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!

Friday Finds

Friday FindsEven though the temperatures are high and the sun still hurts when I walk outside, it’s feeling more and more like Fall. There are pumpkin recipes coming out of the woodworks (not that I mind, of course) and I’ve seen so many back-to-school crafts and projects, that I almost feel like I have a kid going back to school. I even caught myself almost pinning a couple. So, it’s no surprise that my food find for the week has my most favorite ingredient in it.

EAT:

Photo Credit: Joy / Joy the Baker

Photo Credit: Joy / Joy the Baker

Pumpkin Pecan Scones with Brown Butter Glaze from Joy the Baker

This recipe is from last year, but technically I found it this year, so it’s new to me!

READ:

Image Credit: Allie and Claire

Image Credit: Allie and Claire

Charge Up e-book by Allie from The Wonderjam and Claire from Claire Deane Marketing

I learned of these ladies through a Design*Sponge post, and needed to find out more.The book is not out yet, but it looks like it’s going to be a good one. It’s a guide to running your business and networking from an introvert’s perspective. Since I have my own troubles with networking and marketing, I’ll definitely get this book when it comes out!

DIY:

Photo Credit: Liz Marie / Liz Marie Blog

Photo Credit: Liz Marie / Liz Marie Blog

DIY Honey Cinnamon Nutmeg Face Mask from Liz Marie Blog

Right now, my skincare routine consists of washing my face with a bar of Irish Spring soap and then using Aveeno hand lotion as a moisturizer. I need something new, but even if I wanted to, I couldn’t shell out the big bucks for natural skincare products. So, I was happy to find this DIY on the 15 Cinnamon Beauty Uses list from Henry Happened.

LOCAL:

Image Credit: Capital Public Radio

Image Credit: Capital Public Radio

This Drink Radio Design Contest from Capital Public Radio looks like so much fun!

I am super new to graphic design, but it would still be fun to give it a shot

What are your favorite finds for the week? Did I introduce you to anything new? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Friday Finds

Social media can be such a time suck. I won’t say how many times I found myself staring pointlessly at a computer screen while my daughter’s napping – ignoring all the other productive things I could be doing – and that’s mostly because there are too many to count. On the more positive side, social media and networking can also open up a whole new world to you, filled with people, things and food that you were unaware that even existed. As a stay-at-home mom, I don’t get to venture out to find new things like I used to, and I rely primarily on my social feeds to deliver them right to me via my phone or computer.

Such is the case with all the finds I have for this week:

Image from Sacramento Flea Market

Image from Sacramento Flea Market

Sacramento is getting a Flea Market! Opening in January 2015, there is over 16,000 square feet of indoor and over 20,000 square feet of outside vending. There will be new and used stuff, produce, food and drinks and even live music on the weekends! Triple score! Oh, and the entrance, parking and even the concerts are all free. Yes. I’m so excited to see how this progresses and I’ve already got my list ready.

Image from Hops and Dots

Image from Hops and Dots

I am really digging how the craft beer scene in Sacramento is expanding, and this also includes craft beer bloggers. Hops and Dots is a beer blog run by Nat, who covers breweries in Sacramento and beyond. I was introduced to her blog by Beers in Sac by way of Facebook, and I’m so happy that I found it.

Image from NellieBellie

Image from NellieBellie

I spent a good while looking up sugar free cakes on Pinterest yesterday. Not because I’m on a sugar-free kick – that would mean I would have to give up the pints of ice cream and cookies I’ve been devouring lately – but because my brother can’t have sugar. And it happens to be his birthday next weekend, so I’ve decided to make him a cake. This might be the first nice thing I’ve done for him. I love this recipe from NellieBellie because I can use pumpkin (it calls for butternut squash or pumpkin – and pumpkin wins all, for me) and it’s all real ingredients – no fake sugar stuff over here! It looks super delicious.

What are your favorite finds of the week? Share them in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + and Pinterest!

Monday Inspiration: Keep dreamin’

Monday InspirationScrolling through my Instagram feed this morning, it’s clear that I’m not the only one who felt motivated this morning. A little tired, sure, but also motivated. A couple weeks ago, I decided to try my hand at running a small business from home again, and I have been working on it little by little every day. So it’s perfect timing that I was recently asked by Kabbage – an online small business loan provider – to share some of my business dreams and goals.

Found through shopcompliment's feed

Found through shopcompliment’s Instagram feed

My ultimate goal is to open up a two-story brick and mortar shop with a brewery, bakery and boutique on the first floor and a creative workspace area on the top floor. It’s main purpose would serve as a co-working and networking area, and there would also be creative workshops held every week. It would be geared towards helping people get their own businesses going.

