Made with Love

The Neighborgoods | DC Artist

Photographed by: Rachel Maucieri | Interview of: Jodi of The Neighborgoods 

How did you get started?

For the past 11 years, I have been running a design business: Hello Neighbor Designs. For the first few years, I took on any kind of job offered to me —fashion, real estate, non-profit, and everything in between. After starting to feel burnt out, I attended a design conference in the hopes that I would learn how to manage my work load and that this new knowledge would magically change my life, and I'm happy to report that it did!

The conference is where the seed was planted that I should have a niche, and figure out what my favorite type of project was. After taking a few months to feel out my favorites, I realized what I enjoyed most wasn’t my typical client work, but the jobs I gave myself, packaging up the cookies I made to gift to my clients every year for the holidays. In general, I found a lot of joy while baking in the kitchen and purusing the beauty found at farmers markets. Once I figured out the foodie scene is where I wanted to be, I needed to find clients in that industry interested in working with me.

I didn't have any food clients at the time, so in order to build up my portfolio to include the food-related work I wanted to be doing I began painting some of the produce I’d pick up at the farmers market, as well as illustrating some of my favorite recipes. I started with the cupcake recipe I made for my husband every year for his birthday because it held a special place in my heart, and because: cupcakes! I then moved on to our favorite pancake recipe, which showed up on our breakfast table at least once a month. This was in November of 2013 and with the holidays coming up I thought it would be fun to print these personalized recipes onto dishtowels to give to family and friends that year.

After doing some research and discovering screen printing was a much more time consuming process than I had originally thought, I decided not to print the towels that year and to sign up for a full semester screen printing course the beginning of 2014 to really learn the process and see where it took me. My very first print was that cupcake recipe printed onto a dish towel, and I haven’t looked back since!

I started creating new designs and a printing a LOT of towels. Soon people in the print shop started to ask if they could buy them. Once my inventory was building up I decided to give myself a company name, The Neighborgoods, and see if I could make it work. And now I'm creating dish towel gifts for everyone!

What influences you?/ Where do you get your inspiration?

I’m inspired by the beauty of food, and how it brings people together, whether through baking cupcakes, making homemade jams, or sharing a love of beets. I could spend hours at the farmers market or grocery store just ogling the produce section, and of course taking pics for instagram (which is where I also find a ton of inspiration). There are so many amazing and talented people out there, and being able to connect with them with just your finger tips, while waiting in line for coffee, is awesome. 

Since I work from home by myself, I also try to find time to get out and connect with people when I can. I just moved to DC a year and a half ago from Brooklyn and the artist/maker community here has been so welcoming, inspiring, and supportive, which has been great and exactly what I needed creatively and socially. Whenever I meet up with those ladies (and a few gents), I always come back full of new information and ideas, ready to get back to work.

How do you balance your personal time + work?/ How do you create separation?

If you find a good answer for this please let me know! ;) 

Running two businesses, I definitely struggle with dividing the time between both of them and still trying to leave some personal time. It all pretty much blends together and changes daily depending on what the priority is that day.

I admit I sometimes let work take over, but it is mostly because I get excited about wanting to get a new product or design out, so I’m still enjoying my time, and my husband often works late as well so it works for us. When I start to feel overwhelmed and am not having fun with what I’m doing I try to take a step back and see what I can do to move a few things around on my schedule so I can free up time for myself, friends, and family.


What keeps you motivated?/ Why do you love doing this?

I get so much joy out of creating and making people happy. I’m definitely a people pleaser by nature so when my products bring a smile to someone’s face or I can help a customer find the PERFECT gift for their pickle loving friend it makes my day! The same goes for my design business. I work with small- to medium-sized clients, so I’m mostly working directly with the owner/creator. It makes me feel good to know that what I’m doing helps them grow their business and succeed. And the food samples my clients often send me don’t hurt either!

Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?/ What's next for your brand?

