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: Rosaura Unangst

unnamed

Photo by Carmen Salazar Photography

While many may view Instagram as simply a photo-sharing app (that is, after all, what it is), I love that I have actually made a handful of connections on there – whether it’s finding a new person through comments or through something of theirs that someone else has shared – and I love it even more when that person happens to live in my town.

Rosaura Unangst, 26, lives in Midtown in Sacramento and runs Pigment and Parchment, her hand lettering and watercolor business. She designs for weddings, graduations, babies and more. She also sells prints and holds watercolor and lettering workshops in her studio in Midtown and around California. I am so happy to be sharing just a little bit of her story today.

What inspired you to start hand lettering, when did you first get into it? I’ve hand lettered since pre-school! I dabbled a bit in graffiti style in high school (mainly due to a big crush I had on a very talented artist named Vlad) but I think when I was 19 and a sign artist at Trader Joe’s that’s the first time I really started upping my game.

What were some of your first lettering projects? The first I vividly remember was making a sign for a Sadie Hawkins dance in graffiti lettering. (Again- that art nerd crush I had)
What pushed you to start your workshops, and what have you learned from them so far? I have done informal ones with family and friends for years and I was looking for a way to incorporate engaging with the community with my art business. It was a natural fit and is so much healthier for me (creating tends to be very isolating & as much as I like solitude I don’t want to become a total recluse). I’ve learned how therapeutic and universal creating is. I’ve always known this to be true for myself but after hearing countless people say how relaxing it is as they leave my workshop I’m on a one woman mission to get this message out there to everyone.
How much time do you spend on creating vs workshops vs businessy stuff? It really depends. There has to be balance between both which can be hard because I only want to create and host workshops but half the time I do have to promote, set up listings and websites, deal with printing and other businessy stuff. A goal of mine is to get an art agent so they can deal with that & I can focus more on making!
P&P Workshop

Photo by Lacey M. Carroll

How do you best manage everything with your caretaking job and personal life? There’s no perfect balance. That’s a myth. It’s all a work in progress and correcting when any one thing is taking over too much time. In the past year or so I’ve been a lot kinder to myself and allowed myself to accept I can’t do it all and that’s ok. Instead I focus on what I have accomplished and that leaves me feeling more empowered to haul ass again the next day!

Favorite place you’ve hosted a workshop so far? My in-laws’ patio overlooking Hermosa Beach. Life doesn’t get any better than when you can smell salt in the air.
What does your studio look like right now? A bit messy always but there is order in the chaos- not that anyone else would know it but I’ve got a visual memory and know exactly where everything is. It’s a lot better in our current home than ever before because I’ve got a swivel door that used to be a Murphy hideaway bed in the 40s and now houses all my crafting stuff and props. There’s a vintage bar cart with more of my fine art supplies, a rolling desk that doubles as a mini photo studio, a long desk for the computer, giant scanner & giant printer, a bookcase with all my reference art books & my cat Elphaba’s corner of shame (her litter box complete with styled cat supplies).
What do you think was one of the best business moves you made to get you to where you are today? I wouldn’t call it a business move but it’s definitely gotten me where I am today… going to a clinic and getting help with an eating disorder last year. Therapy taught me about living in the present, confidence, self worth, creating a life I choose and so much more. There is a reason my past art businesses and ventures weren’t as successful in the past and I think my personal life and issues were absolutely holding me back. Learning to take care of myself has not only done wonders for my personal life but it has everything to do with how I put myself out there as an artist today.
How do you motivate yourself every morning? Hm… Jasmine tea or fresh ground drip coffee. In truth- every morning I wake up to likes, comments and new followers on Instagram and though I don’t need validation from that I also can’t say it isn’t motivation to get moving on creating more awesome stuff. It’s really the comments every once in a while from a person really touched or inspired by my artwork that gives me enough motivation for a week. 
P&P art

Photo by Lacey M. Carroll

What do you do if you need to unwind? I mindfully do dishes (warm water & I splurge on the good smelling soap from Method), errands (surprising but they get me out of the house and walking around while not completely taking a break from life- two birds one stone!), play board games & go watch art house films with my husband Nathan.

Who are your biggest inspirations? My contemporaries- Katie Daisy, Lisa Congdon, Emily McDowell, Anna Rifle Bond & Molly Jaques. Talk about a power house of kick ass women. Earlier Inspiration- Frida Kahlo, Judy Garland, Vincent Van Gogh, Mid Century Design, Old Musicals

Favorite books on creative lettering? The bible is Creative Lettering by Jenny Doh (which I’m contributing to the sequel!! EEK!) Modern Calligraphy is a good resource too. I’ve got a few others but honestly just absorbing lettering from back when all advertising was done without the use of computers is where a lot of inspiration of creative lettering comes from.

