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Meet Amy Atlas

I’m excited to share a chat I recently had with event planner Amy Atlas, owner and founder of Amy Atlas Events in New York City, who specializes in creating high end dessert tables. Her words may prove to be helpful and inspiring to small business owners or to those of you looking to launch your own event planning business. Amy wrote in a few weeks ago and the minute I saw her work I knew I had to learn more about the person behind it. In this interview, Amy talks about her life as an event planner but what I was surprised to learn is that she is an attorney with no design background. This is encouraging because I know lots of you have told me that fear pursuing your creative passions without a background in design. Many conclude that making a huge professional leap, from attorney to party planner for instance, is just not possible or practical. In some cases it may not work but only you know the answer and I believe that passion and talent ultimately will help you eventually to overcome your fear and go for it — just like Amy! I also found it interesting how her friends and family helped her to consider event planning as a business. It’s good to listen to the popular opinion of your friends! Let’s read what what precious pearls of wisdom she shares here today… and if I missed asking a question you’d like an answer to, please use the comments section and leave your question for her there.

Meet Amy Atlas

Amy Atlas

When and how did you start your business, in other words, how did you go from idea to execution?

In 2007. I’ve always loved to entertain and create my signature dessert buffets. It was a hobby of mine, and it organically grew into a business through word of mouth. Friends and family encouraged me to make a business out of it. After practicing law and having two children, I decided I wanted to tap into my creative side. I started by creating dessert tables for friends and then friends of friends. Because no one had taken the candy buffet to the next level, I recognized that there was a niche that could be filled. I worked hard to perfect that niche and developed a reputation as the go-to-girl for dessert bars.

What is your background?

I am an attorney. I don’t have a design background, but like many, have always had a creative side.

What types of events are you doing?

We do all types of parties from weddings, corporate, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, to graduation and birthday parties.

Do you do everything alone or do you have staff?

If you have employees, how many and what are their functions? I have a boutique firm with a small staff. I am involved with even the smallest details of every party. People hire me for my signature style and I want to make sure that my clients get that.

What do you enjoy most about event planning?

I love seeing a client’s inspiration develop into a story for their event. It is extremely gratifying turning a client’s vision into reality and seeing their response (as well as their guests) to the design at the event.

Amy Atlas

Meet Amy Atlas

I noticed recently on your blog you talked about a baby naming event you recently planned. For those who don’t know what this is, can you explain?

A baby naming is a ceremony commonly held by Jewish families to introduce their new baby to their network of friends and family. At this ceremony, a Rabbi officially gives the baby her given name. It is a chance to present a baby to the community to which he or she belongs.

What is a constant challenge for you?

A constant challenge for me is taking my designs to the next level. I work hard to make sure that each client has a signature dessert bar that is made just for them. It is a healthy challenge, however, that I gladly welcome!

What trends are you seeing out there in event planning?

I see that more and more hosts want to have a design for their event and for that design to be carried out from the very beginning to the very end of their event.

How did you develop your aesthetic and when do you feel like it all came together?

I don’t feel like there was a moment when everything came together. I have always had a distinct sense of style and thought that it would translate well to events. I’m thankful that people have responded well to it.

Amy Atlas

InStyle magazine recently referred to you as a Tastemaker. What do you think earns you that title and sets you apart from others in your field?

We are so fortunate to work with so many talented people in the event world, but what sets us apart from others in our field is our signature style and our specialty in dessert bars. We are known for having taken the candy buffet to another level with the stylized dessert bar, and it has now become a trend. No detail is overlooked when we are creating each one of our custom, signature dessert bars. As for taste, we have the great good fortune of being able to sample desserts from the best bakers and candy purveyors from around the nation. We have samples of delectable sweets sent to us daily and we document all of our findings. We taste everything so we can ensure that our clients are getting the most delicious and beautiful desserts for their event. Not only do we have relationships with the best bakers, but we also have sources for every detail that goes into creating a stunning dessert display.

Has the economy slowed your business at all? If so, what have you done to stay afloat?

Thankfully, the wedding season has kept me busy, even in these tough economic times. Everyone loves dessert, and brides in particular really like to showcase dessert beautifully on their special day. Because of that, I have remained busy.

