for the creativity but I am motivated by the financial gain.”

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Even though her kids and husband help out when it’s needed – doing chores, make pickups and drop-offs, help with laundry and set the table – she remains an one-woman operation. Her oldest daughter, who has modeled on her website before, is now off to College so her other daughter, Annie, has taken over modeling. She also has her own Etsy shop called Pink in Mind.

Jane’s work and has been featured in quite a few websites, such as Craft Gawker, Craft Gossip, Totally Tutorials and All Free Sewing. She says that it has been a mixture of her submitting her work to different sites, and getting sought out by different bloggers.

“I was thrilled to have a few projects featured on Craft Gawker because that forced me to improve my photography. But I’m clearly not “there” yet because I continue to get rejected! I haven’t made it into a magazine or book yet, but that might change soon!”

Jane is inspired and motivated by piano music, and since her oldest son is a jazz pianist, her house if full of music! She loves both classical jazz and New Age – like Jamie Cullum and George Winston. She will also listen to musicals and soundtracks while she sews.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Since Jane sells patterns for some of her quilts, she wanted her customers to be able to share their creations that they made with her pattern. So, she added a board on her Pinterest for all of her customer creations. If a customer puts their work on their own blog, she can also add that to her Pinterest board.

“If my customers send me a photo, I put it on my blog and then pin it. Then I have a reference board for other customers to see finished blankets.”

When I asked her what her advice was for new moms who are also starting their own businesses, she had this to say:

“First, enjoy your time with your babies. When they are young and on schedules, you can use nap time and evenings. That’s when I sewed a lot. Then again, I was only sewing for fun at that point. It was a wonderful outlet for me. I see so many amazing business women and bloggers and wonder how they do it all with young kids.

In my opinion, it gets harder when the kids get older. When my kids hit the teen years, my life turned into chaos. Suddenly, I was running kids to practices. No longer was the evening my own as the kids were staying up later. So my point is, life goes by so quickly.

Here I am, starting a business in my late forties. When I went to college for engineering, I realized that I didn’t really love it by my junior year. But I also decided that I would have many careers in my life. So I was open to whatever path my life would take. If you are starting a business at home, go for it. Dive in. You’ll learn as you go. It’s so easy to start an Etsy shop. But find what works best for your family.”

Customer Creation from Jane's pattern. Photo from Maiden Jane.

Customer Creation from Jane’s pattern. Photo from Maiden Jane.

Jane hopes to continue to grow her business and says that she always has new ideas for products if she has some time to design them, and she has also been percolating with products she could have made with a small manufacturing house or collective.

“I only have two hands and although I love to create with them – and I always will – I can’t see how to grow my business without additional help. I love collaborating with other makers and have some new bag fabrics in the works. Usually my mind is overflowing with ideas.”

If you would like to find out more about Maiden Jane, visit her here. If you or somebody you know would make a perfect feature for this series, share a link in the comments and on social media or e-mail me with the information!

Meet the Maker: Kinsey Mhire

2116ca068dfd11e3aa500e149370af7a_8I first came across Kinsey Mhire’s work on Facebook, when someone else I was “following” shared one of her photos. I still remember letting out a loud gasp and immediately liking her page. But it wasn’t until she shared a recipe for her lemon blueberry scones that I knew I needed to learn more about her.

So, luckily for me, this wonderful photographer from Springfield, Missouri accepted my invitation to share a little bit more about her on my blog.

Self-taught, Kinsey started taking photos at 17, and shot her first wedding at 18. Now, she works with a Canon 5D Mark II and has a few photo editing programs in her arsenal: Photo Mechanic 5,  Lightroom 4, VSCO presents Film Pack 01, Film Pack 02 and Film Pack 04.

“I think we can get really technical about what makes a “good” photo. But at the end of the day, all that matters is if it makes you feel something. Happy, excited, nostalgic, hopeful, etc. Those are the images worth keeping, despite how “imperfect” they are.”

A recent wedding she shot. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

Photo from Kinsey Mhire

Kinsey never planned on turning her love for photography into a living, but decided she could do it after getting e-mails requesting engagement, family and wedding photos.

“One day it just hit me, this could really happen. I could actually be a wedding photographer.”

She started her blog to not only document her photo sessions, but to also share her love of crafting and food with the world. It also holds her accountable to keep creating something new that is better than the day before. She shares sewing projects, recipes and crafts often on her blog, and her favorite things to make are unique clothing and home decor.

