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: Stefanie Lin

yo momma monday

Meet Stefanie Lin, 30, from Sloughton WI, who has started her own Virtual Assistant business, called Crafty Helper. She keeps creative businesses in order with all of the services she offers online. This way, you can get an Assistant when you need one, and don’t need to worry about keeping one on the books during your slower seasons.

Before she started Crafty Helper, Stefanie worked a lot of Customer Service jobs and most recently, was running a small business for an owner who lived across the country. She got the idea to start her own business after working the indie craft fair circuit for several years and noticed that so many of her crafty friends were too busy keeping up with the business aspect that they didn’t have time for the creative side anymore.

“So many weren’t at a place to hire an employee on their payroll but needed some help and bonus would love to work with someone who “got it” (i.e: the handmade movement/community).  I saw a need that I could fill.”

While Stefanie has her personal blog called Artsy Momma, she also started a blog for Crafty Helper when the site went live. That blog is more business-driven, where she throws in her past experiences and shares her opinion on various small business related topics.

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

“If I help someone or give them motivation, my work is done. The bonus is that they keep me in mind when they are at a point that they need a set of capable hands to help them move their business forward and take that next step!”

A mother to four, her day is spent balancing work and family life. Her mornings are dedicated to getting her two oldest kids off to school and checking e-mails. Then she run errands with her little ones and does most of her work while they are napping. She also runs an antique booth with her best friend so she will stop in with her baby to check on that and then checks in with her clients at her weekly Skype meetings. She fits in some family time, then it’s back to work again once the kids are all in bed.

Her workspace is a desk in the family room, and she shares it with her kids for their homework and educational games. She does have a studio for her sewing and painting in the basement, but it usually ends up in the living room.

“I cant help it I love to be in the middle of the action!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Since Stefanie’s husband works nights and sleeps during the day, she handles most of the parenting until the weekends, when they screw up his work schedule and he spends time with the family. They like going out to their favorite local restaurants, enjoying a good movie and doing projects together at home, although her husband isn’t a huge fan of the resulting mess.

“I always tell people though you pick what you are passionate about and what you make time for.  I love what I do so I work hard and I do all that I can with the time I have.  As for folding laundry, well that can wait 😀  (Maybe that will be my kids memory of their childhood, clean clothes in hampers, eek!)”

While it can be hard to manage everything, Stefanie refers to her husband as her biggest cheerleader as he always helps her with designing an art booth, cutting down frames for her paintings and watching the kids when she has craft fairs.

“This new adventure though gives me more time to be in the crafty world but get to keep my weekends free to spend with my family as a whole, and for that I am thankful!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

As a small business owner and creative herself, Stefanie knows how time-consuming yet necessary all of the business aspects are, and that is why she believes that virtual assistants are so important to small/handmade business owners.

“So much now for businesses is done online and there are only so many hours in the day to do all the things to “stay relevant” and still be able to make the product you are selling…  A virtual assistant can do so much of the online work for an artist so that the artist can still have their name/brand out there but keep working on what they are passionate about, what they started out the business to begin with to make amazing/awesome/beautiful products”

Like so many business mamas, Stefanie’s favorite part about running her own business is the flexibility and the fact that she is always there for her kids. Since her business is still in the baby pages, she was a little scared about getting her first clients. Just a month in, she is already getting good feedback and referrals.

Since most of her clients are also mamas, they understand that weekends are dedicated to family time, and then Mondays she’s back on the grind. Even with this flexibility, she admits that she has become attached to her mobile devices (really though, who hasn’t) and that she forces herself to put the phone down and be completely present.

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

“When my kids look back on their childhood, I don’t want my phone to be the thing they remember, I want my smile and the projects we do together to be the first memories and the phone/computer just a minimal part of it!”

After all, it was a quilt hunt when she was pregnant with her first daughter that got her involved with craft shows in the first place. She wanted to make her baby a quilt, but hadn’t sewn a day in her life before then, so her husband bought her a sewing machine for Valentine’s Day. As it turns out, she was not so hot on quilting and finally decided to hire someone to make the dream quilt. In the meantime, she grew quite fond of sewing.

“I started with totes applied for my first show (didn’t sell a thing!) learned from it, got my first consignment store and hit the ground running! It wasn’t a straight path from sewing I started collecting vintage fabric which lead to vintage patterns. I wanted to paint my own faces which started out first very whimsical but have come full circle and I paint a bit more realistic but still with my own twist of using lots of texture and glazes to create paintings that have an old vintage vibe to them.”