On your website you have some gorgeous photographs of your work. Do you also take photos or are they shot by someone else? If so, who?

The photographs on my site and blog were taken by Gemma Comas and Karen Mordechai.

What would be your dream event (to plan) and is their anyone you’d love to work with and why?

Perhaps an Inaugural Event. My former career was in politics as a lawyer, and it would be exciting to bring my experiences together. I’m working with Mindy Weiss this fall and am really excited about that!

Meet Amy Atlas

Meet Amy Atlas

Meet Amy Atlas

Amy Atlas

How do you encourage and support other woman in the business?

I’ve been so fortunate to work with many talented women in my business. I work with a lot of young women who are trying to break into the event planning business. I’ve had gifted young pastry chefs and graphic designers participate in my internship program. I embrace opportunities to work with new and small businesses and am always searching for new, talented vendors to work with.

How do you market your business and what tips do you have for others who are looking to spread the word about what they do?

While I’ve been approached by a lot of wonderful pr companies, I still handle the pr for my company. Thankfully, the press and blog world have been very receptive to my designs and I haven’t had a need for pr representation yet. With all of the social networking tools like twitter and blogs, it has made it easier to promote small businesses. I would encourage any small business owner to engage in these forms of social networking. I also engaged in a lot of grassroots marketing. I made a list of the press that I wanted to target, found out the appropriate editors who covered stories for each publication, and pitched my story to those editors. If you are passionate about your business, then the story really sells itself.

Thank you Amy for these insights and all the best with your business!

(website) (blog)

Readers: If you have a question for Amy, please don’t be shy — ask her below in the comments section.

(images: Gemma Comas and Karen Mordechai.)

Posted in interviews on June 24, 2009

Stylist Q & A With Pia Jane Bijkerk

Hello friends! I’ve been working on this interview since last Friday so I’m thrilled that today I can share it with all of you. I met stylist, photographer, blogger and now new author of Paris: Made By Hand, Pia Jane Bijkerk, last year in Amsterdam at a small gathering of bloggers. I didn’t know much about Pia before that evening, but upon meeting her I felt as though I’d met a kindred spirit since she’s also passionate about art and design, particularly handmade things, and she really loves to blog and talk about the experience of blogging.

Stylist Q & A With Pia Jane Bijkerk

From that point on, I started to read her blog regularly and fell in love… and now I follow her work more closely. I was particularly excited when she revealed her new book would soon be published. I know her work is being featured all over the web right now so the challenge for me was to put a different spin on things so as to not repeat content already posted elsewhere. This interview will focus on a more behind-the-scenes look at the life as a stylist and how it all works.

The job of a stylist is usually quite secret, not many really share what it is all about and because this frustrates me I thought I’d see if Pia was willing to share the ins and outs of this profession and to my surprise — yes, she was very willing! I’m sure you will love her interview below, I appreciate thorough comments so I didn’t edit out anything for the sake of space… Pia has mentioned to that if you have additional questions that she’ll be glad to answer them so please leave those in the comments section below. Let’s get started, ready?

Holly: How did you become a stylist?

Pia: Well once upon a time, I owned a homeware boutique in Sydney, Australia, selling handcrafted furniture, beautiful handmade homewares, and skin care products from Australia and around the world. I was 21 when I opened it, straight out of university with a BFA in film and photography – I knew nothing about running a store. So it was one big learning curve! I had a lot of fun with it, but decided to sell up shop after 4 years as I felt the financial strain with the slow down in small business retail. So I sold everything in the store, except the pieces that I simply couldn’t part with and took some time off to decide which direction I should go in – back into film and photography, or stick with home wares and interior decorating. During this time off a friend and I were sharing some fish and chips by the waterside for lunch and she turned to me and said, “You know what Pia, you should be a stylist!” And I said, “What is that?” I had no idea what a stylist was, but I was eager to learn all about it. So my friend gave me the number of her friend who was an art director in the industry – I called her and she told me how I could get started. It involved a lot of calling and emailing of photographic agencies, and offering myself for lots of free work as an assistant to stylists. And thats how I got started! That was about 5 years ago now.

Holly: Do you remember your first assignment and if so, what was it and how did it go? Were you scared? Was it a success? Did you make mistakes?