“I need to create. It’s in my bones, and I feel like a part of me is missing when I’m not.”

A recent craft she shared. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

A recent craft she shared. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

Kinsey does something that I have never seen from a photographer – she posts tour dates on her blog. Since she and her husband love to travel, they mix a little business with pleasure and get to meet a lot of different people from different places.

“One of my dearest passions is the love between my clients, so to be able to witness love stories all across the globe, well, it just made sense to offer sessions during our travels!”

While her daily activities may vary due to her work schedule, Kinsey begins every morning with cuddling her dog and husband, goes for a run or practices yoga and reads for at least 30 minutes. Then, she starts the work day where she will blog for the first half and then run her errands. She will end up at a coffee shop to do all of her editing and catch up on e-mails. When the work day is over, she meets up with friends for rock climbing or to grab a beer and shoot pool.

Kinsey says that for every hour she spends shooting, she spends another five hours post processing – dealing with emails, contract, culling, editing, uploading images, ordering prints, designing albums and more.

Just look at that pup! Photo from Kinsey Mhire

Just look at that pup! Photo from Kinsey Mhire

“I’m terrified of losing photos/hard drive failing, so I have countless copies of every wedding and session backed up on my computer, hard drive, and online.”

Kinsey’s favorite photo shoots are engagement sessions and she describes her shooting style as real and candid. She often mixes in a little spontaneity with her go-to poses. Depending on the clients, she gives them time to get comfortable and works from there.

The best “poses” seem to happen when you give your clients a bit of direction, and then make them feel comfortable to be themselves!

If she wasn’t a photographer, Kinsey would be a seamstress and would most likely own a small, handmade shop or become a counselor for troubled teens/advocate for the prevention and protection against human trafficking.

In a headband she made. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

In a headband she made. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

“Sewing my own clothes is something I started back in high school, and it’s always been a hobby I really enjoy.”

When asked what advice she had for someone who is just starting their creative business, she had this to say:

“Be yourself. Work hard. Keep your passions and priorities in check. If it becomes all about “being known” or making the big bucks, you will become exhausted very quickly.”

Although she is not one to share her future goals online, Kinsey is looking forward to seeing how much she grows and changes in the next couple of years.

With her husband. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

With her husband. Photo from Kinsey Mhire

“I’ve a few projects I’m working towards that I can’t wait to share in the future, but for now they are just dreams. :)”

Kinsey firmly believes that every person has the power to change someone’s life for the better or worse, and she prays that she continues to bring hope, encouragement and inspiration to every person she meets – whether it’s a wedding client or a barista at a coffee shop.

“I’m so inspired by other peoples stories. The pain and heartache, the love and triumphs. The fact that my job allows me to document stories is one of the sweetest, most rewarding parts of my life.”

You can find more about this amazing person by visiting her blog and connecting with her on Facebook and Instagram. All of these photos are from her Instagram account. If you would like to be featured in this series, I would love to have you. If you know an amazing maker, I would love to have them, too. Just post a link in the comments, share it on social media or e-mail it to me.

Meet the Maker: Print Therapy

meet the maker

Meet Melissa, 30, and Nicholas Wert, 32 from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. They are the adorable and creative couple behind Print Therapy, a handcrafted paper expression company, and I am honored to have them as my guests today. And how perfect (and not planned at all) is it that Valentines Day is officially less than a month away.

Melissa and Nick decided to start Print Therapy while Melissa was in a hotel room during a business trip. She still works full time as a project manager and has one foot in the creative world, one foot in corporate America, as she would put it.

“After several weeks of travel (for work, not for pleasure!) and too many moments of not feeling like my best was good enough and not being able to truly stand behind my work, I called Nick and said “Dang it! We’re starting Print Therapy. For real!” A few hours later, we registered the name and had filled out all of the legal paperwork.”

Melissa has both a Bachelors in Business Management and a Masters in Communication and Information Management. She and Nick started Print Therapy a year after she got her Masters. She admits that at first it felt like a waste – paying off a whole bunch of student loans after realizing that she wasn’t all about corporate America.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“But when I stepped back, I realized how much they would help me run my own business and handle the non-creative portion of my work, which I love almost as much as the creating!”

Melissa says that she wouldn’t rather work with anyone else, and that the secret to their success is working in separate offices. She adds that having her husband as her business partner gives them both an understanding of all the work they put into it.

