baby album | part three.

Posted on: Friday, March 21, 2014

Baby Album | Ann-Marie Espinoza

I really love working on this album. Really, really love it. Not only is it forcing me to document my memories on a regular basis, but it’s also pushing me to use up my stash and to experiment creatively with what I have on hand. Yeah for babies!

Baby Album | Ann-Marie Espinoza

For the lefthand page, I used a sheet of BG’s number paper and embellished it with arrow stickers, aqua + yellow washi tapes, and quite possibly my all-time favorite product: gold feathers!

Baby Album | Ann-Marie Espinoza

On the righthand page, I used a Fresh Cut designer insert as my background and included a faux photobooth strip of my 12 week ultrasound (which somehow was ten weeks ago…?!). I also incorporated a few sheets of patterned paper, letter stickers, and one of my favorite sentiments from the new “Moments to Remember” Capture stamp set.

Baby Album | Ann-Marie Espinoza
Baby Album | Ann-Marie Espinoza

On the lefthand page, I used another Fresh Cut designer insert (cut down to be the same size as the previous page) to house my story about having a girl. Since I had already written out my thoughts in this blog post, I simply copy / pasted the text into an Illustrator document and printed it out on white cardstock. No point in doing the same work twice!
Baby Album | Ann-Marie Espinoza

For the righthand page, I wanted my message to be bold and clear, but I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to do it. So when I saw this Instagram photo from my good friend Sarah, I remembered the gold foil sticker paper that I had purchased for my wedding ring box and knew instantly it would be the perfect material for my title!

Baby Album | Ann-Marie Espinoza

Using my trust Cameo die cutting machine, I created this title (along with a few others) in a matter of minutes. I wish you could see how finite the words “we’re having a” are; they’re so tiny and incredibly precise! That machine never ceases to amaze me.

P.S. The fonts I used for the die cut letters are Thirsty and Novocento. I’ll be sharing all of my favorite typefaces in a post early next week!

wedding florals | willow + jade.

Posted on: Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ann-Marie Loves | Wedding Florals by Willow + Jade | Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography

While gathering inspiration for my wedding, one thing became perfectly clear to me: florals can singlehandedly MAKE an event. So when it came time to hire a florist, it was a no-brainer that I would be going with Willow + Jade. Not only is Veronica (the head stylist) an amazing interior decorator, but her floral styling skills are unmatched. I knew I was in good hands.

Ann-Marie Loves | Wedding Florals by Willow + Jade | Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography

For my bouquet, I requested something colorful, rustic, and as overflowing / gigantic as possible. I wanted it to look like I had just gone on a beautiful hike and collected bits and pieces of wildlife along the way to form a gorgeous bohemian arrangement. I didn’t even feel the need to pick out specific flower types; I knew Veronica was on the same page as me and would take my vision above and beyond. And she totally did.

Bridesmaids | Ann-Marie Loves | Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography
Ann-Marie Loves | Wedding Florals by Willow + Jade | Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography

For my bridesmaids’ bouquets, I wanted to mimic the earthy, loosely-arranged vibe of my own bouquet, but on a smaller scale. I could not have been happier with the results! They were exactly what I was hoping to achieve.

Ann-Marie Loves | Wedding Florals by Willow + Jade | Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography
Ann-Marie Loves | Wedding Florals by Willow + Jade | Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography
Ann-Marie Loves | Wedding Florals by Willow + Jade | Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography

As much as I squealed with delight over the bouquets, nothing compares to the moment when I first caught a glimpse of the reception tables overflowing with gorgeous florals. I was BLOWN AWAY. The vibrant colors, the perfect flower choices (pink peonies!), the heavy use of eucalyptus, the citrus fruits…it was better than anything I could have dreamt up myself!

Ann-Marie Loves | Wedding Florals by Willow + Jade | Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography
Ann-Marie Loves | Wedding Florals by Willow + Jade | Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography

There were beautiful arrangements sprinkled throughout the whole reception site. I truly believe that without the flowers as the design anchor, this wedding would not have been nearly as cohesive as it was.

Ann-Marie Loves | Wedding Florals by Willow + Jade | Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography

And finally, the eucalyptus photobooth backdrop! Veronica and her team staple-gunned large panels of orange fabric to three sheets of wood and then pinned eucalyptus and other various florals to the background to create this lush scene. (If only I could recreate the living wall in my own home!)

