A Miami Guide to Photo Styling

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That’s it! I’m moving to Miami.

Okay, not really but it would be nice, wouldn’t it? Hot temps, killer cocktails, and art deco architecture that makes you stop in your gladiator sandals – what could be more tempting?

Over the past three months, I’ve been on a bit of a travel splurge. I managed to cover five cities in five weekends; eating up (literally and figuratively) every bite of culture possible. September took me to New Orleans, where the French-inspired artwork, jazz music and cajan tastes filled the streets. October started in Sea Island, Georgia and ended on what would become the unintentional Florida excursion: Miami one week, spontaneous Taylor Swift concert in Tampa the next, and two weeks after that, a trip to Orlando Disney’s Magic Kingdom for a work conference. Not bad, aye?

Not only did was the site seeing creatively inspiring, but it also brought me back to basics. Take South Beach Miami for instance. Yes, the streets may be filled with barefoot tourists and restaurant hostesses tempting you with BOGO margaritas, but the city has an added pop. It’s inspired by the art deco era of architecture and I just can’t get enough.

The art deco style is characterized by its bold geometric shapes and vibrant, high contrast colors. Though the style is often noted for it’s symmetry, it is also renowned for it’s intricate ornamentation. Now now, I won’t make you sit through another art history class (am I the only person in the world who got anything out of those?!), but I will give you the goods on how to take this deco-fab look with you.

Upon arriving home and making my travel photos frame-ready, I realized these art deco photographs highlighted each of the styling techniques I use daily. As we all know, it’s the smallest details that can elevate your social media pages the most. Let’s talk photo styling, shall we?

The off center photo on the left let's the fruit take the stage. The green apples are a perfect contrast against the pink of the fruit's skin.
The off-center photo on the left lets the fruit take the stage. The green apples are a perfect contrast against the pink of the fruit’s skin.

The Rule of Thirds. There is something beautiful about a perfectly centered shot; but there is something interesting about an off-center frame. Let the items in the back of the frame tell a story too. Try it at home: use the gridlines on your iPhone camera to map out your space.


 

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Create Angles. The straight and narrow is an obvious choice. Adding a sharp angle to your photo makes for unexpected drama. Try it at home: perhaps that marble cheese board turns a sharp 45 degrees before snapping the holiday tabletop pic.


 

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For added drama, take your negative space to the max by highlighting a single object in your shot. But don’t forget the rule of thirds!

Never Forget Negative Space. My coworker makes fun of me for this one (It needs more negative space, dang it!). I am a true believer that the items in your photo should be balanced by the same amount of negative space. My OCD can be at ease! Try it at home: start with a blank canvas an step back – literally. Your morning read and Christmas socks will shine a little brighter by using your cozy white comforter as negative space.


 

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Taken in Sea Island, Georgia. I love the way the palms create an organic frame around this sanctuary. Natural details at their finest!

Add life. Avoid the art history still life paintings you studied by adding life to your photographs. Try it at home: live plants dangling from your styled #shelfie or even a hand reaching for popcorn on your Sunday vibes post will work.


 

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Don’t forget the hidden detail. People appreciate the authenticity in your posts. Don’t skimp on making sure you capture ever detail. Try it at home: an ornate vintage tea cup can add instant style to a stale coffee table shot.


Lastly, the golden rule. Always, always photograph your subject in natural light. Yes, that even means your Christmas tree!

Share your shots with me on Instagram with #boldwithblanc. Happy styling! 

 

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Meet Designer Ashley Rodriguez Reed

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We see thousands of photos a day. Our Instagram feeds are filled with the perfectly polished coffee table and pumpkin spice lattes have made their cameo appearance in every fashion blogger’s ootd. We drool, we scroll, we repeat. It’s not often when we stop to notice something different.

In the overwhelmingly huge Javits Convention Center, I stopped.

This past spring, I flew to New York to get inspired by the National Stationary Show. The work of each vendor was exquisite. Though, after walking aisle by aisle, I began to notice a lot of similarities around me. I could easily spot the top five trends in the stationary biz.

Getting lost in the maze of the convention center, my senior designer and I found ourselves wandering into the SURTEX marketplace. Surtex is the global B2B marketplace for sourcing original art & design—where artists, art agents, licensing agencies and licensors connect with manufacturers and retailers to create the next best-selling products in every category imaginable.

The first booth I saw was Ashley’s. My senior designer and I both stopped – yes, physically stopped and looked (a rarity at these shows). Ashley Rodriguez Reed had something that the others didn’t. She had flare. Originality. Spunk. Complexity. Her work was captivating.

This summer, I got to know a bit more about Ashley and the inspiration behind her unique patterning. As an artist and designer, Ashley has set her goal on a surface pattern line full of textiles, wall paper, and more. As a teacher, she continues to inspire young artists and designers.

