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

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

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

First, tell us a little about yourself!

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

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

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

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

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

How did you get into graphic/web design?

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

What about entertaining and DIY’ing?

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

What pushed you to start your blog?

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

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

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

What is your creative process like?

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

What inspired you to start Indie Sacramento?

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

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

How do you feel about the creative community in Sacramento?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click the photo for the full DIY

Click the photo for the full DIY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

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

Thrifty Thursdays: Repurposed cabinet doors

IMG_2440I haven’t worked on any restoration projects in a while, and I was starting to get in a slump. So I was excited to learn that my generous stepsister (who gifted me the barn windows I worked with earlier) had some cabinet doors and old frames that she wasn’t going to use. After I find out what I can and can’t paint with during my pregnancy, I’m excited to get to work on them!

I searched for some projects on Pinterest to get some inspiration, and I found a couple of really cool tutorials!

Photo belongs to Autie from iCandy

Photo from Autie at iCandy

First, there is this repurposed cabinet door art table for the kiddos, which I love. I don’t think it will work for the cabinets I have, but it’s definitely something I want to try in the future! The tutorial is written by Autie from iCandy on U Create, and it’s complete with instructions and photos!

Photo from The Elli Blog

Photo from The Elli Blog

Sometimes I think I’m over all the chalkboard stuff, but then I find beautiful designs like this, and I decide that I love it all over again. I’ve seen cabinet doors turned into chalkboards before, but I really just like how nice it looks when it’s done. I wanted to put up a little chalkboard in the corner by our dinner table and this would be perfect! The entire tutorial with photos is written by Lia on The Elli Blog, a beautiful blog that focuses on weddings but also has tutorials for everyday living!

Photo from DIY Inspired

Photo from DIY Inspired

And finally, a beautiful jewelry organizer from Dinah on DIY Inspired. Now, I don’t wear jewelry a lot. I don’t go out very often, and the my daughter broke the necklace that my boyfriend got me literally days after I got it. But I do have a lot of jewelry (and not all of it is costume) and when I do go out, I like to get all gussied up since it probably won’t happen again for another year. So this repurposed cabinet door would be nice to put up in our room or bathroom!

Have you restored a cabinet door and want to share your project? Did you follow one of these tutorials and want to share? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest! I’m always up for new ideas and inspiration so share em if you got em!

Stay thrifty, my friends.

Creative Business Journey: Project 2014

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

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

I loved this post from Krochet Kids

I loved this post from Krochet Kids

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

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

be fearless

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

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

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

Fridays are for Favorites

fridays are for favorites

I love when I get a new book and it opens an entirely new world for me. Last year, I got the Handmade Marketplace book from my stepsister, and it introduced me to Kari Chapin and her handmade community, which also led me to Oh My Handmade! This year, I got Wonder Walls by Sarah Bagner from my boyfriend’s sister…and I fell in love with the book. This is my new favorite find!

Photo from Sarah Bagner

Photo from Sarah Bagner

I saw that she has a website called Super Market Sarah and immediately deemed it necessary to check out. The book features different collectors who have their items displayed on their walls, and the website is the same way. You can click on items that you like in the photos, and that will lead you to the store to purchase the item.

You can click Browse to view the 91 eclectic collections, and then you simply click on the item for its price and link to buy it. Some of my favorite collections are: Kirstie Mary Allsopp (who wrote the book Kirstie’s Homemade Home), Tuckshop (awesome jewelry designed by Lynn Allingham) and Bits of Bike (cyclist and designer Clare Pollen makes jewelry out of old bike parts)

Photo from Sarah Bagner

Photo from Sarah Bagner

While I have not had time to go through all of the collections, I can almost guarantee there will be more collections I will fall head over heels for. The best part is when you click on the name of the collection, it takes you to an info page which gives you a little more background on the artist and links to the artist’s website and/or shop. That’s awesome! What an amazing way to promote the artists.