Ann-Marie Loves | Wedding Florals by Willow + Jade | Photo by Katie Pritchard Photography

Needless to say, I was one VERY HAPPY client :)

P.S. I learned early on that the secret to successful weddings is to hire vendors who naturally share your personal aesthetic and then let them run wild! The more you trust and the less you micromanage, the happier everyone will be. My florist, my photographer, and my videographers could not have been a more perfect fit for me. I trusted each of their creative visions implicitly and it paid off a million times over!

Photos by Katie Pritchard Photography

my freelancing story.

Posted on: Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Freelance Story | Ann-Marie Espinoza

I should start off by saying, I never intended to be a freelancer.

While it’s the lifestyle I’ve always dreamt about, it’s not something I imagined I would ever really have the guts to dive into headfirst. But life has a funny way of throwing you into situations you never expected and showing you that you are capable of so much more than you know.

A little about my background: I graduated from San Diego State in 2009 with a degree in Multimedia Design. At the time, I had no clear direction as to where I was going to go with my career. Using the economy as a blanket excuse for any and all problems is a tired justification, but if I can be real for a moment, graduating smack dab in the middle of the recession was terrible. TERRIBLE. I had zero job prospects when I was handed my diploma. Not a one. I moved back home with my parents and took on odd gigs here and there (medical billing, anyone?). I remember interviewing for temporary work at the mall that following November and going up against people who were far more qualified and far more educated than the job would ever require. And the result of those interviews? Futile. I couldn’t even get part-time, minimum wage, seasonal work! Needless to say, it wasn’t a high point in my 27 years.

But then in 2010, I applied for an In-House Scrapbooker / Product Designer position as American Crafts. I was absolutely positive that I would never get the job (I lived in Southern California, the position was based in Utah), but within three weeks, John and I were living in Orem, Utah. Life is weird, you guys.

Working at my (then) dream job was an amazing, invaluable, unforgettable experience that taught me so much about design, marketing, and finding things to do on a Sunday in the Mormon bible belt. But almost two years into the job, I was unexpectedly laid off. I was crushed. I was shocked. I was panicked. There was no way in hell that John and I were going to stay in Utah a single minute longer, but how in the world were we going to pay for all of our moving expenses and still have money left over once we got to California?

Out of desperation, I posted a few rubber stamp designs (that I had previously made for myself) in my online shop, not expecting anyone to buy them. Within an hour after posting, I had a handful of sales. I couldn’t believe it! People really wanted to buy my designs? This was incredible! And that’s where the ball got rolling. The sales continued to grow and grow and for the first time ever, I truly believed I could support myself without the steady financial backing of a company. I had cash flow and confidence. Things were looking up.

By the time I returned home to California (peace out, Utah), I begin working part time with Amy Tan, taking on various freelance design projects, and selling more and more stamp designs in my shop. I was lucky enough to receive some press from big names including Swiss Miss, Oh Hello Friend, Fab.com, Cup of Jo, Uncovet, and a handful of others, which helped launched my business even further than I ever imagined. Each day was a new adventure and I couldn’t believe I was actually getting to live life on my own terms!

Over the past two years, I’ve grown my business in different ways. I’ve expanded my shop to include new products. I’ve put my graphic design background to work on various freelance projects. I’ve tried my hand at producing e-courses. I’ve creatively collaborated with various individuals and companies. I’ve blogged professionally. I’ve delved deeper into photography and styling. And as always, I’ve continued to craft and make things with my hands. I’m nowhere near where I want to be professionally, but I have full faith that I will get there in due time.

Now, living in Pasadena with my husband and a baby on the way, I’m still freelancing and enjoying the adventure that it is. I will admit that life is getting more and more expensive all the time (private health insurance, car repairs, and baby expenses are a few of the big culprits) and there are many occasions when money can be tight. I’m fortunate that my husband works a steady 8-5 job as a graphic designer, so the consistency of his paycheck helps to balance out the unpredictability of my income greatly. But the truth is, we are a team. I feel just as responsible for our financial future as John does, so we both do our part to make sure we are creating a solid fiscal foundation month after month.

Even though everyday is a different experience and I often ask myself “WHAT AM I DOING?!,” it’s an amazingly gratifying life and I’m so happy to be along for the ride.

nesting.

Posted on: Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nesting | Ann-Marie Loves

Yesterday was one of those days where everything that seemingly could go wrong, went wrong. The morning started off with a nice little reminder that we live in the heart of earthquake country. Then my appointment at the DMV to update my name on my license was rendered useless when the computer system across the state was down indefinitely. Finally, a quick stop to the tire store to repair a minor leak turned into three new tire purchases. WHOA BABY.