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Tell me about your brand. What do you stand for as an artist?

I started to develop my brand in 2015 when I committed to building a business around surface pattern design. My style is meant for people who love art, color, and fun! I make artwork that is inspired by many different things, but my artistic style of using layering and texture brings a unique element.


I want my artwork to bring joy, inspiration and a sense of play into people’s lives.


I couldn’t agree more! When did you know you wanted to pursue art as a career?

I knew very early on that I wanted to be an artist. In elementary school, art was my favorite subject. It was the only class I could easily focus on. In college, I thought I wanted to do fashion design, but that changed to fine art. I liked the freedom that a BFA would give me. I studied printmaking and textile design before going on to my MFA in Fiber and Material Studies. Now I am a designer, teacher and fine artist.

That sounds like quite the full schedule. What are your day-to-day activities like?

Right now everything has been all over the place due to my move to San Fransisco. When I get back into a routine, my day to day would be teaching art, drawing or painting at my home studio, continuing to build collections, and working on my overall brand. With my fine art practice, finding time to work on art projects varies. If I have a show, I might be in a larger studio space screen printing and building on the weekends. The past 3 years I was teaching undergraduates as an adjunct professor at Tyler School of Art. That was an amazing experience!

This year, I had worked toward SURTEX by building my brand. I’ve always found ways to piece things together and continue to balance work and art making. It can be nerve-racking at times to have a lot of unknowns but it’s also freeing.

How would you describe your style? What inspires you most?

My style is a mixture of geometric + bold meets texture + illustrative. I’ve always gravitated towards pattern, lots of color, and layering. Nature is my favorite place to look. There’s so much interesting beauty in nature. There’s also the relationship we have with nature from how we cultivate it, shape it, and sadly destroy it. I’m interested in cycles in nature, growth, and transformation.

I also love fashion. Fashion is interesting because it changes all the time and it’s a way to express ourselves. I love seeing people take creative risks and wearing bold prints with confidence!

I hear ya! With several creative outlets available at your finger tips, you have to have a favorite. Which medium keeps you loving what you do?

My favorite creative outlet is printing. I love screen-printing without a plan. For example, I might make a few screens and then overlap and layer different patterns and create different compositions from them. I also like to play with different materials and see what they can do. In graduate school, I found that cardboard was in an abundant supply. I decided to work with it and see how I can sculpt with it. It was a challenge but the more I made, the better I understood how to push the material. I like that kind of process.

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You have taken patterning to another level. What is it about patterns that you enjoy?

I’ve always enjoyed how patterns express so much. For example, if you see a certain type of pattern, you may be able to identify the culture and/or time it comes from. It is like another language that can tell us about a person, place, or thing.

Creating pattern is very stimulating. It is mesmerizing as well. Even though surface pattern is so prevalent, there is still a skill to designing a very interesting pattern. I like playing with structure and color. A good pattern has to be considerate of this.

I’m in love with your cod pattern (above pillows)! What made you decide to work animals into your new line?

Thank you! When I first started, I made patterns that were less illustrative, with only abstract shapes and designs. Then I realized how much I love and adore animals and illustration. About halfway through designing my collections, I really began to draw animals because they make me happy! I thought, why not start to draw them and see where it goes. A lot of pattern for children has animals but I wanted to make animal patterns that adults could enjoy just as kids do.

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What goals do you have for your artwork? How would you like it placed in the design world?

I would like to have a line of fabric that people can buy yardage from and make anything they want with it such as bags, pillows, or clothing. I see my work as many types of products and it would be amazing to see what other people do with them. I want the patterns to be used creatively by people who like to make, style, and design themselves.

What advice do you have for emerging artists?

Keep making no matter what! It’s hard to find time when we have other jobs and life obligations. Creating a space that you can work in is also helpful. If you don’t make a place or set aside time, it will slip away. Stay connected to other artists and ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if there’s something you want to know. It can be scary to put yourself out there but it’s the only way. Don’t be afraid of what other people say. I’ve had many moments where I’m thinking to myself, I must be crazy for making/drawing this. What am I doing? But then, I just keep going. You have to have faith that it will work out through the process if you stick with it.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I think I’ll still be living in the Bay Area and probably doing a combination of what I’m doing now. Teaching is a passion of mine and I want to continue to be an artist/designer and educator. In five years, I want to have seen my artwork licensed on a line of textiles and see how people have been inspired to use them. I would love to see my pattern on home interior textiles or wallpaper. I’m excited about where it will go! I’m looking forward to more collaborations with businesses, artists, and students!

The Quick 5!