Since I’m still going to school and I have two little ones to raise, I will continue working on that goal until they are both in school and I’ve got my degree in Graphic Design. Since I’m only going to school part-time, it will probably be five years until that happens, so I’m on the five-year plan 🙂

makers gonna make

My illustration

My current goal is to be debt-free by the time I graduate school so that I can just focus on paying off my school loan. Right now, that is the major push behind my business. That, and I want to show my children that they, too, can follow their dreams. After all, I met their dad through my creative path, and while the it may not be the most secure path, I wouldn’t change anything.

The best part about what I’m doing is that I get to create every day. Whether it’s writing, making something from scratch or reinventing something, I get to use my imagination every single day. I have complete creative freedom because it’s all my own, and after working in the insurance business for over five years, that’s the best feeling.

What are your business goals and dreams? Share them in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + and Pinterest!

Weekly Wishes #2

Image belongs to the Nectar Collective

Image belongs to the Nectar Collective

Last week I started a new weekly series called Weekly Wishes that I found on a pretty amazing site, The Nectar Collective. It’s a weekly link-up where participants write a post (such as this) and link it up to the post Melyssa writes on Nectar Collective, then you leave a motivating comment on the person’s post who linked up directly before you.

In doing so, I actually found Andrea Lui, who runs a handmade jewelry shop on Etsy called Oh! Jewelicious. Her work is beautiful and while I’m not much of a jewelry person, I can see myself wearing her stuff! I especially love the sparrow earrings. It’s hard for me to wear necklaces or anything that dangles because Cecilia has quite the grip and I wouldn’t want it to break. Look how cute these sparrows are…there is also a necklace to match!

Image belongs to Andrea Lui

Image belongs to Andrea Lui

I shared my weekly wishes for my business, creative, fitness and home wishes last week, and

Last week’s wishes:

Business wish – Create buttons for both my Sweet Mariposa shop and my blog. Read through Ch. 9 in The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin.

Creative wish – Finally finish these cheese graters! I’m going to share the tutorial on my Linkouture when I’m done!

Fitness wish 15 minutes of exercise + 15 minutes of yoga each day

Home wish – Start canning all my vegetables from the garden

How I did:

I did end up creating my buttons for Sweet Mariposa, but have decided against making buttons for my blog at this time. I don’t think they are really necessary right now, and I have some projects in the works for this blog and may create a few buttons then. After looking through loads of different tutorials – only to be unsuccessful at all of them – I took the easy route and just copied the code from a button I got from another site and entered my information. Simple, eh? You can see the button on my sidebar – hooray!

I’m also through Ch. 10 in The Handmade Marketplace so I’m pretty sure I will finish the book this week (there’s 12 chapters). I’m going to jot down some of the information I got from the book and see how much of it I can incorporate in my own work. I will be writing a review in the near future.

I also finished the cheese graters, and I sent my tutorial over to the wonderful Bev at Linkouture, so it should be up soon! It was a big challenge of mine to get these done, so I’m relieved I finally did it! You can also find them at my Etsy shop. I can do different colors and styles if you fancy one.

SONY DSC

I was able to squeeze in a couple bodyweight workouts through Fitness Blender, and I treated myself to a couple restorative yoga sessions at night, but I find it really hard to stay on my fitness goals. So I’m really focusing on what food I’m putting into my body and getting exercise when I can – which isn’t hard with how mobile my little one is now! We’re always walking and exploring so that certainly helps. I lost a few pounds in the last week so it’s working!

And finally, I put all those crazy peppers to good use and made some homemade hot sauce! I used a recipe I found on Pinterest and I’m still having trouble finding the original website. I’ll share the recipe this week but here’s a photo for now! I also made homemade apple butter with that recipe I shared last week that I got from My Baking Addiction and it was amazing! I put it on my toast this morning and topped it with banana. I could have eaten the whole jar but figured I better save some for tomorrow. I will share my experience with making both later this week.

IMG_0652 IMG_0654

Now moving on to this week!

Business: Get together with Heather to go over her Press Release (very exciting stuff!) and get her into some awesome author communities! After becoming an Oh My Handmade member, I am true believer in how important it is to be a part of a community. They help you go over ideas, and will support your work and everything you are doing any chance they get. We need to get all of her bases covered so we can continue networking and promoting all of her wonderful work.