But strangely, I was unfazed by all of this. I mean, what can I do? There are better ways to channel my energy. Like reorganizing my closet and purging as much of my personal belongings as possible (all when I should be filing taxes, natch). I don’t know if it’s the nesting instinct kicking in early or simply the spring cleaning bug, but I have been wanting to simplify and downsize my life like nobody’s business recently. I love when I can get into the mindset of “EVERYTHING MUST GO.”

While cleaning out my craft stash again, I managed to fill up another two boxes of supplies. The bare essentials are all I need these days! If you’re looking for a large flat rate box stuffed with awesome crafting supplies, I’m your girl.

Maybe I’ll go get started on my taxes now. Right after I organize the pantry ;)

pigment | san diego.

Posted on: Monday, March 17, 2014

Pigment | San Diego | via Ann-Marie Loves

I follow a few cool San Diego gals on Instagram and there always seems to be a common denominator amongst their feeds: Pigment! So of course, while in San Diego last week, I had to check it out for myself to see what the hype was all about. The verdict? Pigment far exceeded the hype. I mean, this shop has everything that I want: home goods, stationery, baby accessories, a succulent bar…!

Pigment | San Diego | via Ann-Marie Loves

I must have done five laps around the store, trying to take in every last detail, making sure I didn’t miss anything! I walked away with a Rifle card and a porcelain bunny nightlight for the nursery, but if money was no object, I would surely take one of everything.

Pigment | San Diego | via Ann-Marie Loves

Pigment, you’re a gem.

P.S. While in the North Park neighborhood, I also highly recommend stopping by Coffee + Tea Collective! Five words: BEST LATTE OF MY LIFE. Not only are the drinks wonderful, but the actual shop itself is modern, airy, and full of inspiring details that make me wish I was a local!

basicgrey layouts.

Posted on: Friday, March 14, 2014

BasicGrey Layout | Ann-Marie Espinoza

While organizing and purging everything I possibly could from my office yesterday, I stumbled upon a handful of layouts from CHA Winter that I hadn’t shared yet! I love when free blog fodder drops into my lap. Literally ;)

BasicGrey Layout | Ann-Marie Espinoza

Spice Market is one of my most favorite new collections to come along in quite some time. The saturated colors, the eclectic blend of patterns, and a handful of new embellishments all make it so much fun to play with! For this layout, I used a mix of patterned papers, Snippets, die cuts from the coordinating waterfall pack, and a one of the awesome new metal shapes.

BasicGrey Layout | Ann-Marie Espinoza
BasicGrey Layout | Ann-Marie Espinoza

For this layout, I used a combo of Capture patterned papers, element stickers, Scrabble chipboard letters, journaling + phrase cards from from the waterfall pack, and wood veneers that I painted with yellow craft paint. I love all the bright pops of colors in the latest Capture release! Totally up my alley.

BasicGrey Layout | Ann-Marie Espinoza
BasicGrey Layout | Ann-Marie Espinoza

Getting married and going on a honeymoon right before the tradeshow season gave me LOTS of photo options to pull from! (Heck, I’m still pulling from them!) For this page, I used more of the Capture patterned papers, die cuts from the waterfall pack, and a strip of the awesome new printed washi tape.

BasicGrey Layout | Ann-Marie EspinozaBasicGrey Layout | Ann-Marie Espinoza

For this last project, I used more of the Spice Market collection, including lots of label stickers from the waterfall pack and my new favorite printed chipboard alphas. Happy photos call for happy color palettes and that’s exactly what this line provided!

P.S. In my cleaning / organizing / purging whirlwind yesterday, I filled three large flat rate boxes of scrapbooking + craft supplies that need to find new homes. You can claim yours here! (Domestic shipping only – thanks for your understanding!)

miniature wardrobe.

Posted on: Thursday, March 13, 2014

Baby Girl Wardrobe | Ann-Marie Loves

When I was in the market for a new apartment, I had a voracious appetite for anything + everything home furnishings. When I was getting married, I couldn’t get enough of wedding blogs and crafternoons. And now that I’m having a baby? I can’t seem to get my fill of baby clothes! Like all seasons of life, there’s always something piquing my interest, but this just might be my most favorite season yet. Here are some of my favorite places to collect adorable miniature ensembles:

Baby Gap. OH YES. Despite Kathleen Kelly deeming this store “depressing,” it has quickly become my happy place. If my budget would allow for it, I would outfit my daughter in every single item of clothing that the store sells….! Everything is so well-designed and often has me longing for items in my own size. But, truth be told, I only shop at BG when they’re having one of their killer sales or if I have a coupon code I can use.