Best/scariest thing about running your own creative business? The best part is I know I’m doing the thing that I’m best at. I am contributing to culture. Art is connecting to humanity on a level that strips away all the bullshit. The scariest part used to be not being seen as having a real job by lots of people- but now that I’ve made my peace with that I’d say the scary part is probably dealing with all the businessy stuff. I am learning, I am figuring it out slowly but surely but it doesn’t come naturally to me

Favorite thing about what you do? There is a certain pride and joy when you make something from nothing. To sum up & show off my musicals nerdiness- “The opposite of war isn’t peace. It’s creation.” (Johnathan Larson- Rent) Art connects you to other humans on a level nothing else can reach.

What has been one of your favorite projects/commissions that you have worked on? Oh that’s a tough one. A full room Peter Pan mural always had a special place in my heart. I’ve always encouraged people to never grow up.

suitcase

Photo from Rosaura Unangst

Best business advice you’ve received? Be yourself. Be authentic. Cuss if you want to. (Thanks Carmen & Dena!)

What kind of projects do you hope to work on next? Custom wedding suites that really tell the story of the couple. I’d love to do some more murals- it’s been a while but it’s like riding a bike. I’m bringing back the funky portraits I used to do- some of those would be fun!

Dream place to host a workshop? India. I’d want to cohost and start with someone teaching us the process of learning about pigment and making dyes and paint, then end with using the paint and/or dyes we just made to create art! Essentially the ‘farm to fork’ version of a workshop.

What advice do you have for people who are just starting their creative businesses? Be careful with spending a lot of time looking at what other people are creating. Of course you have to a bit to get a feel for what people are buying, charging and what’s already out there so you’re not offering the exact same thing. BUT! If you feel yourself being too influenced by other people’s styles or tastes and that starts to overpower your own aesthetic it’s time to unplug the computer and get back to your roots and your own eye. You’ll never please everyone. Own it. The people who like your style will like you that much more for not being the same as the mainstream offering.

thankyou

Photo from Rosaura Unangst

You can find out more about Rosaura Unangst and Pigment and Parchment by visiting her website, where she has a schedule of her workshops, links to her social media accounts (like her super cool Instagram) and details on her design services and pricing. She has printables for sale in her Etsy shop and her next workshops are in Santa Cruz on the 26th. There will also be a hand lettering workshop in Sacramento on the 31st.

I have a few spots open for Meet the Maker profiles this year so if you know someone who should be featured, let me know in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest! Keep on creating!

Thrifty Thursdays

Today I woke up and realized that I did not write all week. I knew something felt a little funny. It’s a continuous process to get in a routine, and I’m trying again to write at least once a day. So, I’m starting fresh and sharing some cool things I found just surfing my Facebook news feed. All the times I’ve threatened canceling my account, I continue to keep it open because with every negative post I see, there is an explosion of inspiration. I’ve learned to just stay on my page and visit the pages I like than to get caught up in the drama of Facebook. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So, today’s Thrifty Thursday post is a little mix of craft, food and skincare. There’s something for everyone!

Photo from The Paper Mama

Photo from The Paper Mama

First, can we all agree that this Macrame Plant Hanger from The Paper Mama is equally as cute as the planter? It only cost Chelsey $5 to make the plant hanger, and she shared her whole tutorial on Better Homes & Gardens. You can also find a tutorial for her planter in her e-book, which I purchased last year, and am totally in love with.

Image from Greatist

Image from Greatist

I love when Greatist posts stuff like 400+ Cheap and Healthy Recipes, because it challenges the preconception that eating healthy has to be expensive. As long as you have some fruit, veggies, protein and grain…you can make some pretty healthy stuff. They have it broken down it the basic categories – breakfast, lunch, dinner, soup and more. I’ve been getting pretty bored of my normal everyday eats, so I love finding new recipes to test.

Photo from Offbeat and Inspired

Photo from Offbeat and Inspired

I always save tutorials and recipes for sugar/salt scrubs, but I have yet to actually make one. What’s up with that? So I’m saving this DIY Citrus Salt Scrub recipe from Offbeat + Inspired in hopes that I’ll actually use it. I got some essential oils for the candle kit that I was obsessed with getting but still haven’t made anything. With it already feeling like the middle of summer outside and spending my days watching my daughter float around in our inflatable pool, my skin has been angry with me. So this might just give it the love it needs.