I have declared this year my “year of transition,” and writing it here where it will be published online makes it feel super official. I have been running The Neighborgoods as my side hustle for 3 years now and always want it to be more of my main business one day, but never really change anything to make that happen. So this year I’m consciously taking on a little less design work and putting more of that time into Neighborgood-ing to help it grow. I don’t want to give up food branding and packaging design all together since I enjoy that work as well, but am being more selective and want to try to only take on the really awesome design projects and clients (which means keeping all of my current clients because they are great!). 

I know this transition isn’t going to happen overnight, so hopefully in 2-5 years I’ll be slinging more foodie goods on a daily basis and working a dream design job, like illustrating a cook book…just putting that one out there into the universe. ;) 

Cherry Blossom Creative | DC Artists

Photographed by: Rachel Maucieri | Interview of: Torie of Cherry Blossom Creative, Washington DC

How did you get started?

My journey to being a creative business owner definitely took some twists and turns before arriving at Cherry Blossom! I’ve always had a passion for design, even before I really knew what that term meant. When I was a teenager, I would paste labels from products that I thought were particularly beautiful in my notebooks, and create sets and posters for local theater performances. You couldn’t get me out of the art room if you tried. But when I went to college at McGill University (a school decidedly sans art classes) I decided I had to ‘get serious’ and study ‘serious’ subjects that would lead to ‘serious’ job opportunities. I landed in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies, which brought me to Washington after graduation to work in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. Two years of miserable office jobs later, I decided what I really needed was to get into the field. I spent a year working in Baghdad, Iraq with the US Army, working on interviewing Iraqeis to help the military understand how the occupation was affecting local communities.

You get a lot of alone time when you’re deployed, especially as a woman. I had time to reflect on my future, and realized I couldn’t see anyone in my field whose life I wanted in 10 years. I couldn’t picture myself jumping from warzone to warzone, working with people who viewed the world through the context of threat and conflict. When I looked into my heart, I wanted to be part of a community. I wanted to be creative every day. I wanted self-determination, and the capacity to live life according to my own rule set. Out of this came Cherry Blossom Creative, which I viewed (and ultimately still view) as an act of personal liberation.

I returned to DC and started handing out business cards. I was lucky enough to find a few amazing small businesses who hired me to do creative work for them. Within the first year of owning a creative studio, I’d designed logos, created marketing materials, drawn custom chalkboards, painted murals, built art installations, and developed websites. I got the chance to use my creative talents every single day, and it felt like a miracle. In my second year I’d hired my first employee and moved into a small co-working space in DC’s Union Kitchen. The work continued to pour in. By year four I’d illustrated a cover for the Washington Post, created a series of highly popular neighborhood map prints that were selling in over 20 stores around DC, designed custom packaging for products on Whole Foods shelves, branded and created the event design for DC’s TEDx conference, and countless other milestones that I couldn’t have imagined when I started out. We (it was a team of five, by this point) moved our studios into a storefront location in Shaw, and opened up a small stationery shop in the front of our office focused on design-forward creative tools and officewares. Cherry Blossom Creative just turned five years old last month. Sometimes I still can’t believe I took the risk to start a design studio when I did, especially given how little experience I had in the field, and just how well that bravery (or stupidity!) has paid off.

What influences you?/ Where do you get your inspiration?

Inspiration is actually a really tricky balance. You want to stay informed about design trends, and what’s current. But at the same time, the more you absorb, the more you risk creating work that feels overly similar to what everyone else is creating. Same-iness is really worrying for me as a creative person. What happens to us as a creative community when we’re all designing in royal blue and the lovely dusty pink that my designers have termed ‘awkward peach’? What happens when everything has a split leaf philodendron on it? (True confession: I didn’t even know what that plant was called, I just knew it as ‘that trendy palm plant thing that everyone’s using in their design work’.) What happens when we’re all using marble texture, or widely-kerned sans serif’s in all caps?