Target. Alright, so this is a no-brainer. As if I didn’t have enough reasons to give Target my constant business, now I have another. Part of the reason I was so desperate for a girl in the first place was because the baby clothes of the female persuasion at Target are just so much cuter than those of the masculine variety (why is that?). Every time I’m there, I comb through the sales racks to see what’s been newly discounted and always seem to walk away with a new gem (or five!).

Thrift stores. Thrifting for babies is easily my new favorite pastime. There’s nothing better than the thrill of the hunt when it involves impossibly cute clothes, toys, and books selling for a fraction of their original cost. $0.59 onesies for the win!

Hand-me-downs. I’m thrilled to be the lucky recipient of some of the most amazing vintage pieces (a few dating back to the 60′s) that my mom saved for her future grandchildren. I’ve been warned by several sources that babies grow incredibly fast, so I am more than happy to collect hand-me-downs!

As a result of shopping like it’s my second job, I’ve learned a few things about my tastes. For one, I am amazed at how many otherwise stylish articles of clothing are ruined with cringeworthy phrases (“Daddy’s Special Princess”) or embellished with way-too-cutesy graphics. Who decided that babies should be banned from having good style? And secondly, if I see something that I want in my own size, there’s no way I can resist buying for my daughter (mini adult clothes!). Despite the fact that my gal isn’t even here yet, I’m already mourning the day that she outgrows her bite-sized wardrobe! Oh man, I’m in too deep.

Moms, where do you find stylish clothes for your little ones? Do tell!

(from left to right, top to bottom):

1. Pastel Stripe Bodysuit // 2. Pink Cable Knit Crew Sweater // 3. Circo Dot Print Bodysuit  // 4. Eyelet Flutter Dress // 5. Vintage Yellow Romper // 6. Striped One Piece // 7. Love You to the Moon Bodysuit // 8. Eyelet Trim Bodysuit // 9. Circo Pink Striped Bodysuit // 10. Vintage Pink + White Dress // 11. Vintage Onesie // 12. Printed One Piece

workspace wednesday | freelancing.

Posted on: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Things I've Learned About Freelancing | Ann-Marie Loves

It’s always around this time of year that I start to question why the heck I ever became a freelancer.

As everyone else (or so it seems) is turning in their W-2′s and talking about how they will spend their tax refunds, I’m gathering together a mountain of receipts, tallying up miles driven, calculating my expenses against my income, and kicking myself for not being more organized the year before. Ah yes, tax season.

With that said, freelancing is a wonderful thing. Sure, maybe I hate myself for a few days out of the year, but for the other 360? I love my life. It’s unpredictable, it’s stressful, it’s a straight-up breeding ground for self-doubt, but gosh darn it, I have no one to answer to but MYSELF. I set my own schedule. I go to sleep and wake up whenever my body wants. If I need to take a day off, I take that day off. I am constantly pushed to try new things and grow creatively to keep income flowing (for better or worse). And most importantly, once my daughter arrives this summer, I’ll be able to stay at home with her for as long as I need to (although paid maternity leave sure would be nice!).

Here are some things I’ve learned about being a freelancer over the past two years:

Taxes are expensive.  I pay taxes on a quarterly basis and while I dread writing a meaty check to the IRS every three months, it’s a small price to pay to be able to live life on my own terms.

Time is finite. Time is precious and the time to make things happen is now. In the past I tended to drag my feet when it came to taking charge of my goals and making things happen, but recently I’ve been able to break out of that mindset more often and it’s paid off tenfold. After all, if I don’t go after my dreams, who will?

Charge what you are worth. Oh gosh, I hate dealing with pricing. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I hate sending off e-mails with my price sheet and wondering if I charged too much or too little for the task and the client at hand. I hate asking for raises. But even more than that, I hate working for free. Sure, it’s okay to do pro-bono work every once in awhile (especially for a person or a cause I truly love!), but when projects get dragged out longer than expected or additional assignments get tacked on without any extra compensation, it leads to resentment and discontent. And really, that hurts both parties. This is why it’s paramount to charge what you are worth from the very beginning. (Remind me of this the next time I tense up over a pricing inquiry!)

