Meet the Maker: Print Therapy

meet the maker

Meet Melissa, 30, and Nicholas Wert, 32 from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. They are the adorable and creative couple behind Print Therapy, a handcrafted paper expression company, and I am honored to have them as my guests today. And how perfect (and not planned at all) is it that Valentines Day is officially less than a month away.

Melissa and Nick decided to start Print Therapy while Melissa was in a hotel room during a business trip. She still works full time as a project manager and has one foot in the creative world, one foot in corporate America, as she would put it.

“After several weeks of travel (for work, not for pleasure!) and too many moments of not feeling like my best was good enough and not being able to truly stand behind my work, I called Nick and said “Dang it! We’re starting Print Therapy. For real!” A few hours later, we registered the name and had filled out all of the legal paperwork.”

Melissa has both a Bachelors in Business Management and a Masters in Communication and Information Management. She and Nick started Print Therapy a year after she got her Masters. She admits that at first it felt like a waste – paying off a whole bunch of student loans after realizing that she wasn’t all about corporate America.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“But when I stepped back, I realized how much they would help me run my own business and handle the non-creative portion of my work, which I love almost as much as the creating!”

Melissa says that she wouldn’t rather work with anyone else, and that the secret to their success is working in separate offices. She adds that having her husband as her business partner gives them both an understanding of all the work they put into it.

” If one of us needs to take a break or step away from it for a while, then it’s totally okay. We both know that we each love this business and want it to grow, and that we’re 100% committed to that. Nick doesn’t get on my case if I devote an entire Saturday to Print Therapy or if I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm after a long day of work. We appreciate each other for the work we’re putting in – and make sacrifices together to keep it all going!”

Since Melissa is an early riser, she is able to get a huge chunk of her work done before anyone else gets up and the neighborhood is still quiet. She makes a cup of coffee, checks her email and visits the blogs and social media sites of her favorite creative people. Then, it’s time to handle business. Some days, she works on all the of business aspects and other days, she’s creating a new design.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I am a methodical planner (hence my project management background), and have had to learn that you cannot plan creativity. It’s not something you can schedule on the calendar (yes, I’ve tried), or slot in a certain time of the day. When it happens, it happens.”

The upstairs spare bedroom of their 52 Cape doubles as her office, where she says all of the white space inspires her; yet the beautiful charm and character are her favorite. She has a desk, some storage racks, a Print Therapy design board and a Yoga Dogs calendar. Her only office mate is her dog, Sawyer, who is always hard at work on his comfy bed under the window.

“The bones of the room give me  a warm and fuzzy feeling…being surrounded by color would limit my design sense.”

While Melissa does get a lot of her home inspiration from Pinterest and creative inspiration from Instagram, she is most inspired by things that are not related to stationary at all, a nod to a subject she studied in College.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I studied architecture in college before switching to business, and I tend to find a lot of inspiration in different architectural pieces and in interior design.”

Before Adobe introduced the Creative Cloud, Melissa and Nick were creating all of their cards on Microsoft Word (yowza!). After watching all the Adobe TV tutorials they could handle, they now use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for all of their designs.

“It’s opened up a new level of creativity and confidence for me. We print most of our items at home, but are slowly beginning to work with a great printing company that prints out of California. They will greatly expand what we can offer, and can help keep our prices reasonable for bigger orders.  It’s hard to let a big piece of the business go like that, but we’ve found someone we trust and really enjoy working with, so … baby steps!”

Since both Melissa and Nick work full-time aside from running Print Therapy, they don’t get a whole lot of downtime. So when they do get a chance to unwind, they will get burgers or Chinese take-out and snuggle with Sawyer on the couch and watch a movie or catch-up on their favorite shows.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“As much as we love working together, getting to unwind together is even better! Both of our families are about 10 minutes away, so we love getting to spend time with them, too. We also treasure dinner dates with our closest friends – whether they be out to a restaurant or home cooked at someone’s home. Quality time together is where it’s at!”

For Melissa, being responsible for it all is both the best and scariest thing about running her own business. She loves having control over every aspect of her company, but also admits that it can get a little hairy when there’s not an IT Department or a paycheck, for that matter.

“You get to know yourself pretty well when you’re the one behind it all, and you have to learn to work within your strengths and weaknesses, and to push yourself farther than you thought you could go.”

When they need to buckle down and get to work, Melissa and Nick have different ways to get in the creative mood. Melissa will turn her workspace into what she calls a “safe space” and shuts the door, turns up the heat, lights a candle and turns up the emotional music. Nick, on the other hand, revisits the 90s with his musical choices. “Method Man, Wu Tang, all of it”

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Nick often jokes how much I love sad music – it’s true! I feel most creative when I deeply, deeply feel something. To me, that’s the point of stationery – to put feelings into text and images that can be shared with someone else.”

And when there are simply no creative juices flowing? Melissa doesn’t force it, and just stops trying. She will start cleaning and organizing and comes back to it later. If there is still nothing, she will just start designing something and eventually the creativity will reemerge.

“Sometimes walking away is the best option though – becoming frustrated with the process certainly isn’t going to help that creativity to start flowing.”

And when there are design flops, Melissa has learned to not rush the process and to work on a design until it feels right. And if she doesn’t love it, she will not have that innate urge to sell it. And when she’s not jumping up and down to promote it…then maybe it shouldn’t be up for sale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the trends and to try to make something because you think it will sell. But, if it doesn’t fit you and your brand, good luck”

Melissa loves the familiarity of the handmade movement and community, and loves how it feels like “we’re all in this together.” She has a lot of friends who run their own small businesses, and she feels inspired being able able to purchase items that help people support families, fund an adoption and give back to their communities.

“You just don’t get that feeling from a Wal-Mart. There’s nothing better than purchasing a product you love and knowing that that maker is excited by and appreciative of every purchase coming his or her way, and is using that money to live their life. Double whammy goodness.”

She discovered Oh My Handmade! while on Twitter when she was starting Print Therapy. She checked out the website, and ultimately decided that the small monthly fee was worth all of the support she would get from the online community.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Through my OMHG membership, I’ve learned that I’m not alone and that everyone struggles. Everyone has off days. No one feels like a creative successful genius 365 days a year. It’s been eye opening for me, in the best way, and has helped me better accept myself as a maker.”

While Melissa agrees that starting your own business is incredibly tiring, she also knows how exhausting it can be to work at a job that you don’t love. So, she knows this is the right path for her, and if she does have children, she hopes it will be an inspiration to them.

“Every day that I look at Nick, and the family we’re building, I am inspired to go down this path, because it makes me the happiest person I can be. That’s good for me.”

Now that they finally have their website launched (yay!), Melissa hopes to work on a Wedding collection and add more “just because” cards to their shop. “Those are my favorite to send, and to receive, so I want to offer more of those as well.” Next year, they hope to move into wholesale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I hope to inspire people to do what they love, and to not feel constrained by what they think they should be doing or by what someone else thinks they should be doing. I hope to inspire people to find a partner to share their life with that fully supports their dreams and visions.

I hope to inspire people to rescue their next pet versus buying from a breeder, because man, rescue pets are the best. But mostly, I hope to just inspire people to tell someone else how they feel about them in a way that will always be treasured. Leave a love note, send a card. However they choose, I want to inspire people to tell those they love, that they love them. I want to inspire people to send happiness; from their mailbox forward.”

You can find Melissa and Nick on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you can order Valentines cards (like I did) and any other cards you like from their Etsy shop. If you would like to participate in this series – or know somebody who should – leave a note in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you want to be all private, you can e-mail me too!

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.