You can join the Supermarket Sarah group on Facebook – like I just did – and you can follow her on Twitter! Her blog hasn’t been updated since August but she does update her Facebook and Twitter with shows she is doing and projects she’s working on. Pretty neat to see the behind-the-scenes action!

What is your favorite new find of the week? Post the link in the comments and share on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Instagram with the hashtag #fridayfavorite. You can find more of my favorite inspiration on my Pinterest!

Giving Tuesday: My favorite nonprofits

Today marks the second annual Giving Tuesday – a national day of giving. Since I have worked with nonprofits before, and I know how hard it can be to raise money, I thought I would share some of my favorite nonprofits and different ways you can support them. All of these organizations are run by volunteers who are doing this because they truly believe in the cause and helping other people. That’s kind of an amazing thing, when you think about it.

Photo from Krochet Kids

Photo from Krochet Kids

Krochet KidsI wrote about this awesome nonprofit before, and I am doing it again just because I love them so much. Kohl Crecelius learned to crochet from his older brother, and soon taught his two friends, Travis and Stewart. Though they all went to different Colleges, they would volunteer together in developing countries. After one of the founders, Stewart, returned home from a Summer in Uganda, they were motivated to teach Ugandan women to crochet so they could rise out of poverty. The clothing and accessories are signed by the makers and all of the donations fund their efforts. They recently You can read more about their story here and you can donate here. They recently worked with twin sisters Jennifer and Amy Hood – who founded Hoodzpah – to sell limited edition screen printed posters, one of which is shown above.

Photo from Out of the Dark

Photo from Out of the Dark

Out of the DarkThe moment I read about this nonprofit, I immediately felt inspired. This organization was founded by two brothers who work with disadvantaged kids to restore old furniture. They also founded Street Dreams, which they have run for 13 years now, and started this charity as an outreach of that organization. Since I recently fell in love with the art of restoration, I instantly felt a connection with Out of the Dark. Their work is beautiful, and looks super professional. I could definitely see myself buying some pieces – once I have a place to put them. You can learn more about getting involved here and can donate here.

Photo from Musana

Photo from Musana

MusanaMuch like Krochet Kids teaches Ugandan women to crochet beans in order to make a living, Musana works with Ugandan artisans to sell their beautiful beaded jewelry. All of the sales, donations and grants they receive go back into their foundation and helping the Ugandan artisans grow through educational and vocational training. They source their material locally in Uganda, and work with local artisans, academics and professionals. You can find read more about their story and artisans here and you can get involved here. I’m thinking of holding a Musana Market, myself.

And for some local nonprofits…

Photo from Sol Collective

Photo from Sol Collective

Sol CollectiveFounded in 2003, Sol Collective is a center dedicated to art, culture and activism. I have been to several art shows there and I’ve seen all the work they do inside that building, and I’m always amazed by their passion and determination for their cause. They provide community programs like the Free-Sol Arts Academy – which provides in and out of school art workshops for kids – and the Sacramento Activist School – a gathering of all generations who are focused on social justice issues. You can sign up for a membership here.

Photo from Vox Sacramento

Photo from Vox Sacramento

Vox SacramentoEven though I only lived a few minutes from Vox when I lived in my dear Midtown, I actually found them through Twitter and decided I wanted to volunteer. When I went to meet with Eric (co-founder), he was in the midst of an art class for kids and was so excited to share his goals with me. I later co-hosted a fundraiser called Art Speaks with my good friend Candice and I have worked on and off with them since then. They are still very dear to my heart, and I hope to work with them more. You can find out more about them here and you can donate here.

We all know how tight money is, so even if you can’t donate, nonprofits love them some volunteers. And if you don’t live close to them, ask if you can help with social media and/or sending out newsletters. Trust me, they would love the help! Feel free to share your favorite nonprofits in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #givingtuesday. Check out more awesome people behind awesome causes on my Pinterest.