Creative: See that three tiered basket in the picture? (hint: it’s #7) I want to restore that this week. I’m going to hang it in our pantry an use it to hold all of our bread and snacks. I just can’t decide if I want to paint it all one color or use multiple colors. Let me know your thoughts! Last week, I also started to work on a serving tray that I was upcycling into a chalkboard cheese tray. I’ve since changed my mind and decided to use it as a prop for photos. I just need to make a few little fixes and I’ll be done…so I wanted to finally finish it this week!

thrifty finds

IMG_0642

Fitness: I’m going to continue working on my goal of getting a 15 minute workout along with a 15 minute yoga session in every day. It’s challenging but I feel so good after I’m done that I want to continue working on it. It’s also such a lovely feeling to not have to cringe every time you try on an old pair of pants. I’m also making it a goal to get rid of the white sugar and flour in the house, and find good, healthy replacements for sugar.

Home: Well, it’s time to switch out the garden. I’m going to work on moving all of the old stuff out, cleaning up the garden area, and starting planting new veggies. I’m going to look up what will be good to plant right now and look into planting some succulents and flowers. Of course, I will be sharing my journey with you along the way! Although my garden had its ups and downs this season, I learned a lot – and I was able to make so much from it! Hoping to get a pressure canner soon *fingers crossed* so I can more and more good stuff!

What are your weekly wishes? Write about them and link up to the Nectar Collective. You can also share them in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Here’s to having another lovely and productive week!

Fridays are for Favorites

fridays are for favorites

I’ve had my blog for over a year now, and it has been through a lot of design changes. Some were made public, and some just didn’t make the cut. The blog design I have right now is by far my most favorite design. I think it’s super cute and extremely user-friendly. However, I want a more personalized design. At some point, I want to design my own blog and websites, but for now…I need to leave the creativity in someone else’s hands.

Anytime I see a cute blog that I like, I always look up the theme and/or designer, if the blogger employed one. I used to keep a list, but that list has since disappeared. So, I did what any sane person would do, and looked up blog design on Pinterest. It’s kind of insane all the stuff that’s out there. I’ll be talking about blog design more in the future, but for now…these are some of my favorite designers.

Image belongs to Maiedae

Image belongs to Maiedae

Maiedae was founded in 2010 by Jenny Highsmith and Savannah Wallace and became a co-ownership in 2011. They are best friends who met in college and ultimately decided to start their small business together. At first, they offered handmade items, but decided to go the design route, and now they offer web design, blog design and branding packages. They recently launched the Maiedae mixer – a networking event in the southeast region – and The Brand Market – a workshop for creative entrepreneurs. I think I love them.

Image belongs to Deluxemodern

Image belongs to Deluxemodern

Deluxemodern is the beautiful brainchild of Christine, who had this to say about starting her own design company: “if you’re not obsessed, forget it.” I think that can be said about anything that takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but is totally worth it if you love it. She offers both one-of-a-kind and starter logos, branding, blog kits, social media kits, backgrounds and kits. So, basically anything you want.

Image belongs to Smitten Blog Designs

Image belongs to Smitten Blog Designs

Smitten Blog Designs is out of Portland, OR and is comprised of seven lovely ladies who all happen to be designers. They started offering free blogger templates in 2008, and after receiving so many custom requests, they started designing custom blogs. They not only offer templates for both wordpress and blogger, but they also offer logos, print design and even free printables. Right now, they have a special going where returning customers get $5 off their purchase of $50 or more. You can follow their blog for more specials and updates.

Image belongs to The Weaver House

Image belongs to The Weaver House

The Weaver House was founded by twin sisters Kelty and Hannah. So, here is everything they offer, from what I can tell. I’m kind of information overload right now. They have an online shop where they sell vintage shoes, jewelry, paper and dresses. I think they make the prints by hand from vintage magazines and images they have found. They also offer photography and graphic design services, where they will either create the entire graphic design project for you, or do small custom projects, whichever you fancy. In their off time (as if they have “off time”), Kelty runs Working Theory Farms with her husband and Hannah makes funny holiday videos with her husband. Got all that?

To say that this little journey has been inspirational would be a huge understatement. The way I felt looking through all of the portfolios has proven to me that I took the right step in attending design school, and that blogging is what I am supposed to be doing. I’m so amazed that there are some many creative people out there, and that a lot of them live in Portland, apparently. I’ve been wanting to visit Portland for so long, and now I feel like it’s a necessity. But for now, I’m going to take a nap. Do you have an amazing blog design that you want to share? Perhaps you’re a blog designer and want to show off your portfolio? Post in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #blogdesigns. You can find more of the blogs that inspire through Pinterest.