That said, for all my fretting, I go to the same places as most for inspiration. I legitimately adore Pinterest. I try and pepper my Instagram feed with designers and illustrators whose work I admire. And ultimately, I try and search for work that takes my breath away when I see it. I try to absorb but not overanalyze. When I see something that makes my heart beat, and flushes my mind with delight (and, often, envy!), I take note. Recently, that’s been the illustration work of Mari-Laure Cruschi, the dark humor and stunning calligraphy of Nim Ben-Reuven, and the inky, moody storytelling of Nate Powell’s graphic novels. I do my best to avoid anything that won’t have staying power in my professional design work.

For maps, my main need for inspiration is in the color palettes I choose for each particular neighborhood, which is a process all in its own. It’s driven by emotion, and is certainly qualitative rather than part of any defined process. Sometimes I walk the streets of the neighborhood, and try to absorb the colors I see around me. Sometimes I think of the people I love in that neighborhood, and the colors that remind me of their personalities, or their houses. Sometimes I try and capture the vibrancy of a particular street, or the trees in the parks. I generally start with an idea of the colors I think I’ll use, but as each new block is colored in, I look for tones that will balance or enliven the overall palette. Each one is distinct, and I couldn’t cite a single source of inspiration for any of them.

How do you balance your personal time + work?/ How do you create separation?

You’re catching me at a tough moment for balancing work and personal time. The honest answer is that I’ve spent the past several years not doing a very good job of it, and in the past several weeks I’ve been taking steps to remedy that. Especially in Washington DC, where we tend to reward people for how hard their hustle is, it’s difficult to remember that there’s so much more to life than the work that we take on professionally. Building a creative business takes time. It takes long nights. It takes weekends. My business is my baby, to a certain extent, and I’ve been in a state of fairly constant stress surrounding it for the past five years. I’m lucky (or perhaps unlucky?) to also have a partner who’s also very devoted to his work and his craft, but this often has meant that we’ll come home from a full day’s work and pull out our laptops as soon as we get home.

At the beginning of this year, we made a pact to change this, and I can’t really comment on the results because the transition is still in process! Suffice it to say that I decided that the right decision was not to keep growing the size of my design studio, and we’re scaling back the number of designers we have on staff. I’ll be focusing more on creating products than managing clients, partially so I can make myself a little bit less constantly available. I’m hoping to enjoy my days more, have more time for individual create projects, and more bandwidth to devote my design skills to progressive work (especially in this political climate!) I don’t necessarily believe that total separation is necessary, but I do think that it’s easy to continue to take on more and more and more work, until the point that it overwhelms your resources and time, leaving room for little else.

It’s been an incredibly difficult decision not to continue to grow into a larger design agency, perhaps because that’s what you’re expected to do when you own a business - make it bigger, better, and higher profile. But my good friend Sharon, who’s a small business owner as well, gave me a nugget of good advice the other day: “The only truly good business decision is one that leads to greater happiness.” And greater happiness cannot be found at the end of a to do list that’s 200 items long.

What keeps you motivated?/ Why do you love doing this?

Motivation is an elusive quality, and one I try not to depend on too much. That said, there’s a lot of reasons I structure my life and work the way I do, and most of them have to do with maximizing personal freedom and choice. I love owning my own business because I am largely in control of how my days look, which includes everything from the type of people I choose to associate with to the clothing I wear to work in. John Waters gave an excellent speech at the Rhode Island School of Design a couple years ago, where he asserted that “real wealth is never having to spend time with assholes.” I love this. There’s so many toxic qualities that can come up in work situations, from condescending bosses to gossipy coworkers, and I’m glad to be able to avoid many of them by surrounding myself with people who’re solid gold. At Cherry Blossom, I’ve always worked to be protective of the kind of people we let in (colleagues AND clients) and to make sure we’ve got a culture of transparency and integrity. That ‘wealth’ is irreplaceable, and one of the reasons I love working for myself.