She got involved with the Oh My Handmade! community after she followed the blog for a while and looked to it as an amazing resource for crafty businesses and a trusted voice on the online world. She finally decided to join the community and found “an amazing group of creatives I get to hang out with/ bounce ideas off of/ learn from/cheer on.”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Stefanie’s favorite thing about what she does is creating connections and working with happy and positive people. She loves being able to help them and cheer them on, and sharing knowledge about her past experiences while learning to work with new sites and applications.

“I am all about growing and learning, I like to stay busy so getting to learn new things makes me pretty happy!”

Her advice for new creative business owners is simple: just start doing it.

“I am all about information but if all you do is collect information and don’t take the first baby steps to where you want to go you will get overwhelmed and just sit there with tons of information, and what good is that?  Fake it till you make it baby!  And don’t let the gremlins in your head tell you aren’t worthy of your crafty dreams you are, you can do it.”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

As for the future of her own business, Stefanie hopes to start a YouTube channel, keep a consistent blogging schedule, look for some good advertising spaces and continue to help artists make their own creative business dreams come true. Her plan for the antique booth is to continue the antique hunt and hopefully expand her booth into two.

“I also would love to help artist/handmade businesses break out of the mentality that they have to do it all for a long time before they are successful, hiring someone may hit the pocketbook initially but having that free time to really build your business is worth its weight in gold (and your sanity)”

For now, Stefanie’s heart is happy being able to cheer on other small businesses and make achieving their creative business dreams just that much easier. She hopes others will get the same fulfillment from their work, regardless of which avenue they choose.

“We all have our special gifts and we love and are passionate about other things.  It is finding that passion that you want to do all the time and can make a living doing.  I am not wanting to become a millionaire that is never my intention I want to have a healthy happy life work balance and make sure my family is taken care of but for me that means living in our cozy home driving a not so new vehicle and one day having chickens in the backyard.  Everyone’s dream is different and that is absolutely OK that is what makes being a human being so freaking amazing!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

To find out more about Stefanie Lin and Crafty Helper, you can check out her website here and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you have an idea for Yo Momma Monday, let me know by posting in the comments or using the hashtag #yomommamonday in your posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instgram. Visit my Pinterest to find more awesome mama inspiration!

Meet the Maker: Jess Van Den from Epheriell

meet the maker

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Meet Jess Van Den, 32, from Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland, Australia, who runs her own handmade jewelry line, Epheriell, and also founded Create & Thrive, an excellent resource for creative business owners. Create & Thrive has become a huge part of my research and reading for both my blog and my creative business projects I’m working on, and I’m so privileged to share her story with you.

Jess has not only one Bachelors degree, but three of them – in Science, Arts and Education. Before she decided to turn her love of jewelry making into a full-time career, she worked as a traveling Science communicator for the Queensland Museum and her last position was a Manager at a Math and English tutoring center for two years.

She got into making jewelry in 2008 and started out buying components at Spotlight (the Michaels of Australia) and stringing pieces together.

“I didn’t really have any skills, but I slowly learnt more and more – and after taking a weekend silversmithing class, my course was set!”

At first, Jess was simply selling jewelry because she had so much of it scattered around and thought “maybe I can sell some.”  Her decision to make it a career was accidental, and might just be one of the best stories I’ve heard to date. She and her husband got married in 2009 and wanted to travel around Australia in a camper for a year.

“We converted an empty courier van into a camper over summer, but I had a huge saga of dental problems at the same time that prevented us from leaving. I had no job, so I just threw myself into the biz… and, well, the rest is history as they say. We never did get to go on that trip… but we will, one day!

Beautiful earrings from the Earring of the Month club. Photo from Jess Van Den

Beautiful earrings from the Earring of the Month club. Photo from Jess Van Den

Her decision to name her jewelry line Epheriell was easy and simple, as it was an online alias she used for many years. She says it’s the mash-up of “ephemeral” and “ethereal,” meaning “lasting for a very short time” and “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world,” respectively.

A “greenie” from the way back, Jess ran a now-defunct blog called Sustainable Suburbia before starting her jewelry line, so its only natural (no pun intended) that she is dedicated to finding recycled sources for her jewelry. She struggled to find sources at first, but finally found a 100% recycled silver.

