Friends & Family: Karen – Brush Strokes & Chef Goals

KarenIn my never ending list of talented cousins, the next one at bat is Karen! And as you may have seen from my previous Friends and Family posts, I write the corresponding blogs around the subject’s birthday to kind of pay homage to them in some way. Karen’s birthday just passed this Friday, so happy birthday prima!

By now, you guys probably all know that I enjoy pretty much all areas of crafting and creation of things, and I’m versatile with my hands, but if there’s one specialty I haven’t been able to master is cooking. I can sometimes get baking right, since everything is measured to a T, but unless there’s a military grade recipe to follow, there’s pretty much a guarantee I’ll mess it up. This is one of the reasons I admire Karen so much, because she not only crafts her heart out and can do just about any craft there is, but she can also cook amazingly well, and actually graduated just last year with her degree in culinary arts!

Karen has always been able to paint and draw fairly well, but she found her niche in the kitchen, and this has actually become her business endeavor with her sister Lizeth (her feature will come around her birthday in September). PKL “Un Mundo de Detalles” (A World of Details by PKL, PKL being their roommate Paola, Karen and Lizeth) was born in the Spring of 2017 as these three crafty and business savvy women came together to execute a plan for a full-service party decoration and gift basket company. From the beginning, they have explored multiple revenue avenues with gift kits or special holiday themed baskets, party planning/decorating services, catering and desserts. On their feed, you will see all kinds of creative cakes decorated in fondant for customers with all sorts of interests, whether they’re doctors or sports fans, their cakes are a clear (and yummy) reflection of their personality. And Karen is behind all of that.

She is a great chef, an avid baker, and a jack of all trades for crafting. With limited resources and in a very hard market, they have managed to get off the ground and grow the business little by little, and are in high demand for their work all around the city, and even beyond.

Whether she’s using a brush on a canvas or on a marinade, Karen is a tireless worker and always delivers on her promises. Her work is detailed and her professionalism in such a hard industry and 100% customer-facing role is admirable.

Here are some of my favorite Karen pieces:

She imitates Britto, but with her own twist, incorporating the culture and folklore of her native Colombia. She uses all mediums fearlessly and creates one of a kind masterpieces, every single week. For this and many more reasons, Karen is my Friends & Family feature this week, and I hope you follow her on her journey as she continues to grow and succeed.

Felicidades prima ❤

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Friends & Family: Francis – Little Jack of All Trades Who Packs a Punch!

FrancisFor today’s Friends & Family feature, I’ve selected my younger cousin Francis, whose birthday is coming up on the 29th so let’s wish her a happy early birthday from the WCB crew!

When I think of the Shakespearean line “and though she be but little, she is fierce,” it is literally personified by my cousin Francis. Short in stature but with the personality and strength of the Empire State building, this little tycoon has never had it easy, yet she manages to always have a smile on her face, and tackle any challenge that comes her way head on.

Francis, my other cousin Cindy and I hung out constantly through our childhood, and they probably influenced me more than they know. With the years and with the circumstances in Venezuela, we were far from each other geographically, but never in spirit. We always stayed in touch through the early stages of the technology boom of the 2000s, and every chance we got to reunite, we milked every second.

I won’t go into detail about her early life, but I will say that she was the most independent seven-year old you could’ve ever met, having lost her dad at a young age and fending for herself without any fear. A few years ago, Francis’s boyfriend moved from Venezuela to Minnesota to pursue a college baseball career, and asked her to come with him. She would study English, and depending on her visa permit, she’d work part time. By work, I mean she literally managed to cross every possible industry off the bingo card, doing the oddest, most physically demanding and out of her comfort zone jobs you can imagine. Upon her arrival, she started off as a server at a Mexican food restaurant. Can you imagine working as a server without speaking the native language? I remember being terrified for her. But she did it. From there, the road has been a roller coaster, to say the least. She worked at a corn factory canning corn, from 6:00pm until 6:00am. She worked in a car factory assembling parts. She worked at another factory building window frames, burning her hands constantly. She worked at an attorney’s office as a part-time assistant. She was a nanny. Any opportunity that came her way, she took.

Through all of that, there was one thing she took on that kept her sane and gave her an outlet for her creativity: she started making and selling jewelry.

 

This was probably one of the few things that kept her sane. She really enjoyed letting herself run with ideas, learn a new method every day, and proudly selling her work. And I SO commend her for that.

Today she’s going to school and working as a bank teller. When you look at the definition of uphill battle and the “American Dream,” this is it. I believe her dream is to be a dentist and I know if she sticks it out, she will get it done.

So Fanchi, I am SO proud of you for all you’ve gone through, all you’ve accomplished, and all you have yet to do. The sky is not the limit for you, but rather the beginning. Feliz cumple cosita ❤

Friends & Family: Little Interior Architect Extraordinaire

For this week’s Friends & Family feature, I’d like to give a shout out to my little, Ana! As you guys may know by now, I do these posts around the subject’s birthday, and Ana’s just so happens to be tomorrow so HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY LITTLE! Here’s a little tribute to your beautiful work, I hope you like it 🙂

If you’re wondering why I call Ana my little, it’s because we met when she joined our sorority (Delta Phi Epsilon) a year after I did, and we miraculously met the day her class was picking big sisters, and that first meeting made enough of an impact on both of us that we ended up as big and little. Thankfully, our first impression was right and we were a match made in heaven! 10 years later, we have a beautiful friendship that I cannot wait to keep growing ❤

Ana was an Architecture turned Interior Design major at FIU. Basically, professional crafting on steroids (it’s not for nothing they call it “architorture”), and she’s really really really great at it. Her sophomore year (while she was still declared under architecture) she had to participate in this annual event called a Walk on Water, where architecture students had to build, to put it simply, over-sized floating shoes that would allow them to cross the FIU lake as if they were walking on water. How did Ana do? If you opened the previous link, you know that SHE WON OF COURSE! The structures her and her partner built got them to cross the lake in one minute and thirty seconds flat. They’re even listed on the FIU Architecture Wikipedia page, how cool is that? There were many contests Ana won over the years, including a memorial design. There’s nothing she can’t do ❤

Walk on Water 2007

Walk On Water students ready to make their walk!

