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!

Yo Momma Monday: Maiden Jane

yo momma monday

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

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

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

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

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

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

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

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

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

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

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

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

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

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

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

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

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

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

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

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

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

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

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

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

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

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

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

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

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

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yo Momma Monday: Emmaline Lamond

yo momma mondayMeet Emmaline Lamond, 36, from Mornington, Victoria, Australia. She is the beautifully creative mind behind Coco Press and is mama to her beautiful one-year-old daughter, Amelie. I met Emmaline through a Giveaway she was hosting and I was lucky enough to win her amazing hand-printed cards! Today, I’m honored to share her story with you.

9b3eb64e335911e3a62322000ab698eb_8

Emmaline was first introduced to lincout printing in her high-school art class. After school, she had to put her creative ventures aside and as she says, “get on with life,” but decided to take them back up again after she found her old art supplies in a box during a recent move.

“I found my printing gear and fell in love, again. At the time I was working in a stressful corporate job, I found that carving a lino block in preparation for printing was incredibly stress relieving. I was hooked and my obsession has continued to grow over the last few years to a point where I now have a studio over flowing with ink, printing gear and most importantly, three beautiful presses.”

So, what exactly is linocut printing, you ask? I know, I had the same question and Emmaline filled me in a little of the process.

“Lino cutting is a method of relief printing. Its lots of fun, well at least I think so. You basically start with a sheet of lino, I use a softer vinyl product and carve into it with special tools that allow you to cut away the negative space, this leaves only the positive space (the actual parts that print).”

“Think of it as a great big hand carved stamp that you then ink up with a roller (brayer) and then stamp onto paper, with the help of a printing press. I love the tactile nature of printing, I love the problem solving involved, the subtle tweaking you have to do to get it just right.”

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Emmaline works with a press from the ’70s as newer machines are not really being manufactured right now, but to my surprise, she informed me that there are people who use reconditioned machines that date back to the 1900’s! She says that she would love an older press, but they are harder to find – and more expensive – in Australia than in America.

“I do love that they each have their own history, where have they come from who has worked and created on them in the past? For the time being, I am content to work with my lovely Chandler and Price table top and my smaller bright red Adana table top press.”

While Emmaline had been involved in craft fairs for a few years, she did not decide to make this a full-time business until September 2012, when she was put on maternity leave.

“I have been working very hard for the last 12 months or so to build up my business, create a larger range of cards and prints, find the right craft markets for my work (we moved interstate at the same time I started my business), learn the finer points of letterpress printing all while learning to be a mum for the first time!”

She recently launched the invitation side of her business, and she also launched her wedding stationary at a local Bridal Expo. Since she is still building that part, she says that most of her sales come from her letterpress cards rather than her wedding stationary.

Amelie is already a big helper! Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Amelie is already a big helper! Photo from Emmaline Lamond

“I LOVE working with couples to create their perfect wedding stationery. I adore hearing all about their big dreams for their big day, the dress, the location the colour scheme, all of it. It really inspires me to create something unique and beautiful just for them, something that will remain a treasured keepsake they can pull out as the years pass and they celebrate many anniversaries together.”

Like many of us new moms (ok, probably all of us), Emmaline hasn’t had a normal work day since having her little girl last year, and she says her work style has definitely changed.

“I try to keep a to-do list at hand and do my best to work my way through it in 10-minute chunks, as this is usually the longest my little girl will play independently. There is always something to do, drawing, refining my designs in Photoshop, cutting paper, printing, packaging, photographing my products, listing my products… the list goes on and on!”

All of the designs on Emmaline’s cards, invitations and linocut prints are created by her. She says she is drawn to Art Nouveau and whimsical images, and also loves creating her own quirky designs for cards and invites. As for the wedding side, she opts out of the traditional wedding designs, as she says there are plenty of people who “do traditional designs way better than me.”

“But no one else can create my designs exactly like I do. All my designs start with an idea, an inkling, a whimsical daydream that I turn into a drawing and the drawings I like the most are converted into digital images with the help of a scanner, Photoshop and my trusty Wacom tablet. These digital images are then made into photopolymer plates that are used for the actual printing.”

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

While Emmaline admits that being a new mom and starting her creative business can be a little tough, she says that she loves every minute of it.

“I feel so privileged to be in a position to make my small dream of entrepreneurship come true. I am totally motivated by my daughter I want to be able to show her that it is possible to live the life you dream of, for me that means building a sustainable business that will allow me to contribute to our household whilst building a loving and nurturing home for my little family.”

Although Emmaline works alone, her partner helps with the little one on the weekends so she can spend a few hours printing on the weekend. She waited until her daughter was a little older to return to the craft fair scene, and now her daughter gets more compliments than her art does!

I love everything about being a mum. I adore my little girl. I could complain about lack of sleep and those downsides you hear other people talk of but I don’t really mind, she’s only this little for such a short time that I just want to enjoy it all.”

She is focusing on craft shows that are close to her home, and fortunately she lives in a beautiful beachside area which is popular for tourists, and therefore also popular for craft shows. She says that the best and worst part about running her own business is that you live and breathe it.

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

“I love that I have so much passion and drive to make this a success but I also know that I should step away from it more often to live in the moment with my baby and my partner.

While Emmaline has a hard time picking her favorite thing about the entire creative process, she can easily pinpoint her favorite part of the printing process.

“That first time you get to see a new print, peeling the paper back off the printing plate to see the image revealed for the first time- its just magic!”

Emmaline describes her personal style as quirky, whimsical and fun, and she wants people to be able to recognize her work the moment they see it.

“I think it’s also important to have a bit of a sense of humour about your work and to realise that what you create isn’t going to appeal to everyone.”

She recently started creating her own tote bags, and said that they are now on the sidelines while she perfects them, but that won’t last long. And as for the future of her creative business as a whole, well – you will just have to wait and see!

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

I have huge plans for the future, I’m working on a top secret kick arse idea a the moment, one that will take lots of hard work and maybe more risk than I am used to but one that I am determined to bring to fruition, I am hoping to unveil it all next summer! So stay tuned for more exciting news as I bring the project together.”