Photo from Love & Olive Oil

Photo from Love & Olive Oil

And what is more perfect in the summer heat than ice cream?! Especially this Dark Chocolate Strawberry Ice Cream recipe from Love & Olive Oil. You will need an ice cream maker to make this, so if you have one already…then check out this recipe. I pretty much love anything with dark chocolate and strawberries in it, so I need to buy an ice cream maker to make this. Not very thrifty, but hey…

IMG_2252And finally, check out this children’s china cabinet I got from the Sacramento Antique Faire on Sunday! It was marked down from $50 to $30 and it just needs a little love before it’s perfect! Cecilia already has a bunch of kitchen trinkets to fill it up with so she can work on her masterpiece while I’m in the kitchen.

Do you have a thrifty tutorial, recipe or purchase you want to share? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Stay thrifty, my friends.

 

Meet the Maker: Kate Payne

meet the makerSometime last year, I was virtually introduced to Kate Payne, the author of The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. I don’t remember how the introduction occurred, but from the moment I visited her website, I’ve been hooked. I was so hooked that I purchased her book last November, and I love reading it in the little snippets of free time that I get.

I’m hoping to put a lot of her homemaking tips to use when we get our house, so I will do a full review of the book then. But for now – I just want to share her amazing story.

Photo from Kate Payne

Photo from Kate Payne

Before this book, Kate was what she calls “a flashy cook” – cooking food that would excite, but was not necessary by any means. She has also donned titles such as grant writer, half-assed homemaker, nanny, after-hours poet, doodler and gardener. She studied anthropology and sociology in the Sonoran Desert and once worked on an organic tomato farm.

Kate started the blog in 2009, when she was living in a ground floor apartment in Brooklyn, NY. She wasn’t making the money she was used to, but she still wanted the comforts of home. She dug inside for a little creativity and improvisation, and there the blog – and subsequently the book – were born.

“I started the blog specifically with the intent to write a book. The blog was a sort of sounding board for me to see if what I was thinking about writing was of interest to anyone besides me. I was not a blog reader at the time and my background in grant writing didn’t factor much into my blogging endeavors. I think the rigors of writing well–proofreading, syntax, punctuation, grammar, etc.–should go into any style of writing one does, whether it’s books, blog posts, magazine articles, or grants. “

She decided to write a book because she felt like there wasn’t enough resources out there for women who weren’t so hip on homemaking and keeping a clean house. Aside from that, she found herself questioning if it was normal for a modern, empowered woman like herself to actually enjoy the domestic life.

Image from Kate Payne

Image from Kate Payne

“The stigma and history surrounding women and domesticity fueled my intrigue in exploring my own relationship with the kitchen and household chores. With my book and approach I hope to shed a new light on DIY and eco-oriented homemaking. We all need somewhere to call home and shifting our attitude toward our homes is a good first step.

I’m of the opinion that you should pick and choose what you do yourself based on what you actually like doing, and then dedicate money you save there on quality items or services you don’t particularly enjoy. What makes the most sense for certain people to do themselves, doesn’t make sense for others. “

On top of maintaining her blog and writing her books, Kate also writes grants part-time for a nonprofit and maintains a quarterly column for Edible Austin. She works with her Marketing Coordinator Christina Valentine on the blog, tour event planning and managing workshop preparations. And because that is clearly not enough, she also works with a local farmers market group and helps maintain their website and social media.

“Freelancing means I’m working nearly all the time, but working on things I feel passionately about makes it worth it. I always carve out time to eat dinner with my wife, who does most of the sustenance cooking around our house. (I manage the fermenting, canning, desserts, ice cream and bread making, the projects we love, but can ultimately live without.)”

Meyer Lemon bath salts. Photo from Kate Payne

Meyer Lemon bath salts. Photo from Kate Payne

Kate started canning in 2009 and peach jam was among her first projects, which she was afraid to eat because she was terrified the jars were full of botulism. She also made a triple citrus marmalade, from Eugenia Bone’s book Well Preserved.

“As I endeavored to learn more about canning, I soon discovered that all the hype surrounding your imminent death by canning was not really likely if you followed USDA-approved canning methods and practices. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource for beginners.”

A self-taught cook, she gets a lot of her recipe inspiration from Joy of Cooking and many of her gluten-free recipes will start from there and from pastry chef David Lebovitz. She will then make the recipes gluten free-friendly by substituting the flour for a flour blend based on what she is making. As for her preserving projects and recipes, she’s inspired by Linda Ziedrich, Eugenia Bone and Sandor Katz.

She and her friend started the Food Swap Network, which provides hosts and attendees with a bevy of resources and information. Existing swaps that are registered on their site are searchable for anyone nearby who wants to join the fun.