Yo Momma Monday: Bev Feldman from Linkouture

yo momma monday

Meet Bev Feldman, 31, from Cambridge, MA who is the newest mama I know, and the jewelry designer behind Linkouture – the modern chainmaille jewelry company that she started in 2010. She welcomed her first baby, Eve Lily Feldman, on the 17th of this month.

This interview was completed before Bev had her baby. You can read more about her sweet baby girl here. Her Etsy shop is currently in Vacation mode until the end of January for some mama/baby bonding.

Bev was first introduced the jewelry making business in the third grade, when she and her friends made and “sold” safety pin beaded bracelets to their classmates as part of a project for school. Then in the seventh grade, Bev participated in her very first craft fair – where she sold daisy chain necklaces and bracelets. It wasn’t until she discovered chainmaille on Etsy that she got serious about her craft.

“I discovered Etsy and went on a bit of a pearl-buying binge before I discovered chainmaille. I was instantly drawn to the look of it and decided to try it out myself. Before I knew it I was hooked and decided I wanted to open my own Etsy shop.”

Photo from Bev Feldman. Credit: George Diep

Photo from Bev Feldman. Credit: George Diep

With a background in both education and human services, Bev worked with Cambridge children and families who dealt with autism – organizing playgroups, doing outreach and general family support. Before she decided to take her business full-time, she traveled around South America for five months with her husband.

Bev initially started her blog as something she was supposed to do for her business and write a whole lot in the beginning, as she was more focused on the blog she shared with her husband – Flight of the Feldmans – where they chronicled their five month journey in South America.

“When I got back in June of 2012 I decided to focus more on my personal blog, and in the process realized I actually really liked blogging.”

Naturally, Bev’s pregnancy altered her work, especially in the first trimester and by the second trimester, she was feeling more like herself again. Once she hit the third trimester, it more affected the physical aspects of her work – like lugging around heavy tents at the local craft fairs she attended.

Photo from Bev Feldman

Photo from Bev Feldman

“I’ll admit, the first trimester was tough. I was exhausted, nauseated when I wasn’t eating, and it totally messed with my emotions. I really didn’t feel very motivated and wondered how I would ever work on my business… Also, I realized it wouldn’t be realistic for me to do holidays shows since I am due right at the start of the holiday season. Thankfully I am able to sell my jewelry at the Boston Handmade Holiday Gallery–amazingly things worked out really well and I’m lucky to be part of such an awesome handmade group!”

Bev has always loved going to craft shows and knew that was something she needed to participate in to really get her business rolling. Like anyone who is just starting out, Bev was nervous about applying and says she has been rejected from a couple of shows. However, she has also been surprised by the shows she did accepted into.

“It is a lot harder than I thought it would be (both getting accepted and actually participating in them), but it was well worth it in regards to exposing my work to more people and connecting to the handmade community in the Boston area.”

Depending on what’s going on that week, the amount of jewelry Bev makes per week varies. If she has a craft show one week, she will focus on creating new pieces and restocking her inventory – meaning she will average about 30 pieces per week. Other weeks, she will focus more on blogging and less on creating jewelry.

Photo from Bev Feldman

Photo from Bev Feldman

“Some days I am more focused on blogging, other days it is preparing for a show and making jewelry. Each day is so different it is hard to say what a normal day is for me! The one thing that is consistent is how shockingly fast each day goes by.”

Bev’s workspace also doubles as their kitchen table, which she says drives her husband a little crazy, especially when she is making jewelry! The large size and brightness of her kitchen makes it a good space to work, although she would love to have a little studio of her own, one day. She says her inspiration for designs can either come from wandering around a bead shop for a while and looking at all the different beads, and sometimes an idea might just pop in her head.

“Other times I will pull out a bunch of supplies and just see what I come up with.”