Pia: Oh yes I remember! My very first assignment as an assistant stylist was for a David Jones catalogue (David Jones is sorta like Bloomingdales or Macy’s in the US), assisting a stylist named Jenni Booth, working for advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. I was indeed nervous as I had absolutely no experience in the field plus I barely knew what a stylist did! but the photographic team was really nice and welcoming, and it didn’t take long for me to feel relaxed and be a part of the team. I feel utterly blessed that Jenni was the first stylist I ever assisted as she is without doubt one of the best, and she is also a wonderful, genuine, generous soul. She taught me everything I know as a stylist! and is now one of my best friends. We worked together on a number of catalogues since that first shoot, and when I became a full-fledged freelance stylist of my own, Jenni encouraged and supported me all the way. She became a mentor for how I wanted to be as a stylist.

Now, my first job as a fully independent freelance stylist is a rather different story. After assisting and propping (merchandising) for magazines for quite some time I was finally asked to do my first editorial spread for one of my favourite magazines! I was very excited, and I went to great lengths to ensure I had more than enough props to have photographed. I arrived to the studio half an hour early so that I could unpack all my props and lay them out neat and tidy. Boy was I excited! But the photographer was not in the best of moods as it turned out, and all day the photographer picked on the assistant photographer, creating a palatable tension that just grew and grew as the day went on. It was horrible! I was really distracted by it and was so annoyed because it was my first ever editorial story with 8 or so full page photographs, and I wanted it to be the best. But the tension affected my work alot, and even though I managed and it turned out beautiful with rave reviews from the magazine art team, I couldn’t help but feel I’d been cheated. Anyway it was a wonderful lesson! I learnt to be more focused and try not worry about what is going on around me when I’m working – after all, we are all artists working together on one project each time, so there is bound to be some ups and downs, and passionate outbursts here and there. Luckily I haven’t witnessed many since that first job!

Stylist Q & A With Pia Jane Bijkerk

Holly: What are the 3 best things about your profession and why?

Pia: 1. Working and meeting so many different, creative people – I love it! There are so many creative people out there, and I love having the opportunity to meet and work with them regularly, its a real treat. 2. Being freelance and working obscure hours. I have never been a very good 9-5er, as generally my creative juices flow at varying hours of the day, so I love that I have the freedom to let that happen naturally. 3. Props! hmm, yes, i do love to collect pretty things, so being able to keep some of the props i use on shoots is a bit fabulous.

Holly: In your book you mention that you have items tucked away for props. As a freelance stylist, do you have your own studio where you keep props or how does this work? I know you live on a small houseboat so I’m trying to imagine where you keep everything.

Pia: Oh my, it is a real problem actually! It does get cramped here on my little houseboat as at the moment it is the only space I have here in Amsterdam, so it’s my studio as well as home. In Sydney I had a large garage where I had everything in labelled, color-coded tubs. To me, that just seems like a fabulous dream right now! Thankfully my partner isn’t allergic to clutter, otherwise we’d be in deep trouble. I would like to get a little studio or at least a storage space, but I’m not sure how to go about that just yet. In the meantime, I have a great friend who puts her hand up anytime I need to off load some of my props. She has a nice big house and much more room than I do!

Holly: Let’s play pretend. I call you from a magazine — we’re in need of a stylist for a special trends feature we’re working on. What does the magazine usually do next and then what happens from there? In other words, how does this really work from start to finish?

Pia: I have an agency that deals with most of my client requests, so they start the initial contact between me and the client. First they ask me if the job is something I’d like to do and if I’m available for the dates of the shoot. Then they organise a meeting between me and the client, and we talk about what the aim of the shoot is, and what style and look they would like. We would also discuss what else is going on for that particular issue so that I know the general theme, color ranges, and style trends being featured, that way I can help create a cohesive look for the issue, but be as interesting and creative in those parameters as possible.

Holly: And then what?

