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!

Homemade for the Holidays: Sales!

As I have said before, part of my Creative Business Journey is to share stories of people who have started their own businesses and inspire me to keep doing what I’m doing. With that in mind, this week’s My Creative Business Journey post is interrupted by a listing of all the small businesses I know that will be hosting sales online this weekend! I know that sometimes buying from handmade/small businesses can be tough because it usually means spending a little more, so this list might help lighten the load a little.

The Petit Cadeau – Free shipping on everything | Code: HOLIDAY

Photo from Alison Butler

Photo from Alison Butler

I recently wrote about Alison for my Yo Momma Monday series and have felt so inspired by her slow gifting manifesto. She sells handmade heirloom celebration countdowns, all made in her home studio. She sources most of her items and packaging from independent/local businesses.

Ink and Dirt Designs – 20% off everything | Code: OHMYHOLIDAY

Photo from Ink and Dirt Designs

Photo from Ink and Dirt Designs

Karen Jansen is a crafty mama who creates typography art, subway art, word art, original and custom designs. She came up with the name Ink and Dirt because she not only makes beautiful prints, she also likes to work on landscape design projects!

Lix Hewett Photography/ Design – 20% off everything | HANGIT/ BRANDIT

Photo from Lix Hewitt

Photo from Lix Hewitt

Not only is Lix a wonderful photographer, she recently opened her graphic design shop on Etsy! She offers not only beautiful prints, but iphone cases and custom branding as well. Spoil yourself with a custom branding package and get a print for your friend. Done and done!

Sam Osborne – 25% off all orders over £5 | Code: HOHOHO13

Photo from Sam Osborn

Photo from Sam Osborne

As an aspiring illustrator and graphic designer, Sam is such an inspiration. I love her work and how seamlessly it goes from print to products. The moment you see something of hers, you know who it belongs to and all of her work is so bright and fun, it immediately puts me in a good mood.

Lu & Ed – 30% off everything except Team Lu & Ed merch | Code: StorenvyFlash30

Photo from Sam Osborn

Photo from Lu & Ed

I wrote about the wonderful Cody for Yo Momma Monday last week and shared all the awesome stuff she does with her business. She organized a 50-store Store Evny sale and you can view all the stores here. Sale is on Cyber Monday only.

Kitty’s Curiosity – 25% everything in store, including sale items (BONUS!) | Code: HOORAY13

Photo from Kitty's Curiosity

Photo from Kitty’s Curiosity

Genevieve makes both reclaimed and hand-dyed yarn in a smoke, pet and allergen free home. I virtually met in her the Oh My Handmade forums and she is always so very welcoming and helpful! Her yarn is absolutely beautiful and if I ever get into knitting again – I know where I’m headed!

Print Therapy – 20% off everything | Code: GetYoShopOn

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

Let me just say, best coupon code I have ever seen. Ever. Melissa and Nicholas discovered a mutual love for handmade paper items after planning their wedding. How freaking cute is that? They have a lot of meaningful cards for all the occasions, like this sweet anniversary card. I can’t wait to share their full story in my Meet the Maker series soon!

dylbug – Free shipping

Photo from dylbug

Photo from dylbug

Leslie started this company after her first son was born and she wanted some hip clothes for him with a personal touch. Now a mama of three, she is always working on adorable new graphics. I was just introduced to this shop through Facebook, and I think I might be in love.

Home Grown Books20% off entire site | Code: shopsmall

Photo from Home Grown Books

Photo from Home Grown Books

My little one loves books. She likes to flip through them, and mostly to eat them. Home Grown Books are all art-based and eco-friendly books, made through an entirely green process. The paper is recycled and sturdy (good for those inquisitive mouths) and the books are 5.5″ by 6.25″ – perfect for little ones! There are seven books in a set, and the artist of each set is spotlighted on the website – which I think is amazing, and unfortunately isn’t done enough.

Simply Mad Jewelry15% off entire order | Code: SPARKLE15

Photo from Simply Mad Jewelry

Photo from Simply Mad Jewelry

I have come to the realization that I won’t be wearing jewelry for a long time. At least until my daughter stops pulling at literally everything I wear. Not that I wore too much jewelry in the first place, but I do have a special place in my heart for fabric rings like the one above! Madeline makes all of her jewelry by hand, and she takes custom orders. 

You can also find a listing of shops with holiday sales on Omiyage – a crafty blog featuring the amazing Washi tape. I actually went on to Oh My Handmade to announce I was going to compile this list so people could promote their sales, when I found out that she was doing the same thing! A lot of these lovely people are from that community so there may be the same shops on her list. I’m going to head over there as well, to see if there are any sales I missed out on!

If you are hosting a sale this weekend, or you know an awesome shop that is and I didn’t know about it, please leave a link in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #shopsmallsales. You can also find more holiday sales on my Pinterest. If anything, I hope this inspires you to shop small and handmade this holiday season.

Thrifty Thursdays

thrifty thursdays

To say that we use a lot of hot sauce in our house would be a serious understatement. The good thing about that is that I have a serious amount of peppers in my garden right now. I can barely contain them all. In fact, I’m having a really hard time doing so. Although I know the summer heat will be looming around for a while, I need to start preparing for the cold weather, and therefore, the end of my beautiful pepper plants. So, I have found the perfect solution: homemade hot sauce! I know I shared a recipe for homemade hot sauce in my Father’s Day post, but I wanted to share a few more recipes I found. Also, I happened upon a new site for finding recipes! Don’t worry though, Pinterest and I are still very much in love.

The new site is called TasteSpotting, and although there are ads on the site, you can click on the food icon, and it will take you directly to the site. No “image links,” just the real, original recipes. At least that’s what I’ve found so far in my hunt. It also led me to a beautiful site called Honest Fare, which is where I got my first recipe.

Image belongs to Honest Fare

Image belongs to Honest Fare

Homemade Hot Sauce from Honest Fare – I’ve found myself gravitating toward really clean, natural sites that make me feel relaxed once I land upon them. She shares recipes for both green and red hot sauces, and they both look amazing and delicious. She also happens to co-own a food truck called La Empanada Food Truck, and she has her own apron line, so I take it she is pretty busy, and pretty awesome.

hotsauce_web1

Image belongs to Illustrated Bites

The Hotness from Illustrated Bites – The super unique – and awesome – thing about this blog is that Heather Diane, the creator of this blog and recipe, is also an illustrator and uses her skill to illustrate all of her recipes, like this one. As a person whose heart flutters every time I see a good design, I love this site. If you are into the design aspect as much as I am, you can check out more of her work at heatherdiane.com.

Image belongs to Allyson Kramer

Image belongs to Allyson Kramer

DIY Hotsauce from Allyson Kramer’s Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes – First of all, I would like to applaud Allyson Kramer for taking on the hard task of creating recipes that are both gluten-free and vegan. Those two weeks that I was a hardcore vegan were probably the hardest two weeks of my life. Now, I wasn’t cooking then, just eating black bean tacos every chance I got, and a whole lot of fake meat. So I was the worst vegan in town. I digress, she has a really good recipe, and even a hotness chart for the peppers. She also has a couple cookbooks and she’s an artist. Sometimes I’m lucky to clean the house AND take a shower in the same day, so I’m always flabbergasted by people who can pull of more than that.

Do you have a hot sauce recipe that you would love to share? Or did you use one of these recipes to make your own? Share in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #homemadehotsauce. Check out more of my inspiration on Pinterest and feel free to pitch any Thrifty Thursday ideas. Stay thrifty, my friends.