” If one of us needs to take a break or step away from it for a while, then it’s totally okay. We both know that we each love this business and want it to grow, and that we’re 100% committed to that. Nick doesn’t get on my case if I devote an entire Saturday to Print Therapy or if I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm after a long day of work. We appreciate each other for the work we’re putting in – and make sacrifices together to keep it all going!”

Since Melissa is an early riser, she is able to get a huge chunk of her work done before anyone else gets up and the neighborhood is still quiet. She makes a cup of coffee, checks her email and visits the blogs and social media sites of her favorite creative people. Then, it’s time to handle business. Some days, she works on all the of business aspects and other days, she’s creating a new design.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I am a methodical planner (hence my project management background), and have had to learn that you cannot plan creativity. It’s not something you can schedule on the calendar (yes, I’ve tried), or slot in a certain time of the day. When it happens, it happens.”

The upstairs spare bedroom of their 52 Cape doubles as her office, where she says all of the white space inspires her; yet the beautiful charm and character are her favorite. She has a desk, some storage racks, a Print Therapy design board and a Yoga Dogs calendar. Her only office mate is her dog, Sawyer, who is always hard at work on his comfy bed under the window.

“The bones of the room give me  a warm and fuzzy feeling…being surrounded by color would limit my design sense.”

While Melissa does get a lot of her home inspiration from Pinterest and creative inspiration from Instagram, she is most inspired by things that are not related to stationary at all, a nod to a subject she studied in College.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I studied architecture in college before switching to business, and I tend to find a lot of inspiration in different architectural pieces and in interior design.”

Before Adobe introduced the Creative Cloud, Melissa and Nick were creating all of their cards on Microsoft Word (yowza!). After watching all the Adobe TV tutorials they could handle, they now use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for all of their designs.

“It’s opened up a new level of creativity and confidence for me. We print most of our items at home, but are slowly beginning to work with a great printing company that prints out of California. They will greatly expand what we can offer, and can help keep our prices reasonable for bigger orders.  It’s hard to let a big piece of the business go like that, but we’ve found someone we trust and really enjoy working with, so … baby steps!”

Since both Melissa and Nick work full-time aside from running Print Therapy, they don’t get a whole lot of downtime. So when they do get a chance to unwind, they will get burgers or Chinese take-out and snuggle with Sawyer on the couch and watch a movie or catch-up on their favorite shows.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“As much as we love working together, getting to unwind together is even better! Both of our families are about 10 minutes away, so we love getting to spend time with them, too. We also treasure dinner dates with our closest friends – whether they be out to a restaurant or home cooked at someone’s home. Quality time together is where it’s at!”

For Melissa, being responsible for it all is both the best and scariest thing about running her own business. She loves having control over every aspect of her company, but also admits that it can get a little hairy when there’s not an IT Department or a paycheck, for that matter.

“You get to know yourself pretty well when you’re the one behind it all, and you have to learn to work within your strengths and weaknesses, and to push yourself farther than you thought you could go.”

When they need to buckle down and get to work, Melissa and Nick have different ways to get in the creative mood. Melissa will turn her workspace into what she calls a “safe space” and shuts the door, turns up the heat, lights a candle and turns up the emotional music. Nick, on the other hand, revisits the 90s with his musical choices. “Method Man, Wu Tang, all of it”

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Nick often jokes how much I love sad music – it’s true! I feel most creative when I deeply, deeply feel something. To me, that’s the point of stationery – to put feelings into text and images that can be shared with someone else.”

And when there are simply no creative juices flowing? Melissa doesn’t force it, and just stops trying. She will start cleaning and organizing and comes back to it later. If there is still nothing, she will just start designing something and eventually the creativity will reemerge.

“Sometimes walking away is the best option though – becoming frustrated with the process certainly isn’t going to help that creativity to start flowing.”

And when there are design flops, Melissa has learned to not rush the process and to work on a design until it feels right. And if she doesn’t love it, she will not have that innate urge to sell it. And when she’s not jumping up and down to promote it…then maybe it shouldn’t be up for sale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the trends and to try to make something because you think it will sell. But, if it doesn’t fit you and your brand, good luck”

Melissa loves the familiarity of the handmade movement and community, and loves how it feels like “we’re all in this together.” She has a lot of friends who run their own small businesses, and she feels inspired being able able to purchase items that help people support families, fund an adoption and give back to their communities.