Pia: After that, the fun begins! There is usually no time to go wandering about the town to find inspiration as deadlines are tight and you have to create ‘magic’ before you can blink your eyes! So as a stylist you must have a really good idea of what is already around. If I have an assistant I will give them a specific list of shops to visit and items to pick up, and if I’m on my own I will run around like a madwoman, picking up props from favourite shops, and ‘theming’ the shoot in my head as I go, jotting down ideas in my notepad as I drive/ride my bike/hop on a tram. If I have to have things made, I call my contacts. I always have a list of woodworkers, seamstresses, and set builders in my phone. And if i have to make things myself, then I get all the supplies I need and usually stay up all night crafting away.

Holly: Tell us about the day of production…

Pia: Then comes the shoot day! I like to call the shoot day my ‘play day’ – its the day that I get to play with all the things I’ve found. Shoots can be super stressful but I try to make them the complete opposite as I believe that after all the research and hard work that has gone into prepping for the shoot, this is the one (or two or three!) days that everyone needs to enjoy themselves and let their best shine through. And last but not least, we can’t forget the pack up and return of the props. This is probably the least favourite thing to do for a shoot! But you know, every job has it’s undesirable moments. Returning props to shops is not too bad because then you get to visit your favourite shops again and chat with the owners and hear about what new items are coming in.

Holly: What moment did you finally realize that as a stylist, you had made it. You know, you were genuinely being taken serious and noticed. When did this start to happen?

Pia: To be honest, only recently! I know that’s crazy since I’ve worked with many popular brands and magazines around the world, but moving to Europe was a tough thing to do because I had to prove myself all over again – nobody in the industry knew me at all, where as in Sydney I had great, steady clients and regular work. So maybe just before I left for Europe (2006) I realised I was doing okay – making a living as a freelancer and getting call backs from happy clients – but then it was a bit of a step back again when I moved and now I’m back to ‘feeling it’, in 2009. But you know what? Its more about the regularity of the type of work I do that makes me feel like I’ve ‘made it’, rather than the amount of work. Nowadays I have a lot more choice about the type of work I accept, and – when I do a job that I just adore like when I was asked to write this book – that is when I realise that all the hard work has paid off.

Holly: Ah the famous question, what inspires you. Let’s skip it. Instead I’ll ask what you are seeing too much of when it comes to trends and what can sometimes NOT inspire you but make you a little annoyed. We talked a little about this in person last year…

Pia: Oh fabulous! I love your clever questions. Let me see… I’m not into sterile environments, so minimalism never really did it for me, but I do enjoy the odd minimalist space, don’t get me wrong – but just not on the front cover of every magazine. So I’m rather glad the ’90’s/nullities minimalist movement is over for the moment. And I really am not a fan of ‘fast interiors’ – you know, ones that are created from just heading down to a mall and copying a catalogue photo. Again don’t get me wrong, catalogues can be super inspiring! But I like individualism, I like seeing people’s personality in their home, like odd things they’ve picked up on their travels, and objects that tell stories. When I buy an interior magazine, I read it just as much for the visual stimulation as I do for the story behind the people who live in this space – I love reading about where people found things, what they do for a living, how they acquired certain items and what their dreams are. I like real stories and not ones that are made up for an audience (I’m a non-fiction gal, what can I say!). So with that said, I love homes that are real and not perfectly styled or perfectly stylish, but super inspiring and dreamy.

Stylist Q & A With Pia Jane Bijkerk

Holly: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Pia: A film director! It’s still a bit of a dream really, I might get to it in another ten years or so. I have a few scripts written that I’d love to explore further one day (my university degree is actually in film making!)

Holly: Do you feel your current occupation is one you will stay in forever or do you see other opportunities awaiting you still? If so, care to share what?

Pia: Hmm, I think the above answer says it all! I also always wanted to be a writer and a published author, and that is certainly what I am working at now , so for me having my first book published this year is a real dream come true.

Holly: What other jobs have you had in your life?

Pia: My first job was as a kitchen hand in a cafe which I did some days after school, then I was a hostess in an Italian restaurant (as opposed to a waitress which I was pretty hopeless at! I wasn’t fast enough with orders I think, but I was good at greeting incoming guests and escorting them to their fancy tables!), then after that I made some art and cards for a few local shops, and once I was a sock sales promotion girl in a department store! Yes, I would stand in the sock aisle and try to convince browsing customers that the socks in that aisle were far superior than any other they had ever worn. I was not the best saleswoman, I can tell you, the job didn’t last longer than a week. After I finished my degree I opened my boutique! And I also opened a cafe too, but thats a whole other story…

Holly: If someone reading wants to become a stylist, what training is required?