A musician/band you never get sick of is: Pink Floyd

Your favorite outfit in your closet is a: jersey knit tank dress. So simple and easy!

Coffee or Smoothie? Coffee!

Beach bum or Mountain climber? Climb the mountain to get to a beach.

Role model: My mom


Find Ashley online:

http://www.ashleyrodriguezreed.com

@ashleyrodriguezreed

 

Get the Look: Aspen Inspiration

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When you’re a florist’s daughter, you spend lots of time “smelling the roses;” drifting off into a creative space making your own floral arrangements and crafting holiday cards. In my glamorous elementary years, I discovered I had a knack for art. PlayDough, paint by number, stained glass kits… these were in abundance. During my middle school years I took things more seriously (ha!), dabbling with terracotta, paint brushes, and the art of collage. I loved working on paper, but there was one subject matter I became most fond.

I loved to rearrange my room. I mean, LOVED. My  rectangular personal hang-out would have a new vibe at least once every other month. If I couldn’t rearrange my own room (because let’s face it, my mom got sick of me moving furniture), I’d go over to my friends’ houses and rearrange theirs. I even convinced my family friend’s parents to let me rearrange their basement… I was like, fourteen.

Needless to say, I get a little excited at the thought of new and innovative design. I’m a regular ol’ sponge, if you will; ready to soak up fresh takes and up and coming design aesthetics.

Not much has changed in the past decade. I still love bringing new items into my home (tour here), and though I may not completely remodel the carriage house, it’s always nice to add fresh touches. And don’t worry, the decor list for my first home is on-point! I gather inspiration from some of my favorite designers, as well as elements around me. Some of my most recent (drool-worthy) inspo came from a work trip I took to Aspen, Colorado.

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I have to say, I’m pretty lucky to get to travel with my career as a graphic designer. Not to mention, I’m traveling with some of my best friends. I can’t name too many people that get those perks. Though there are many cities on my wish-list to visit, but oddly enough, Aspen wasn’t one of them. Sure, mountains are cool and all but… they’re mountains.

Boy, was I wrong. (I mean, duh.)

Each and every corner was a bit more breathtaking than the next. Color was everywhere and the architecture was so diverse that I don’t even know how to categorize it in my brain. Look left for cottages and look right for modern basket-weave architecture (is that even a thing?! YES.).

I’d have to say that one of my favorite spots was Hotel Jerome. I was color-crushing every. single. room. The deep blues of the cafe complimented the cowhide floor panels in such a unique way. The Prospect Room was a lighting-guru’s dream with sconces that could blow you away. Not to mention the chocolate striped flooring, rope-filled wall panels, and moldings that even the big-wigs would drool over.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Jerome
Photo courtesy of Hotel Jerome
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Photo courtesy of Hotel Jerome
Photo courtesy of Hotel Jerome
Photo courtesy of Hotel Jerome

In the week upon my return, I was not only jet-lagged and tired as hell, but I was also craving more design; more adventure. On August 12th, the Charleston West Elm store held it’s grand opening, including private tours for tastemakers in the area. I saw so much of Aspen in West Elm’s latest collection. It was the chic and luxurious side of  masculine industrial design, not to mention the range of worldly decor elements.

A decade ago, I thought Hobby Lobby would be my signature style guide for everything chic in the world. Well, no offense to Hobby Lobby, but I’m happy I grew out of that bubble. Design inspiration can come from anywhere. This month it’s Aspen and next, who knows? All I can do is keep exploring… and rearranging, of course. To wrap up, I’m sharing my favorite Aspen-inspired affordables from the latest edition to King Street, West Elm.

Happy shopping, my friends!

 

Meet Alexandra Styles

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I met Alexandra at St. Alban coffee shop on a sunny Wednesday morning. She walks in with a smile on (a usual look for her) and a boho, summer maxi-dress with the most delicate embroidered detailing. If you were meeting her for the first time, you would instantly feel welcome.

Alexandra Munzel, the creative behind Alexandra Styles, is a fashion stylist with an air of confidence. Her cool, calm, and collected personality draws you in as if she’s your hip older sister about to give you fashion advice. Her clientele (from Charleston to Dubai!) keeps her busy as she educates them on their own closets: what works for their specific body type and skin tone, which classic clothing elements to stick to, and what trends they can mix into their wardrobe. Her resume includes world traveling, styling celebrities for events like the Golden Globes, and building couture fashion brands from the ground up. Yet there is one thing about her that I like most: she is incredibly humble. Alexandra makes you feel instantly comfortable and has a “you-can-do-it” and “live-your-life” kind of mentality.

We order coffees and I splurge for The World’s Best banana bread. Right away we both get off on tangents about our goals and aspirations: then and now. I sit and listen to her stories and knowledge and think to myself how amazing her path has been and how my 24-year-old self still has so much ahead of me.