“You just don’t get that feeling from a Wal-Mart. There’s nothing better than purchasing a product you love and knowing that that maker is excited by and appreciative of every purchase coming his or her way, and is using that money to live their life. Double whammy goodness.”

She discovered Oh My Handmade! while on Twitter when she was starting Print Therapy. She checked out the website, and ultimately decided that the small monthly fee was worth all of the support she would get from the online community.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Through my OMHG membership, I’ve learned that I’m not alone and that everyone struggles. Everyone has off days. No one feels like a creative successful genius 365 days a year. It’s been eye opening for me, in the best way, and has helped me better accept myself as a maker.”

While Melissa agrees that starting your own business is incredibly tiring, she also knows how exhausting it can be to work at a job that you don’t love. So, she knows this is the right path for her, and if she does have children, she hopes it will be an inspiration to them.

“Every day that I look at Nick, and the family we’re building, I am inspired to go down this path, because it makes me the happiest person I can be. That’s good for me.”

Now that they finally have their website launched (yay!), Melissa hopes to work on a Wedding collection and add more “just because” cards to their shop. “Those are my favorite to send, and to receive, so I want to offer more of those as well.” Next year, they hope to move into wholesale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I hope to inspire people to do what they love, and to not feel constrained by what they think they should be doing or by what someone else thinks they should be doing. I hope to inspire people to find a partner to share their life with that fully supports their dreams and visions.

I hope to inspire people to rescue their next pet versus buying from a breeder, because man, rescue pets are the best. But mostly, I hope to just inspire people to tell someone else how they feel about them in a way that will always be treasured. Leave a love note, send a card. However they choose, I want to inspire people to tell those they love, that they love them. I want to inspire people to send happiness; from their mailbox forward.”

You can find Melissa and Nick on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you can order Valentines cards (like I did) and any other cards you like from their Etsy shop. If you would like to participate in this series – or know somebody who should – leave a note in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you want to be all private, you can e-mail me too!

Meet the Maker: Elizabeth from Delightfully Tacky

meet the maker

Meet Elizabeth, 26, from Tacoma, WA, who runs the wonderful blog Delightfully Tacky – which I started when I first got into blogging, and continues to be one of my favorite weekly reads. Not only is Elizabeth a blogger, but she is also a graphic designer and a photographer. To sum it up, she pretty much does it all.

Elizabeth created Delightfully Tacky in 2008, after she discovered style blogs and it seemed like “a really cool community of inspiring girls.” Over the past five years, it has turned into a style, food, diy, home and design blog and serves as inspiration to bloggers, makers and designers alike. She started blogging during College and working as a barista, so it was pretty casual in the beginning. After she graduated School, she got more serious about her blog.

 “The progression happened organically, I suppose…After college, blogging was an amazing community that helped me make that transition that can be kind of rough in that post-college-graduate-living-at-home-trying-to-find-a-job-or-maybe-apply-to-grad-school phase.  My blog started getting more views after I was featured by a more popular blogger and I decided to try and give it more attention and blog more consistently with quality content.”

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Creativity has always been running through Elizabeth’s blood and she spent her childhood drawing, creating and “always running around the woods, creating scenarios in my head.”  An art major in College, Elizabeth says art is an integral part of who she is and she never once thought of changing majors.

“I remember once in 4th grade we had our art projects hanging in the hall at school and one day I walked past them and mine had a sticky note on it from someone who wanted to buy it to hang in their house!”

In 2010, Elizabeth finally purchased a 73 Winnebago Brave, after being obsessed with 70s Braves since she and her family went on a family trip in one across the country in 2007. She did a huge, photorealistic painting of the 73 Brave for her Junior art exhibition in College and ended up getting one that was nearly identical! After her purchase, she saved up enough money and went on a trip through the West Coast.

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

“It was one of those things where it was something I wanted to do and I just decided to do it instead of thinking about doing it…I had always wanted to do something like that with a husband, but I’d decided to stop waiting for a guy and instead just go for my dreams.  Ironically right after I got done with my trip my now-husband asked me to be his girlfriend and less than a year later we were married.  Maybe someday we’ll go out for a big trip in the Winne together!”

She and her husband, Dan, recently purchased a house and Elizabeth has been blogging about their renovations. Since both of her parents love home renovations, Elizabeth was always involved with their process. Her dad and uncle came down from Alaska to help work on the siding, and after that she and Dan finished up with painting, and they have a few more projects in the works.