Pia: The best thing you can do is assist other stylists, its the only training really.

Holly: How does one go about getting work as a stylist?

Pia: I suggest finding some local photographic agencies who represent stylists (search the internet and blogs for these) and have a look at which stylists work you like. Then email or call the agency to let them know that you would love the opportunity to assist that stylist. If you can, offer to work for free because often a stylist will prefer to trial an assistant first and then they will offer paying jobs if they work well together.

Holly: How does someone learn about styling, what classes or books do you suggest they read?

Pia: Again I really think work experience as a stylist’s assistant is the best way to learn. But you can also try creating little vignettes at home, and take the time to get your own particular style going. Then you can see if there are any assistant photographers who might like to do a free test shoot with you and you can get some shots of your work. Then you can begin creating a styling portfolio!

Holly: Now let’s talk for a moment about your new book, Paris: Made By Hand. I finished reading the entire book this past weekend and noticed right away that you took all of the photographs, did all of the styling (of course) and designed the front cover in addition to writing this lovely book. That’s quite an undertaking. How long did it take you to work on this project?

Pia: Well from start to finish it was well over a year’s worth of work. But if I was to pick out key sections I’d say the research took roughly 3 months, the shooting and interviewing of all the stores and artists took about four weeks, the writing took a month, and the editing took another month or so. Yes, it was quite an undertaking indeed! But I can tell you, I enjoyed every step of it.

Holly: What lead you to authoring a book and will there be more along this theme, perhaps Pia takes Amsterdam? Or?

Pia: Authoring a book has been something I’ve always wanted to do and yes, I hope this is the start of many. Oh I would LOVE to write and photograph a handmade in Amsterdam book!! Fingers crossed :-)

Holly: Okay, how about we show readers how you styled your cover. Sound like fun?

Pia: Yes! So for the front cover, I had a good idea of what I wanted to create. I had seen this beautiful deep blue wall with old shelves in Astier de Villate, a gorgeous boutique which I featured in the book. I went back to Paris especially to shoot the cover in this shop. I made an appointment with the store manager to come just before opening hours, and the light coming through the front windows was perfect. I set up my camera and tripod, and got to playing with the boutique’s handmade treasures! I adore Parisian ceramicist Nathalie Lete’s pieces and I wanted to feature her work on the cover. So I gathered my favourite Natalie Lete bowls and plates from around the store (very carefully!) and started to arrange the shelves….


Stylist Q & A With Pia Jane Bijkerk

I had bought white paper wrapping with bold type letters and I cut rectangles of each letter out and placed them on the edge of the shelf to spell out the title of the book Paris: Made By Hand.


Stylist Q & A With Pia Jane Bijkerk

I wanted the cover to feature a range of different handmade items so that when people see the cover they get an idea of the sorts of things inside the book. So I picked up the little kittycat and perched her on the edge of the top shelf! I was pleased with that but there was just something else missing…


Stylist Q & A With Pia Jane Bijkerk

I moved the lid on the top bowl… I stood back, I peeked through the camera lens and thought… that’s it! So I snapped it! And that was that, I was very happy with it.

HMMM…. Yes!

Stylist Q & A With Pia Jane Bijkerk

Stylist Q & A With Pia Jane Bijkerk

The design team at The Little Bookroom did all the final touches for the cover – they brushed up on the fonts on the paper rectangles so that the title really stood out, and then there was the decision of where to put my name. A few emails with different options went back and fourth and we all decided that we liked the extended ribbon on the kitty. And I really love the yellow accents of the ribbon and the scarf (bottom right corner) against the blue. I hope you to do!

Viola! Here’s the finished cover:

Stylist Q & A With Pia Jane Bijkerk

Thank you so much Holly. If anyone has any further questions I’d be happy to answer them in comments below! – Pia

I’m so proud of you, Pia and I hope you sell a million copies and become quite famous from it — I’d really like to see a Amsterdam: Made By Hand book! Best of success dear!