Jewelry wasn’t the only thing Bev started as a child – she also got into knitting in the fourth grade, when she was home sick for a day. Her mom got her some knitting needles and yarn, and taught her the basics. She didn’t pick it up again until she was sophomore in College and saw some people doing it, then she got a book and retaught herself. Now, she will do it as a social activity but says she never got into it the way she did with jewelry.

Photo from Bev Feldman

Photo from Bev Feldman

“It’s one of those activities I’ll do for awhile and get bored with and not touch again for a year or two. Unfortunately as a result I have several started projects and way too much yarn!”

She also took woodworking when she was in middle school and loved it, and would like to take a class again. Another hobby she has wanted to try for years is glassblowing.

For Bev, the best thing about running her own business is learning new skills that she probably wouldn’t use otherwise, and making her own schedule. The scariest part is identifying herself as both a jewelry artist and a blogger.

“I have also gained a lot of confidence in myself and surprised myself with what I am capable of doing…for the longest time I felt like a fraud and was going to get called out on it.”

She recently started a series of interviews with a variety of makers because she wanted to support other handmade businesses, something she knows needs to be done as a small business owner herself. She was inspired to start this because she is always amazed at what other people are doing and wanted a platform for sharing what she found with a broader audience.

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Photo from Bev Feldman

“I definitely learn a lot from the people I interview–I think they offer great advice, which is actually applicable to more than just other makers.”

Looking into the future, Bev dreams of putting a book together for children and parents. Through her, she hopes that people will find inspiration to start businesses of their own.

“When I tell people what I do, I often get “That’s so cool! I would love to do something like that.” Just a couple years ago I would have never imagined I would be working for myself. I hope to inspire people to see that anyone can do it.”

You can find out more about Bev and Linkouture by visiting her website and connecting 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!

Yo Momma Monday: Cody from Lu & Ed

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Meet Cody, a work-at-home mama in her mid-twenties from Kansas City, MO, who runs an eco-friendly monster toy line called Lu & Ed. Before starting her own business, Cody was the head of marketing in a retail store, and before that, she was in line to become a store manager at a local restaurant. Not looking back, Cody says that making mon-stors “is the best job I have ever had!”

She came up with the idea of Mon-stors when she moved from South Carolina to Missouri with her son and lived in the basement of her fiance’s mom’s house. With little room to move around, Cody thought of a storage solution where her son could literally feed toys to a stuffed monster.

Once I posted photos online, I got dozens of requests and soon after, dropped my day job to pursue it full time!

Cody is not only a mama to her son, she is also a mama to seven rescue pets and has another job recording sales for an author. Being a mom has made her more motivated because she has more flexibility as an independent business owner than she would in the workforce, and she is setting a good example for her son to pursue his dreams.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“My son loves what I do and I love that it enables me to stay home with him, that I can be here for him all the time. I am so thankful for everyone who supports my indie business and allows me this opportunity.”

Although it’s hard for Cody to pinpoint her favorite thing about running her own business, she did say that the scariest thing is straightening out her taxes and licenses.

“You always want to make sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s and it can be scary filing taxes for your first time or applying for a new license when you relocate. There are so many great resources out there now for handmade businesses to help them get their affairs in order, and for that I am thankful!”

Right now, she is a one-mama shop and works in the extra bedroom in the back of her house. Cody says that she is casually looking for an intern to help out with sewing during her busy times – before big events and during the holiday season – but in the meantime, her son has turned out to be quite the helper.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“On take your child to work day last year he worked in the studio with me all day and made two stuffed monsters, and had so much fun doing so! He also loves to make jewelry, sculpt, paint, make soap and draw. ♥”

She describes her workspace as “messy, colorful, fun, full of inspiring quotes, monsters and a huge over flowing closet of fabric.” Speaking of fabric, Cody uses all eco-friendly materials to make Mon-stors and assures that there is absolutely no waste going into landfills. She uses large cuts of fabric to make Mon-stors, then from that, she cuts use the remnants to make small Mon-stors, totes, stuffed monsters, gadget Mon-stors and other productsWhatever is left from that is used for stuffing or to make dog beds that she donates to animal shelters.