“My dad was a carpenter when he was younger, so he knows a ton about home building and repair.  I learned a lot from him, but mostly I learned that I could do anything I set my mind to if I wanted to do the work and figure it out…It was really fun to be able to work alongside family on our home.  I had always wanted to get a fixer-upper, having seen my parents fix up a few homes throughout my childhood, so it was fun to finally be able to do that with a home of my own.”

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

At the moment, Elizabeth’s office is in a converted attic space, which is near freezing in the Winter as the insulation is minimal. She just got a new desktop computer that’s in her office, so she uses that space for editing photos and then blogs on her “ancient” laptop downstairs, where all the action is happening.

With everything that she does, Elizabeth says she gets the most fulfillment from blogging. While she loves working on graphic design projects, she admits that it does not give her the same creative freedom. Since the client has the most control over the design, she says that sometimes you may create something you absolutely love, but the client doesn’t feel the same.

“In that way graphic design can actually be pretty taxing as a creative person.  Blogging is something that I get to do for myself. I get to share what I want, create what I want, and no one has a say about it”

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Her background in art and design has definitely helped Elizabeth’s blog, she says. She has always designed her own blog and her knowledge of Photoshop has enabled her to edit photos and include other graphic elements. Since blogs are a complete visual package – layout, colors, textures, patterns and photography – Elizabeth says it’s helpful to have a brain that is very visual, itself.

Elizabeth gets most of her inspiration from local restaurants, TED talks, documentaries and magazines. She also finds inspiration from some of her favorite bloggers – Orchid Grey, The Clothes Horse, Maidae and Bluebird and her favorite handmade shops – The Velvet Bird, Vanilla & Lace and Moorea Seal.

Although there was a period when Elizabeth was focusing on being a DIY project blogger, she says that while she loves working on DIY projects, they just don’t have a huge a presence in her life. And while Pinterest is an inpsiration for her crafts, she says a lot of her motivation to create something simply comes from seeing something she wants but can’t afford, and looks relatively easy to make.

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

“If I want to make something I’ll make it, but it’s not a daily thing.  This is probably why my blog is such an amalgamation of different things.  Recipes, DIY projects, outfits, photos.  I don’t really focus on one thing, so it allows me more diversity in what I choose to create that day.  I might be in an outfit mood, or a cooking mood, or a project mood.”

After attending NYFW for the Chictopia and IFB blogger conferences, Elizabeth and Tieka from Selective Potential decided to offer e-courses as a virtual alternative for people who couldn’t make the trip. People can buy passes to the e-courses at anytime and they will be privy to the same information that is shared at the conferences.

“Since then I’ve created a couple more e-courses, one about self growth and one about developing personal style, and I’m in the planning stages of creating an e-course on photography!  I get a ton of emails every day asking for tips on blogging, photography, and personal style so it just made sense to compile everything in one place in the form of an e-course.”

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Elizabeth has put her influence to good use, and started featuring organizations that she believed in on her blog. Most recently, she wrote about Umoja Women in Kenya. She will be donating all of the small ad sales to this nonprofit, and she has also featured Musana Jewelry, a nonprofit organization that gives all of their beaded jewelry sales, grants and donations back to the artisans.

Like many of us, bills serve as a constant motivation for Elizabeth, though she considers herself lucky that she gets to do what she loves in exchange for a normal paycheck.

“Sometimes blogging can feel trivial and silly as a full-time or part-time job but the emails I get from readers telling me their stories and opening up make me feel like I might actually be doing something that positively impacts other humans, which is encouraging.”

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Elizabeth wants to continue creating more women empowerment, and feels that her blog is headed more in that direction. She hopes to inspire people to get off their asses  and out of their comfort zones, starting with herself.

“I personally love blogs because the people in the photographs are real to me, I hear their voices in their writing, their bodies are un-retouched, their style is procured on their own budget, not pulled from designer collections.”

She wants women to feel empowered to create their own futures – to simply be who they want to be.

“In yoga they say it’s not about doing the pose perfectly, it’s about moving in the direction of that ideal pose doing the best you can at that moment.  “

You can find out more about Elizabeth by visiting Delightfully Tacky, and connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Help Umoja Women by purchasing small ad space on her blog here. Hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and find more Meet the Maker inspiration on my Pinterest.