(images: pia jane bijerk)

Posted in interviews on May 06, 2009

Meet Cadee Wilder From Kreme Life

L.A. based Interior Designer Vanessa De Vargas pointed me to the gorgeous wallpaper over at Kreme Life and it was love at first sight. I was impressed to learn that this gorgeous low VOC, eco-solvent wallpaper is designed and manufactured right here in the U.S.A. (California). Based in Los Angeles, Designer/Partner Cadee Wilder agreed to visit all of us here on decor8 today to talk about her work and inspiration.

decor8: Hello Cadee! Looking at your designs I see a lot of southern California influence. Is that were you were raised?

Cadee: I was raised in Orange County, CA until I was 14 then we moved Oklahoma –culture shock! Now I’m back in Los Angeles.

decor8: How did your childhood influence the designer that you are today?

Cadee: My parents are free spirits from the sixties, and they always encouraged art, music, and self expression. My Sunday afternoons were usually spent drawing and listening to music with my family, it was something that we did together and as individuals> My best days are spent trying to recreate these Sunday afternoons.

decor8: When did you launch Kreme Life and how did you decide on the name?

Cadee: We launched officially only a few months ago in November of 2008. I chose the name by thinking of things I like, and among my favorites are shades of white and cream. The odd spelling came out because aesthetically I liked the way it looked. [I’m kind of a typography nerd]

decor8: What is your professional background?

Cadee: I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications [graphic design], from the University of Oklahoma, I was the creative director for a fashion line for 4 years, before going freelance and starting Kreme.

decor8: Why wallpaper?

Cadee: I lived above a wallpaper store in Santa Monica for about 5 years, I’d stroll by and think, “this one is almost right, but….” there was always just a little something missing. So I thought “I should make my own line of wallpaper!”

decor8: Describe your average client…

Cadee: My average client usually has these things in common: loves their space, loves art/design, and loves to express their own unique style in their home.

decor8: Has word of mouth helped your business and if so, what has worked?

Cadee: Word of mouth has been great, people seem to pass things along [as in this case with Vanessa], and we were recently featured in Sunset Feb 09 magazine’s “The West At Its Best” which also helped.

decor8: How did you go from idea to execution?

Cadee: It was a ton of research, and scouting and testing materials, it took about 6 months from “idea” to our final printed product.

decor8: What makes Kreme Life stand out?

Cadee: Our papers are incredibly unique, the designs are modern with an undeniable retro nod, not to mention we are now offering custom colors for just $40 extra. You can get all the fabulous designs and you can get them to match any decor. We print and ship in just a matter of days not weeks! In an instant gratification world, Kreme satisfies the I want it fabulous, I want it amazing, and I want it fast!!

decor8: How are the patterns designed?

Cadee: Some are designed by hand, and some are designed on the computer. It really just depends on what mood I’m in on any given day. Some days I really feel like drawing and painting by hand and other days I like to crank up my iTunes and work on my Mac!

decor8: What inspires you as a designer?

Cadee: Mostly my childhood in Orange County, and my parents hippie aesthetic. I love to conjure up pictures in my head of the things that made my childhood happy, and the usually involve the beach and sunshine and lots of loud music!

decor8: Thank you so much, Cadee! It was great to learn about the lady behind these gorgeous designs.

Cadee: You’re very, very welcome!! I love decor8!

Kreme Life papers can be purchased online here. Good news: If you do not want to commit to a roll of wallpaper, you can also purchase it framed or unframed to use as a focal point over your bed or sofa, for instance. I love that she offers this as an option.

(images from kreme life)

Posted in interviews, Rooms on February 25, 2009

Meet Squam Art Workshops

I am so pleased to introduce you to the founder and director of Squam Art Workshops, Elizabeth MacCrellish, who lives in Sandwich, New Hampshire. If you already know her then this may not be an introduction but rather a nice opportunity to get to know her better. When I first heard about Squam Art Workshops (SAW) last year and that it’s a local art retreat I had to pinch myself — a creative haven right here in New Hampshire? I don’t have to hop a plane and head west? Yay! With a year of SAW behind her I thought it would be a great time to catch up with Elizabeth to not only learn more about her background but to see what she enjoys most about her newly formed retreat, where the idea came from in the first place and what one can expect from the whole SAW experience. Lets get started!

decor8: Hi Elizabeth! It’s nice to have an opportunity to talk to you today about Squam. What exactly is SAW?