Creative control is a big motivating factor. I love having the capacity to take on the projects I want to engage in, build the skills I want to build, and experiments with new styles. I love getting to expand my artistic talent, and constantly work towards being able to create with my hands the beauty that I can hold in my mind’s eye. I’m always trying to close that gap, between what I can envision and what I have the capacity to create. To be able to share your vision with others is a truly wonderful gift, and something I think is central to our experience as humans. I like giving myself the space and the context to take that task of expression and connection on. In owning your own business, your working life becomes yours to design. That’s an incredible opportunity, and one that makes me lucky to be my own boss every day.

Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?/ What's next for your brand?

This is especially challenging right now, because I think I would have given you a totally different answer if you’d asked me three months ago! Part of what’s magic about this moment is that I don’t necessarily know what my life is going to look like in two years (let alone five!) and I find that enormously exciting and freeing.

A few things I do know: I’d like Cherry Blossom to become a center for design and creative culture in DC. I’d like it to be a beautiful space that feels open and welcoming and that makers and designers know they can use it to launch their products or host their events. I’d like the maps collection to grow and expand to include other cities and neighborhoods. I’d like to take the time I’ve been throwing into building the agency to be redirected into creative activities that are more personally-fulfilling or more socially-driven. I want to find out what’s my part to play in the struggle against fear-based politics. I want to use art to break down walls between people, and help us understand and humanize each other. I’d like to work a bit less and play a bit more. Maybe more than a bit, if I’m lucky.

A Daily Something | DC Artist

Photographed by: Rachel Maucieri | Interview of: Rebecca Gallop of A Daily Something

How did you get started?

I started A Daily Something when I was studying political science in 2011 and was desperate for a creative outlet. My friend Susanna introduced me to creative blogging and I was addicted. The first blogs I read were Design Sponge, The Daybook, and A Subtle Revelry. One night (while in the shower) I thought of the name "A Daily Something" and proceeded to sign up on blogger. The goal was to blog about something that inspired me - a thrifted find, an outfit, a color, a piece of art, etc. - Monday through Friday. I immersed myself in the world of blogging, and tried to learn as much as I could! Slowly but surely my readership built and I began to refine the mission of A Daily Something. I started producing content (mostly DIYs) for a few online magazines.

The learning curve was SO STEEP. I started out taking photos in my dorm room, in the evening with the overhead lights on, with my roommates point-n-shoot. We all start somewhere, but these were bad practices (ha) I quickly learned that I needed better, naturally lit photos. I finally got an Instagram account in late 2012 (game-changer). In 2013 I started collaborating with Kinfolk Magazine on their community events in the DC area. Since starting my blog, I got married, moved permanently to VA, and had two babies, so inevitably, A Daily Something has gone through some changes.

Today, I'm still managing and producing content for A Daily Something (but not always daily), working hard as a full time mama and wife, running A Daily Gathering, and working as a prop stylist. I'm so grateful for that need to create back in 2011 and my friends who inspired me to jump into the unknown!

What influences you?/ Where do you get your inspiration?

I'm mostly inspired by nature and history! I love incorporating the two into my work whenever its possible. I love the intricate detail in queen ann's lace, and bendy poppy stems. On any give day, you can find flowers or foliage in every room of my first floor. And history...usually expressed through copious amounts of antiques and vintage finds! When I'm feeling uninspired, lots of times I'll just visit a few vintage shops or the local auction or a flower farm. INSTANT inspiration!

How do you balance your personal time + work?/ How do you create separation?

This is a constant struggle, since being a wife & mom are really my first priorities! BUT I've learned a few tricks over the years! My kids are great nappers, so I am able to get a lot of work done while they sleep! I escape to coffee shops for a few hours on weekends to respond to emails, etc. I've brought on interns, which helps me prioritize and [try to] use my time efficiently. I'll also be bringing on mothers' helpers this summer, and they will be with the girls (in my home) during the workday. I'll still be at home, but they will be taking care of the girls.

I'm turning my garage into my studio this summer, which should help create that separation that I'm lacking right now (I usually work at the kitchen or dining room tables, which are in the center of our home). With kids, things change constantly and they need varying levels of care & attention at different ages, so every few months I have to assess how things are going and how I'm going to manage everything! 