“Every path you take is a lesson,” she tells me.

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Alexandra Munzel, stylist behind Alexandra Styles

Tell me about the Alexandra Styles. Who are you as a company? What do you stand for?

“People often think my last name is “Styles,” which it’s not. I wanted to create a brand outside of my name because what I do is for other people, not for myself. When I created Alexandra Styles five years ago it was to help enable people to feel better about themselves through fashion. It was a merger of two entities I had a passion for… education and fashion.

I didn’t become a stylist because I had the financial means to do so. It’s actually quite the opposite. I didn’t grow up with money to spend on clothing and accessories. I had my first job when I was nine, delivering newspapers, and I’ve worked every year since. My father wanted me to learn the importance of making my own money and being able to manage it at a young age. So, I want people to know that it doesn’t require money to develop a sense of personal style; it takes a better understanding of one’s sense of self.  Then the  formula becomes simple: when we look good, we feel good.”


I want people to know that it doesn’t require money to develop a sense of personal style; it takes a better understanding of one’s sense of self.


 Describe your personal style. How does that play a role in your business?

“I try to practice what I preach and follow the rules that apply to my figure and coloring.  My personal style is rather eclectic but I always include a classic piece in my daily wardrobe. Trends come and go but the classics have major staying power in ones wardrobe. I tell my clients to spend their dollars on the pieces that will stay with them the longest. Not only will trends be out of style quickly, but not all trends work for all people.”

You have worn many hats over the years as a teacher, corporate PR manager, celebrity stylist, and boutique owner to say the least. How did those experience train you to start your own business? 

“I have had a lot of jobs in my life and I am often questioned why. For a long period of time, I just couldn’t settle into anything. It took me a while to relax, listen to my strengths, and trust myself. By the time I made the decision to start my own company, I was 35… hardly a young person anymore. However, I had enough experiences under my belt to make a very calculated decision. I’ll never forget – I was sitting at my dining room table, looking out the window, and it hit me.  I knew what I was going to do and it was going to start tomorrow. I’ve never looked back.”

We’re all dying to know… What was it like to style for A-list celebrities? How did that experience impact your styling perspective today?

“Every experience in one’s life has an impact on who we become. Working with A-list celebrities and stylists was wild, crazy, insane, stressful, and fun all at the same time. I quickly learned that there is a great irony which can exist within the fashion industry.  Fashion is beauty, art, composition, perfection and yet there is a very dark and ugly side to it. I told myself to always keep fashion fun and if at any time, I didn’t enjoy it, then I needed to walk away. “

Talk me through your design process. How have you mastered the art of styling?

“Whether I am styling one’s personal wardrobe or styling a shoot for a magazine, I always listen and pay attention to the subject matter. I try to get inside the person’s head and ask “what is their daily life like?” “what is this person’s needs?”. You need to know the functionality of the wardrobe.
Once I’m selecting clothing, I make a list of the client’s needs and really focus in on what I’m buying. There should never be a shock factor – it always has to make sense.”

What’s the next step for your brand?

“For better or for worse, my brain never stops. The only thing that inhibits me is time…there’s never enough of it.  Developments of a book and a TV show are on the top of the list but always with my goal in mind: I want to continue to help people feel better about themselves through fashion.”

What is your best networking strategy? 

Alexandra literally lol’s and humbly admits that she isn’t the best at networking. “My best strategy is being myself, always. If people like who you are, then great.  If they don’t like who you are, you just saved them, and yourself, a LOT of time.”

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your professional career?

“Give everyone a chance. It’s amazing the talents people have if they are put in the environment that lets those talents really shine. Always work hard and have good intentions. Listen twice as much as you speak.”

If you could give a piece of advice to young women in the professional world, what would it be?

“Live! Life is short. Take chances when you are young because you never get that time, innocence and ability to experiment back. Follow your passion and create something of your own. “

Just for Fun:

Quick! Dress me for an outdoor summer soiree. Ready, set, go:

“A neutral wedge shoe (beige or metallic) to elongate your legs and so you don’t sink into the grass. I’d go with a dress that flatters your figure and personality – either a bright color that complements your skin tone or a print that isn’t too large. Patterns and prints are important because they can either magnify or swallow a person depending on their figure.”

Name your go-to Charleston lunch spot. 
“A sandwich from Normandy Farms sitting on a park bench with a great friend.”
Describe your home’s style in 3 words. 
“Eclectic, classic, and colorful…sound like my wardrobe?”
Afternoon drink on the beach or cocktail on the rooftop? 
“A drink on the beach”
What’s your favorite place to travel?
“Any place that I’ve never been.”