Elizabeth: It’s a retreat located at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in Holderness, NH. From the time you arrive Wednesday to the time you leave Sunday, there’s no cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, no driving kids to practice and all meals are taken care of for you. There are workshops all day with spectacular teachers to indulge your creative spirit. Squam attracts the full spectrum of attendees– we have working artists who are looking to recharge and gain fresh inspiration for their work as well as people from all walks of life who do not consider themselves artists but cherish the opportunity to mess around and play with stuff– and lots of people in-between those two extremes. And, on top of all that, the people who come have the most extraordinary energy so the whole gathering becomes the event itself.

decor8: What inspired you to create an art retreat?

Elizabeth: In 2006 I attended Artfest which absolutely changed my life. I have written about this many times, so I am just going to link to one of my rambles here.  In a nutshell, it opened me up. It connected me with my tribe and set me back on my true path. I launched Squam because I wanted someone else to have that same experience. And, it turns out, quite a few people did.

decor8: All of our past decisions place us where we are today so I’m curious to hear about your path. What is your professional background?

Elizabeth: Well, unlike most creative types who zero in on a career soon after high school and stick with that one thing their entire professional lives my professional trajectory, as it were, has been rather erratic. For a number of years I taught French and coached lacrosse at Holderness School and then did a stint of writing including publishing a book, Dorm Room Feng Shui. I also spent seven years getting a taste of corporate life as the commercialization manager for EFI, which was an exceedingly interesting experience. Today, I teach writing at The New Hampshire Institute of Art and it is hands-down the best job I have ever had; I absolutely love it.

decor8: How much does it cost to stay at SAW and take classes there?

Elizabeth: $890 all-inclusive, room & board or, $480 if you want to stay off campus.

(Where the magic happens and founder Elizabeth MacCrellish)

decor8: If someone lives locally and wants to just show up for a day or a single workshop, can they?

Elizabeth: No, I’m sorry to say– it’s a retreat. We’re not set up to offer one-day classes.

decor8: What is your personal mission with this project?

Elizabeth: Well, I’m a little bit behind in writing our mission statement– I am gonna sit down and do that one of these days. Meantime, I just want people to come, have a good time, and keep the high spirit and creative energies flowing into their daily life long after the weekend is over.

decor8: How do you locate the artists that you invite to participate as instructors?

Elizabeth: I seek them out. Some I know through attending Artfest, some I know cause of blogging, some are referred to me by friends. It’s a mix.

decor8: What is the rooming situation like?

Elizabeth: It’s champagne in a tin cup. If you like pine trees, being on directly on a pristine lake surrounded by mountains, and starry nights– you’ll probably like this, but it’s definitely not for everyone. The cabins were built at the turn-of-the century and each one is unique. Every one has an ice box and the ice is cut from the lake each winter. Yet, all the modern conveniences are in place including wireless internet, should you want to keep hooked up to the outside world.

decor8: Where do most of your students come from?

Elizabeth: Last year, people came from 27 states and two eastern provinces of Canada. This year, we’re already expanding beyond that and have attendees coming from Switzerland, Mexico, Vancouver and the UK and registration only opened at the beginning of February. It kind of blows my mind.

decor8: What makes SAW so special in your eyes?

Elizabeth:We receive such wonderful letters, mothers and daughters who come together, old friends who meet up here after not seeing each other since college, husbands who joined their wife here last year but this year are going to come and do the workshops, too — people write us the most BEAUTIFUL stories and it pretty much knocks me off my feet. I honestly feel so deeply grateful and privileged to participate in the creation of this gathering where people get to have such extraordinary experiences (read the raves here).

decor8: How do you spread the seeds and get SAW out there?

Elizabeth: Word of mouth, baby. Thank heavens for bloggers. And to YOU, Holly. My deep thanks to you for sharing information about Squam at your beautiful site! Looking forward to the day when YOU are here bringing your magic to Squam!!

Thank you so much Elizabeth for this terrific insight into your inspirational program. I wish you much success and joy!

(photos: Elizabeth MacCrellish and Denise Andrade of Boho Photography)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, interviews on February 24, 2009


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