“I was keen to find a recycled source. All my sheet and wire is now 100% recycled. I’d love to find a source of recycled sterling silver chain, too, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Like many small business owners, Jess loves the freedom that comes with running her own business, but does admit that she does panic a little when business slows down a little, which fortunately does not happen to her too much anymore.

“Enough years have taught me that things always pick up again!”

After running her jewelry business for a few years, Jess decided to start Create & Thrive as a source of practical advice from people who thrived (again, no pun) in their handmade businesses. She wanted to get writers that were a part of the handmade business community and she will actually be welcoming six new writers in 2014!

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

“There is a lot of advice and info out there written by coaches, consultants, and marketers… but not so much written by people actually walking the talk of running a handmade business day-to-day.”

Jess and her husband, Nick, work in two rooms in a converted barn (she really is a greenie!) and her studio takes up the wall of one room. She has a desk with her computer and another desk for all of her jewelry work. She also has a soldering and buffing station outside.

She recently took a digitial sabbatical for a few days, which she credits for improving her workflow and she wrote about all the changes she is making here. She says that her routines, calendars and schedules ensure that she stays on top of everything, and even though it may not all go smoothly, she is usually able to get everything done.

Yup, that's an old barn. Crazy, eh? Photo from Jess Van Den. Credit: Paul Harris

Yup, that’s an old barn. Crazy, eh? Photo from Jess Van Den. Credit: Paul Harris

“I also have a fabulous Assistant Editor for C&T – Megan Eckman – and I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

Jess names jewelry designer Megan Auman and Business Strategist and writer Tara Gentile among her many mentors, but she can’t pinpoint where her inspiration comes from. She says that sometimes an idea will pop up fully formed in her head.

“Other times I’ll sit down with my sketchbook and deliberately doodle until I come up with something I want to turn into reality. My morning walk is always a good idea-generator, too.”

When Jess is not busy creating beautiful jewelry and motivating small business owners with Create & Thrive, she loves to read and is currently on her third Kindle. She’s mostly drawn to the indie fantasy/paranormal romance genre and science fiction, her first love. An amateur triathlete, she also runs, swims or cycles almost every day.

Her new bike! Photo from Jess Van Den

Her new bike! Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

She and Nick also love going hiking, and traveled through all of the National Parks down the US West Coast this year. They have traveled all over the world, and Jess takes a little something from each place she has visited.

“There have been so many amazing places – each one with something unique. I loved snorkeling off the islands in Fiji; taking a helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef at sunset; walking the streets of Paris and New York; hiking amongst the Redwoods in California; swimming in Crater Lake in Oregon; playing in the snow in Whistler, Canada… and the list could go on. The world is endlessly beautiful and I only wish I could see all of it before I die.”

Jess says that anyone who hopes to venture into the world of silversmithing should simply “just start playing.” She recommends taking an in-person course (something you might be able to find on Skillshare) and she also recommends checking out Flourish & Thrive for the business aspect, as she says they are focused on helping jewelers grow their businesses.

Nested Necklace. Photo from Jess Van Den

Nested Necklace. Photo from Jess Van Den

Looking into the future, Jess hopes to grow Create & Thrive and to reach more people with the same mindset she has now – to give them practical information and advice to make their handmade businesses a success. When asked what she liked the most about the handmade community, she said “the warmth and support.”

“People are part of our community because they have a passion for what they do, which I love.”

She wants people to realize that they don’t have to stick with the same day job day in and day out, if it’s not something they love and enjoy doing.

If they have a passion or an idea that they want to turn into a business, they owe it to themselves to give it a red-hot go. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? You fail and keep doing that job. But if you make it work, you get the satisfaction of waking up every day knowing you’re doing something you love, following your own path. No-one’s going to do it for you – it’s up to you. If you want it, go for it!”

Entwined Oxidised Urban Eco Earrings. Photo from Jess Van Den

Entwined Oxidised Urban Eco Earrings. Photo from Jess Van Den

Find about more about Jess and her beautiful jewelry by visiting her at both Epheriell and Create & Thrive. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. My Meet the Maker series appears every other Wednesday and you can find out more about these lovelies by visiting me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I would love to keep this going as long as I can, so if you know of anyone who would be a good fit, let me know!