“They are all little steps that make a big impact in the environment.”

Cody has always been eco-aware but admits that she didn’t know the impact buying new fabric had on the environment until she took a part-time job at a fabric store to help cover the costs of some dental work she needed. After she witnessed all the waste firsthand, she decided that she could no longer support big-box fabric stores.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“Fabric arrives in a big, plastic wrapped box. The box and plastic wrap are thrown in the trash (not recycled), then each bolt is wrapped in plastic wrap, which is then throw away. All uneven edges are trimmed and just thrown away, as are tiny remnants & the cardboard sleeves the fabric is wrapped around.”

She started buying fabric at thrift stores and after a few months, people were offering her old fabric, sheets, clothing and blankets that they were no longer using. Wanting to do more, she searched for more eco-friendly ways to run her business. She started flipping food boxes inside out and once her family and friends heard she was doing this, they started giving her their old boxes.

“I haven’t had to buy or pick up a box from the post office in over two years! I also found Eco Enclose, a company that makes biodegradable tape from renewable resources, Fabric Recycles, a fabric and crafting notion thrift store where I can buy thread spools second hand at a fraction of the cost (and pollution of production) of new thread, and Moo‘s amazing recycled, biodegradable business cards!”

Cody has witnessed her eco-efforts sparking a revolution among artisans within her community. Business owners are realizing that being eco-friendly in your supplies and packaging actually results in major savings for your business, and more and more people are coming to her for advice on how to make their businesses more sustainable.

Cody's car after a thrifting haul

Cody’s car after a thrifting haul. Photo from Lu & Ed

“Several people I know have stopped purchasing boxes and bubble mailers and started recycling packaging or making their own mailers from reclaimed materials to reduce landfill waste and environmental pollution. I think that it is creating a bit of a ripple effect – as more people close to me make small changes, people close to them will as well, and so on. ♥ If we all make small changes they will have a huge impact on the Earth!”

She says that her eco-conscious efforts are also creating a ripple effect with her son. They pick up litter together all the time, often talk about sustainability and she takes him on all of her thrift store adventures. “My son is a total green-freak,” she says.

“He will grab a robe and say “Wow, this would be a great monster!” We buy all of our clothing, dishes, and home goods like lamps and decor from thrift stores, and my son is aware of the ecological impact factory produced goods creates on the world. My son has a hawk eye for organic products at the grocery store, too. Haha! I hope he will maintain his love for nature and making good choices through adulthood.”

Cody started Team Lu & Ed at the beginning of this year to collaborate with other artists and fulfill customer demands for products she doesn’t offer. It slowly grew into a charitable endeavor, with up to 50% from the sale of each product going to charity. Recently, she partnered with The Mollie Shop to sell super cute bows, and half of the profit will be donated to Drumm Farm Center for Children.

Cody's collaboration with The Mollie Shop. Her first donation was $148. Photo from Lu & Ed

Cody’s collaboration with The Mollie Shop. Her first donation was $148. Photo from Lu & Ed

“It has been a huge success and I have loved helping emerging artists become discovered through our collaborations, and I love bring art & toys together to create change in my local community!”

She says that her favorite thing about what she does is “how happy my products make children. It just makes my heart so happy to see photos of children lovingly playing with their monsters.” She is adding a few new lines to her shop and is working on a few new collaborations. Cody hopes that her green business will continue to inspire her community.

“I am hoping that my eco-mission will inspire other handmade business owners make more conscious decisions about where they source their supplies, and inspire consumers to make slower purchases, really thinking about the product, how it makes them feel and the impact it has on the Earth before buying. ♥”

You can find out more about Cody, Lu & Ed and her mission by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. If you would like to participate in Yo Momma Monday, please post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #yomommamonday. You can find more awesome mama inspiration on my Pinterest!

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!