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 Don’t miss a style beat! Follow Alexandra on social media:

Blanc on The Everygirl’s Home Tour

Today is filled with excitement as I share something very dear to me – my home! I had the pleasure of hosting one of my favorite blogs,The Everygirl, and photographer Nancy Beale at my Charleston abode, where we talked about home decor, graphic design, and Blanc’s “ah-ha” moment.

See the entire feature on The Everygirl!

meet the blush label

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BLANC_TheBlushLabelHow do you define style? Google defines the noun as “a distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed.” But come on, isn’t style way more than that?

Some of us dream of Clueless Cher’s revolving closet of the 90’s – bound forever to fashion forward magazines and the styles found in local boutiques. Others focus on style at home – form, function, and originality. There is an entire multi-million dollar industry focusing on this word. Style. It’s quite overused, wouldn’t you say?

Let’s remix this baby. Redefine style and what do you get? Confidence, originality, trend-setting, unexpected combinations, courage, poise, unique details, and ultimately, a defined design.

As a designer, a pet peeve of mine is to see inspired works overused in the industry (chevron, you poor thing…). Skilled designers are emerging daily, but who’s to decide if they have this newly-defined style or not? I’ll tell you one thing, The Blush Label nailed it.

Meet sisters Christie and Mary, the design duo and creative directors of happy hour and home. The two may not have revolving closets, but they dream of a day when the linens in their homes would be as colorful and lively as the clothes in their closets. Posh patterns and layered color combinations rule the scene in their works. There is a sophisticated chicness that overtakes you into a sea of tropical color combinations.

They have formed a brand that truly embodies style. I spoke with Mary to get the label’s full story: where they started, who they’ve become, and what advice they have for women entrepreneurs.

Try not to drool, okay?

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Tell me about the Blush Label. Who are you as a company? What do you stand for?

“The Blush Label is a home decor and entertaining accessories company based in North and South Carolina. We’ve designed our line to be functional and affordable with a bright color palette. Since we launched our line, it’s been important for us to stay true to our design aesthetic and to our affordable prices.”

How did you start? Who had the “big idea” and when did you know it was time to say “let’s do it.”?

“We were on a trip to Puerto Rico in 2012 when we decided to start the business, but it took us two years of prep work before we even launched. Starting a business doesn’t happen overnight! We launched a blog first (Things That Make Us Blush) to make sure there was a market for what we wanted to do, after that we decided to go for it.”

What challenges did you have in your first year? How much did self doubt play into things, if any?

“There were a lot of challenges and of course, there still are! But the important thing is to always stay true to yourselves and true to your customers. We’ve had glitches in the system and orders take longer than expected, but those issues happen when you’re a small business. The important thing is how you deal with those issues that will set you apart. It’s important to believe in yourself – always. We can’t stress that enough. There are times when we’ve doubted projects or product lines and they’ve ended up being huge for us. The important thing is to try and to not take it personally if a particular product doesn’t do well.”

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You started with cocktail napkins. Why is that?

“We launched our business in phases to ensure that we weren’t overwhelmed when we first started. It was a decision that worked very well for us. If you’re starting a business, test the waters with what you can handle first and then expand from there. Doing that will help you refine your processes in small increments along the way.”

What other product have you designed since the cocktail napkin?

“It wasn’t until High Point Market that we realized how many products we now offer! Decorative pillows, coasters, place-mats, glassware, serving trays and silk scarves.”

What makes you different from the other entertaining retailers?

“What makes us different is our design aesthetic and pricing. We offer quality products at an affordable price in bold color schemes, and we also design everything in-house – you can’t find it anywhere else!

BLANC_TheBlushLabelTell me about your individual styles. How did you merge those? How do each of your strengths play into The Blush Label?

“Christie’s style is more bold like Kelly Wearstler, but mine is a little more classic. I love the classic blue and white scheme with pops of color. One thing we do agree on is our love for gold – we aren’t big on silver finishes. Everything in our line was originally inspired by our father’s native Puerto Rico. The island is oozing beautiful, bright colors and we’ve incorporated those in our products. We also love to travel so while we were in the Amalfi Coast last year, we decided to bring in some of the colors we saw during that trip as well.

We each have different strengths, and we’ve divided those up to help our brand. Christie is the Creative Director so she designs everything and builds our product portfolio. I head up the business side of the company and handle our accounts, finances and PR. We both take on a lot, but we’re very supportive of each other in our areas of the business. We are constantly communicating, which is key for us! We hold FaceTime meetings three times a week to keep us on task.”

What goals have you accomplished as a company or personally at this point. What goals do you have for the future?