Money is a renewable resource. This is probably the biggest lesson I keep learning and re-learning over and over again. When the jobs are rolling in and the money is flowing, I feel powerful and confident and hopeful. But when the gigs are less frequent and my bank account is starting to dwindle? Not a good feeling. Money often feels elusive, like it will never return again, but somehow, some way, it always comes back. Recently I’ve learned that the best way to break out of money ruts is to get creative! Being forced to come up with new sources of income is a great way to push my creative boundaries and try new things that I may not have otherwise had the confidence to pull off. Many of the ideas that I put into action out of a need to pay the bills (i.e. rubber stamps and e-courses, to name a few) have turned out to be my most profitable revenue streams yet! BE BOLD, BE BOLD, BE BOLD.

E-mails are a necessary evil. I’m going to be honest: I don’t love dealing with e-mail. While I would choose it ANYDAY over talking on the phone, it still has a way of taunting me. Lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to stay on top of my inbox every single day, but admittedly, I still fall short.

Be honest. Even when you are your own boss, you’re still going to deal with unpleasant circumstances. When an unhappy customer e-mails me about an issue, I listen to their concerns and offer solutions to the problem (even if it means my feelings are hurt or I have to eat the cost of an item). When I make a mistake on shipping, I own up to it and fix the problem on my own dime ASAP. When I find out a client and I have a miscommunication, I take a step back and apologize where need be. But most importantly, I have to be honest with myself. If something doesn’t feel right or I’m not 100% in love with the product I am about to launch into existence, I have to own up to it and make the necessary changes (even if I hate every minute of it!)

I am never stuck. Knowing that I have a college degree and real-world experience in my back pocket provides me with a mental safety net. I feel confident that if someday freelancing is no longer a viable option for myself and my family, I can always go back to a more traditional career path. (However, after having a taste of self-employment, I am more motivated than ever to stick with it as long as I possibly can!)

The beauty of freelancing is that it really is freedom; just so long as you are doing things that make you FEEL free.

if this isn’t nice, i don’t know what is.

Posted on: Tuesday, March 11, 2014

20 Weeks | Ann-Marie Loves

I love Kurt Vonnegut’s quote: “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Well, right there, on the beach in Coronado, as the sun was dipping into the Pacific and the waves were crashing at my feet, I was thrilled to be exactly where I was. Twenty weeks pregnant, married to an amazing human being, and happy in that moment.

John and I are not a perfect couple. Far from it, actually. I could provide you with a laundry list of all of our flaws, both individual and collective, but really…who is perfect? We’ve been together long enough to know that we can handle life together. It’s hard and messy and full of surprises, but we can handle it. We’re about to embark on our biggest adventure thus far and it simultaneously thrills and terrifies us. We’ve tried many times to wrap our brains around what having a child will be like, but have come to the conclusion that we won’t be able to fully grasp the sheer magnitude of it until we’re knee deep in the throes of it. And that’s okay. We can read baby books, we can pick the brains of every mom we know, we can Google any and all questions that come to mind, but we won’t know what it’s really like until it’s here. No need to plan the unplannable.

So in the meantime, I intend to savor our lives as they are, this minute, this week, this month. Because if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

knitting.

Posted on: Monday, March 10, 2014

Knitting a Baby Blanket | Ann-Marie Loves

Knitting is one of those hobbies that I pick up, become obsessed with for a few weeks, and then promptly forget about for months at a time. So really, it’s no surprise that my skills are pretty rudimentary (knit stitch, anyone?). But despite my limited expertise, I absolutely adore this craft and have recently had a sudden desire to see a knitted project all the way to fruition.

Knitting a Baby Blanket | Ann-Marie Loves

I started working on a blanket (in decidedly feminine shades of pink, purple, and mustard) a few months back, but I didn’t want to label it as a “baby blanket,” for fear that it would jinx my dreams of having a girl. (I’ve never been more superstitious in my entire life than I have over these past five months!) But then when I found out the baby is indeed a girl, all bets were off. It was GO TIME. Now every free moment I get, I’m chipping away at this blanket, stitch by stitch, row by row. Incorporating different colors into my design has proven to be a fantastic motivator. Since I can literally see my progress based on the amount of times each color gets worked in, I’m super driven to keep it going until the very end. My (ahem, lofty) goal is to finish the whole thing by the end of the month, but honestly, if I can wrap it up by the time the baby gets here, I just might consider myself a real live “knitter” ;)

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