A Daily Something-15.jpg

What keeps you motivated?/ Why do you love doing this?

I love and thrive off of being busy! I love bringing people together through beautifully curated and planned events. I love organizing, creating, and being inspired by others! These are all things that motivate me! And I am so grateful that I am able to run A Daily Something and A Daily Gathering WHILE being a mama to my beautiful girls! Best of all the worlds! 

Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?/ What's next for your brand?

In 2-5 years, I see myself with maybe one or two more kids, living in our same home in Purcellville, VA, with a little addition off the side. I'll still be running my A Daily Something & A Daily Gathering, which I hope to keep growing and modifying as my life changes! 

Next for my brand? Actually, TODAY I'm launching my first ever professionally designed website, branding, and portfolio! I've always done this all myself, and I celebrated 5 years of blogging in early 2016, so it was time! Excited to see what the Lord has in store for the future of my A Daily "...." :)


Make sure you go and check out Rebecca's amazing new website by clicking HERE and tell her how much you love it and that we sent you!

Sweet Root Village | DC Artists

Photographed by: Rachel Maucieri | Interview of: Sweet Root Village

How did you get started?

It was all one big happy accident. We were in the middle of becoming fast friends and spent one late night conversing about what the future held and about our dreams of always doing the things we loved turned into brainstorming a business name and launching a blog within a couple of hours. 

I don't think we knew entirely what that meant when we decided to officially open our business just a few months later. What felt like lofty dreams slowly turned into a full time career, a studio space, a love affair with small business, and several very full lives doing the things we love.

What influences you/Where do you get your inspiration?

Finding inspiration is difficult sometimes. We are often swept into seasons of fast-paced work and endless to-do lists, but it's so important for us to pay attention to the small whispers of inspiration around us to avoid getting burnt out.

We find ourselves newly invigorated after meeting with a potential new client who loves flowers as much as we do. Fresh waves of motivation find us when those small wins and successes find us. The support and excitement from our closest friends and family drives us to hit that next goal and to do better for them and for ourselves!

Then of course there are all the little things each day. Things like falling in love with a variety of bloom that we hadn't previously known of, or spending a moment laughing hysterically over a weird joke while working in the warehouse. There are potential inspirations around us every second, we just have to choose to see them. 


How do you balance your personal time + work/ How do you create separation?

When you own your own business, it's a constant struggle to separate personal time and work. We don't want to even pretend that we succeed in this whatsoever. We do our best to be all in when we are at work and then all in when we have time with our families, but we are definitely working into the night when we get home. Personal things and home life can often times find itself on the back burner and then sometimes our inbox is packed with a hundred bajillion emails if we take a weekend off and that can add a lot of mental stress, so we end up giving in and working when we told ourselves we wouldn't! If anyone out there has discovered a magical solution to this ever present and fluctuating problem, share your secrets!


What keeps you motivated/ Why do you love doing this?

A lot of people don't realize how much grunt work is involved with our job. The hauling of boxes, cleaning glassware, scrubbing dirty buckets (not to mention all of the paperwork and bills to pay!) can get a little tiresome. But every time we hand a bride her bouquet or complete a wedding installation and see the whole room come together, we're reminded of why we love our job. We get to create beautiful things for people on the happiest day of their lives, and that's pretty special.


Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years/ What's next for your brand?

We recently made a ton of changes to our business, like no longer offering wedding photography or day-of coordination for events and moving into a huge new space perfect for large event floral production. We've never really looked too far ahead when it comes to our dreams or how we'll structure the business (we pay more attention to our finances and spreadsheet projections haha), we usually just live in the moment and then stumble upon those changes as they come.

It's hard to predict what we will want to see even a year from now as our lives and the lives of those close to us are constantly changing. We always know that we want to grow, whatever that growth looks like, whether it's doing more or adding something different, or making lots of small changes over time. The future is an exciting prospect and full of possibility and we can't wait to see what's in store!

Makeup + Hair by Ana B