“It was our goal originally to make this into a full-time career for both of us and we’ve accomplished that, which is huge for us. Starting a business and working on it while having a full-time job is incredibly hard. There are a lot of late nights and early mornings, but as long as you have the drive and desire to make it happen, you can.

As a company, we’ve grown leaps and bounds within a year of launching. Our product portfolio has grown and we continue to open new accounts with great customers, stores and designers from around the world. We plan to continue growing from here by increasing our presence in the marketplace.”

What advice do you have for young women looking to start their own brand?

“1. Stop doubting yourself and go for it! We’re lucky to have each other to lean on when we hit a rough patch. Some entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of having a business partner (especially one from your family) so it’s important to always stay motivated.

2. Listen to the women who have done it before you. We met the founder of a well-established and fast-growing company the other day and her advice was on point for where we are in this stage of business. They’ve been there before and know what it’s like to be where you are in your stage of business.

3. Use the feedback you receive to improve your product. We did this after our first market and it helped us immensely with one of our product lines. Don’t take the feedback as someone being negative – use the feedback to your advantage to improve your line. This can be difficult since there are some products we’re attached to, but take a step back and really listen to your market.

4. Read! There is so much amazing material out there. Newspapers, blogs, magazines, editorials, etc. – stay informed about what is going on in your community and the marketplace.”

What’s your best seller?

“Coasters and glassware – we can hardly keep them in stock!

What’s your favorite piece?

“We both love the pineapple rocks glasses! The Bombay Scarf is another one of our favorites.”

 


Shop my favorites:


See more of The Blush Label online and on social media:

www.theblushlabel.com

@the_blush_label

Expectant

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Expectant, adj. –  having or showing an excited feeling that something is about to happen, especially something pleasant and interesting.

What do I expect out of life? A career. A family. A passion to strive for… Sure, those are the basics, but when it comes down to it, what do I really expect in life? Now that’s a loaded question. It’s one that I’ve thought more and more about over recent triumphs and criticisms in my career as a blogger.

Expectant. This is the name that the talented abstract artist, Maria Kamara, chose after painting a sun-filled array of yellows and golds for little old me. Flattered and thankful only begin to describe the feeling I had as I unpacked the canvas Maria sent to me with a note:

“…I was inspired by the energy, optimism and confidence found in your writing and blog. The painting reflects these traits with its bright yellows and flowing composition. Obviously these traits are in you, and I hope you continue to nurture them… The name “Expectant” anticipates all the good and positivity that will come from your efforts…”  – Maria

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In early January, Maria sent me an email that stemmed from a New Years resolution of hers to connect with other bloggers and professionals in the industry. With a heart of gold and a spirit that roams the entire sky, Maria Kamara had no idea what she was getting herself into when she offered to paint for me. We both had no idea how inspired we would leave each other.

I had the privilege of Skyping with Maria a few weeks ago. Besides comparing the warm Charleston winter to her frigid, snow-filled Michigan temperatures, Maria and I chatted about art, experiences, and the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

The self-taught artist started her career in a different platform: music. For years, Maria sang professionally while maintaining interest in fine art, fashion, and design. “I’ve always loved to draw and sculpt. I loved fashion and interiors too but my profession at the time was very focused. Other “arts” weren’t necessarily encouraged.” It wasn’t until she was pregnant with her first child that she began painting.

“I was truly painting in earnest,” she told me. Fourteen years later, she decided to start selling her art.

Why abstract?

“I’ve always appreciated abstract art. Even when I was in school for music, I would sneak next door to admire the fine artists’ work.” When Maria first started painting again, she started with still life drawings and then eventually evolved to an abstract artist. “I’m comfortable with the grays in life. It doesn’t have to be black or white for me.” I asked her the naive art’s question: how do you know when an abstract piece is done? She responds to me saying “You don’t, but I’m okay with that. I’m okay with something that may not be a finished thought or a finished piece.”


“I’m comfortable with the grays in life. It doesn’t have to be black or white for me.


 I love hearing what inspires artists. What artists are in your home? Do you have an favorite painter?

“I love collecting vintage unknown art (the mystery of it all again!). In my own home, I have one of my photographer friend’s work as well as many vintage pieces.” She goes on to tell me about her family and how they inspire her work, as well has two of her favorite artist: Marie Cassette and Alma Woodsy Thomas.

Blanc_MariaKamara

Why “Expectant”?

The entire time I spoke to Maria, there was something so inspirational about her. This woman has been through it all… school, an international singing career, motherhood, and now artist. She tells me about some of her ups and downs and what she’s learned along the way.

“When I look back at my 24-year-old self, I would tell myself not accept fear in my life. It only serves to diminish us or make us feel less than others. Comparison and fear will take away any creative freedom you have if you let it. There’s enough room for all of us!”