Gluten-free Cinnamon Cake. Photo from Kate Payne

Gluten-free Cinnamon Cake. Photo from Kate Payne

Kate’s new book The Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen comes out next month and is available for pre-order now. She says it will be in the same style and format as her freshman book – it will just focus completely on the kitchen, which really is a world of its own.

“I took over the cooking for the year I wrote the book as evidence that even someone like me who doesn’t enjoy daily sustenance cooking can reasonably and affordably incorporate cooking into their busy lifestyle.”

She hopes people will just simply focus on doing their best, and will relax when they hit the learning curve that comes with working on new projects. And as for the best compliment she’s received:

“A single mom told me how she’s never had time for any household things, but my book and small-batch preserving recipes on the blog inspired her to try doing some kitchen projects with her daughter. They now spend more time together cooking and canning, which means the world to her.”

Photo from Kate Payne

Photo from Kate Payne

Kate will be kicking off her HGGK Book Tour (hooray!) on May 24 in Ann Arbor, MI and the tour will close in Albuquerque, NM on July 1. I have listed the dates and locations of her book tour, and you can also see her full classes, demos and signings schedule by visiting her at katepayne.net.

      • May 24 – Ann Arbor, MI: Literati Bookstore, time TBD
      • May 27 – Austin, TX: BookPeople 7:00pm
      • May 28 – Houston, TX: Blue Willow Bookshop, 7:00pm
      • May 29 – Brooklyn, NY: Greenlight Bookstore, 7:30pm
      • June 13 – Tucson, AZ: Antigone Books, 7:00pm
      • June 17 – La Jolla, CA: Warwick’s, 7:30pm
      • June 23 – Seattle, WA: Book Larder, 6:30pm
      • June 28 – San Francisco, CA: Omnivore Books, 3:00pm
      • June 30 – Phoenix, AZ: Changing Hands Bookstore, 7:00pm
      • July 1 – Albuquerque, NM: Bookworks, 7:00pm

You can find Kate Payne by visiting her on The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking website, you can find neat stuff in her store and you can connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. If you know an awesome maker who would be perfect for this series, please leave a link in the comments, share on my social media or e-mail it to me!

Meet the Maker: Elizabeth from Delightfully Tacky

meet the maker

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

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

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

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

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

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

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

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

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

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

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

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

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

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

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

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

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

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

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

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

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

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

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

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

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

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

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

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

Photo from Delightfully Tacky

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Fridays are for Favorites

fridays are for favorites

A couple weeks ago, I decided to switch up my Fridays are for Favorites post, and I wrote about my favorite things that happened that week. I enjoyed writing that post so much, that I decided to write my future Friday posts like that! I will be listing my favorite things that happened, or that I discovered, through the week and sharing them with you! This could be a new Etsy store I found, an awesome new tutorial I landed on, a delicious recipe I found…anything! So, let the fun begin!

Image belongs to Tuts Plus

Image belongs to Tuts Plus

Beginner Photoshop Tutorial from Tuts Plus – Grant Fieldman wrote a 19-part tutorial on learning Photoshop for Tuts Plus, He included videos and links to even more tutorials! If you have not gotten yourself acquainted with this website yet, it’s about high time that you do. I just saw that they have a tutorial on paper crafting too. Awesome!

Image belongs to In Honor of Design

Image belongs to In Honor of Design

Encourage Beauty Challenge from In Honor of Design – Hilary Rushford from Dean Street Society and Anna at In Honor of Design have joined forces for an amazing Instagram challenge that is all about encouraging beauty. I was unfamiliar with both sites until I saw someone else share this Challenge on Twitter. Another nod to the power of sharing through social media. The Challenge and details are on either site but I encourage you to check them both out, if you haven’t already.

Image belongs to Linkouture

Image belongs to Linkouture

Handmade Giveaway at Linkouture – Mama-to-be and jewelry designer Bev Feldman is offering an big ol giveaway on her site, Linkouture. And to top it off, she also has a 20% off sale at her store through Nov 4! Click on the link or the photo to find the Giveaway, and then just follow the instructions to enter! Her site not only shows off her beautiful jewelry, but she also shares recipes, DIY projects, and interviews with awesome makers!

And my absolute favorite thing about this week….

IMG_0700

Dressing my daughter up like a housewife, of course! The costume did not turn out the way I wanted it to, of course. But it was still awesome and we had quite the photo shoot! This was my favorite picture because it describes us to a tee. I was supposed to be a hipster housewife (I know, I really had to reach far for that one…) but you can’t really see my outfit so I just look like a hobo – which isn’t too far off from my normal look. And I think I love that scarf. It was buried deep with all my other scarves but I think that will be a staple.

What are your favorite things from this week? Share them in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #fridayfavorites You can find more Friday inspiration on my Pinterest!