She tells me a story about a rough critic she once received that lead her to paint overtop of a thought-out piece of hers. The next day, someone wanted to buy the original work that was now nonexistent. “Be care who you listen to,” she tells me.  “You have to know when to take criticism and when to know in your heart what is right for you [or your painting]…”

Blanc_MariaKamara


Our two-hour discussion was more than just fulfilling. I left… expectant. Recently I have received some slack for a post of mine by an artist I admire. Though hurtful and discouraging, I have to remember to be expectant: to know that I’m blogging for a reason and that reason is to expand my own creative palette, as well as others’. It’s not to make money or make a career out of it, but rather to show the good in being a young 20-something and how to elevate yourself to be the best young professional/friend/chef/artist (you get the picture)  that you can be.

 

Maria’s work is currently featured in Gallery 602 in Holland, Michigan. You can also find her work online at www.MariaKamara.com or at her Etsy shoppe. Some of my favorite pieces of her’s are below:

Reece Blaire: meet the girls of sass, wit, & sophistication

BrandingPhotoShoot-91 Remember in middle school when you’d come home from school blabbing about how Suzie has way cuter clothes than you anddd her mom lets her wear mascara. SO not fair! You spent lunchable after lunchable pining over her pretty skirts, non-plastic pearls, and straightened hair. If girls in their 20’s still went to middle school, this Suzie character would be walking around with a custom, gold RB monogram necklace delicately placed around her neck.

This RB stands for Reece Blaire – the dynamic duo of up and coming jewelry designers.

ReeceBlaire Blanc I’ve known the girls of Reece Blaire for quite some time. Katelyn, Emily and I were all in the same sorority. Emily rushed first, then Katelyn, and I the following year. We did as all sorority sisters do: we laughed, we cried, and we threw a lot of parties that got us into trouble. Looking back, I can’t help but relate our time together with Reece Blaire’s three elements: Sass, Wit, and Sophistication.

They were certainly sassy… how else would we get rush numbers? But on the other hand, their wit always surprised me. Not that I ever thought they were a pair of dumb blondes, but I have distinct memories of Katelyn quoting the dictionary. I’m not even kidding. As far as sophistication goes, well, let’s just say it was a work in progress… We were in college after all.

All grown up with numerous lessons learned, they have turned these three attributes into a catchy slogan for their lifestyle blog and original jewelry designs. They describe these three elements as:

Sass

It is crucial for every woman to have. We’ve learned through experience that it is important not to be a pushover. Sometimes you just need to throw a little tamed sass into a difficult situation.

Wit

This explains itself. One of our most favorite quotes to date is, “Every time you are able to find humor in a difficult situation, you win.” Being able to laugh through a hard time is key to finding sanity.

Sophistication

Above all else, we strive to be sophisticated women. Undoubtedly, we both have our moments where our inner demons make an appearance, but you will never regret maintaining your poise in a less than favorable situation.

ReeceBlaire Blanc

With a year of tremendously consistent business under their belts, I have to wonder how they got started. The big idea took off with a blog.

“I preferred the fashion side of blogging,” Katelyn tells me, “Emily preferred the lifestyle and entertainment side, so it was a perfect pairing. Reece Blaire literally started through a text that went something like, “Hey Em, let’s start a blog and call it Reece Blaire.” Emily’s answer was very, very simple — “Okay!”

“After dabbling in blogging, we found some of Emily’s old jewelry she had crafted up for her wedding in 2011. I urged Emily to create some new pieces. She experimented with a few designs and hated them. I, on the other hand, loved them. Using our established social media accounts as a platform, we showcased the jewelry to get some feedback. The demand was instantaneous, so we ran with it!”

I’m sort of in the same boat – taking the social media route to creativity. What challenges did you have in the 1st year?

“LOL – literally,” they both chuckle. “We could probably write a novel on our first-year challenges alone. Aside from the normal challenges, like competitors and expenses, we became very frustrated with the lack of support from some of our peers. Naturally our family and close friends were amazingly supportive, but other acquaintances could be quite nasty at times. Ironically, the people who didn’t believe in us fueled our success by giving us a drive to work harder and become a better brand. And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate hate…”


If you lack confidence in your brand and the job you are doing, you are only setting yourself up for failure.


RBinsta
Follow the girls on Instagram for their latest releases: @reeceblaire

Why baubles?

“We went through multiple different ideas for taglines that would be catchy and embody Sass, Wit, & Sophistication. Baubles is an older term for jewelry that nobody really used. To be honest, we found the term “baubles” in a thesaurus search and formed a phrase around it. As our bangles look best in a stack, Keep Your Baubles Stacked seemingly formed itself. The bigger the better, right?”

I have to admit, there are so many bauble brands out there. How do you differentiate yourself?

“One of the main things we focus on is a strong brand image and brand identity. When we decided to pursue Reece Blaire as a career rather than a hobby, the first thing we did was rebrand. We want our customers to feel the Reece Blaire experience from the second they reach our website until they are wearing their purchased pieces. We strive for consistency. Our goal is for every customer, throughout every medium (retail locations, website, social media, trunk shows), to resonate with our brand and understand who we are as a business. We pay attention to every little detail from the filters on our photos to the captions on our pictures.”

Starting a business is a lot of work – everyone knows that. What goals have you accomplished as a company so far? What lies ahead?

“For the last year, we’ve both been pursuing Reece Blaire part-time. We’ve successfully rebranded, gotten our merchandise into over 80 retail locations, and increased our product line.”

Katelyn has finished her MBA and Emily has just recently had a baby (Congrats Em!). So now that they’ve reached some personal milestones, it’s time they focus on Reece Blaire. Katelyn will be pursuing Reece Blaire full-time, while Emily takes some time to be with her new born little girl. They are launching their new Reece Blaire Collection line this week (SWOON! My favorites, old and new, listed below), and have new arrivals lined up for February and March. “We are looking for a warehouse to move our business operations, and hope to expand our product line even more by August 2015. Long-run, we would love to be featured in a department store, such as Belk or have our own studio shoppe. Right now, we are taking it one day at a time!”

ReeceBlaire Blanc


Who says New Years Day doesn’t come with presents?

Since we’re no longer in middle school and we’re actually able to attain Suzie’s cool baubles without our mother’s help, Reece Blaire will be giving 20% off their website with the code BLANC20! Hurry, hurry – coupon code lasts until January 3rd. My favorites are linked below.

 Blanc Favorites via Reece Blaire:

www.reeceblaire.com

@reeceblaire

how to: strap & tassle necklace

necklace

You know that moment of absolute lust you get when seeing the perfect piece of jewelry? Yup, it happened. My stylish boss walked into the office with this killer boho necklace – a chunky leather strap (which had her initial embossed on one side) escalated down to these gorgeous stones and ending with a perfectly plump, oversize tassel. Ugh, I moaned. I want.

In the midst of The Every Girl’s 30-day-Wear-Your-Wardrobe challenge, I had sworn myself to not buy any new clothes or accessories for a month… not that I could afford the necklace anyway. Being the smartalic that I am, I knew I could find a loop hole. For those who can’t afford, make. And for those who can’t buy clothes, buy art supplies. Nailed it.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

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Depending on your beads, $25 should get you all the supplies you need to make this necklace.
  • A yard of 1″ thick leather, belt strapping, or ribbon of your choosing. You want to think durability here.
  • Crafting brads (these look like push pins that have two legs), any size
  • Mod Podge or another gluing agent
  • Craft wire. Be intentional with color.
  • Beads of your choosing. I went for a tribal look, but stones or agates will work too!
  • Fringe (I chose leather) or a string tassel

I spent a total of $21 at Hobby Lobby.

(Step No. 1)

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Make sure your ends don’t fray by using Mod Podge or glue

Secure your strap: use Mod Podge to seal the ends of your strap to avoid fraying. Once dry, fold about an inch of the strap over to make a loop and push your brads through the two layers. Separate the ends of the brads to secure the loop. I used small, antique copper brads so I used three on each side. If you have larger, more decorative brads, you can use less.

(Step No. 2)

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Tip: fold over your wire end to avoid getting caught in your strap.

Cut 4-feet of wire. Start by folding over the tip of your wire. This will avoid it getting caught in your strap material. Next, push about 18 inches of wire through the strap loop. Wrap the wire through your strap loop repeatedly so you get a layered look. Secure the loose (bent) end of your wire by twisting it around your newly created wrap.  String the first side of beads.

(Step No. 3)

Glue, roll, & hold to secure
Glue, roll, & hold to secure

Create your tassel. Simply apply glue to the top of your fringe and roll like a sleeping bag. Once your glue is dry, string your wire through the center hole, starting from the bottom and through to the top. Then, wrap the tassel’s top base for security (same as step one). Once you have a wrapped look you like, string your wire through the center hole again, starting from the bottom and through to the top. You should have a tassel that sits happily between the two sides of your necklace.

(Step No. 4)

I chose tribal beads for a neutral look
I chose tribal beads for a neutral look

String your beads on side two. Repeat step one to secure the other side of your necklace.

(Step No. 5)

Share your version on Instagram (@blancblog) or in the comment section below!
Share your version on Instagram (@blancblog) or in the comment section below!

Go rock your designer look-alike necklace. Share your version on Facebook and Instagram and tag me, @blancblog!