Throughout Ana’s career, she had to build a number of models for her classes, which took a lot of time and dedication (and some of her skin) in the process. Here are some pictures I shot of them with my professional camera:

After going through half of her architecture major, Ana decided to change majors to Interior Design. In my opinion, she would’ve succeeded regardless but this was definitely the right move for her, because her eye for detail is just what is needed in interior spaces. Her portfolio is so strong, that she managed to get an internship at the #1 interior design firm in the world: Gensler, which is a magnet for FIU alum. The internship took place in Texas, and then she applied for a full-time job in the Miami subsidiary, and she got it! She stayed with the company for a few years, until a coffee mogul came knocking: Starbucks! Yes, you read that right. Have you been to one of those Starbucks stores that is different from the others, with cool designs, bigger spaces and very unique decor? Those specialty stores are projects of designers like Ana. Like I said earlier, she’s like a crafter on steroids. Here are some of her digital designs from different companies as well as an “artsy” Starbucks store, for your enjoyment:


Focus 2

Design vs. Real Life Final Result

Focus

Design vs. Real Life Final Result

Pipeline

Design vs. Real Life Final Result

SBux ATL

Gorgeous Design For a Store

I’m always impressed by her incredible work, innovative designs and polished 360 plans. Out of my entire Friends and Family series, shes one of the two who has turned this crafty gift into a major, followed by a successful career (the second post is coming in September!). I’m so proud of her and everything she has accomplished thus far, and I can’t wait to see how far she’ll go!

 

Friends & Family: Cindy – the Crafty & Beauty-Obsessed Influencer!

Cindy - Barbie NecklaceMy next subject for the Friends & Family series is also one of my favorite people in the world – my cousin and first best friend, Cindy. Her birthday just passed on March 29th and since I’m doing all the F&F posts around each of their birthdays, today’s post goes out to her!

My cousin Cindy and I have always been very close in every way, especially because we’re only six months apart in age. We have a lot of similarities including our love of the same dolls & TV shows when we were little, a passion for dancing, the ability to talk for hours on end, and a huge desire to express our creativity in any way we can.

Cindy has an incredible amount of talent matched equally by a drive to try new things and succeed in whatever realm she’s in, and the cool thing about her is that there’s this fearlessness/confidence in herself that allows her to delve into anything that she wants to try, which has included: modeling (I was her photographer a few times), a dance crew (Xtreme Dancers, pre-social media era), a jewelry line (@calabriascollection), a mobile spa (@calabriasbeauty_spa), and most recently, a review-based Instagram account where she shares her incredibly well thought-out and honest insights on skincare and beauty products in Spanish (@calabriasbeauty), among other things. What can’t she do?!

I seriously admire her drive and self-confidence so so so much. When she has a genuine interest in something, she really goes balls to the wall on it and gives it her all. Last year she left Venezuela due to the political turmoil and unlivable situation and moved to Tenerife to try to make a better life for herself and her family. She is UNSTOPPABLE.

I don’t have many pictures of her craftiness, but I can share a few of her posts from her jewelry and accessory line, which was her most recent project she undertook in Venezuela before she moved away:

She is a bona fide entrepreneur, with an eye for trends and a hunger to succeed like no other. She is also a ride or die supporter of her friends in pursuit of their own shine, as well as Latin creators in the current YouTube/Social Media boom. I will always support her in any endeavor she goes into, and I’m proud that she not only is my family, but also my friend.

Cindy, sigue matando la liga! Loviu ❤

Friends & Family: Tia Martha, A Can-Do Inspiration

Para la version en español de este blog, haz clic aquí.

20170505_033909000_iOSFor this installment of Friends & Family, I’m going to get really personal and sappy, so buckle up for an emotional ride. This family member unfortunately lost her battle to cancer almost three years ago, so it’s a little hard to look at this stuff without getting sad, but mi Tia Martha deserves this, and so much more.

My tia Martha (I can’t come to terms with calling her aunt, it just doesn’t feel the same) was an admirable warrior of a human who was unstoppable in her quest to make her family thrive. There was no challenge too big for her, and she did everything with the most beautiful smile I can still see to this day. I absolutely loved my tia and out of all the aunts I have, she was the one I was closest to, and I remember her saying she saw a lot of herself in me so I think that’s partly why this means so much to me.

Within all her admirable qualities, my tia was an AMAZING cook, an extremely talented seamstress, and quite honestly a jack of all trades in the crafting department. She was super creative and made things that were useful and beautiful, and she made it all look so easy. She was one of those people who could help in every single area of set-up and breakdown for a party, and I can only imagine how many events she had her hand in throughout her life. I remember her blowing up balloons, baking hors d’oeuvres, passing out the cotillion/favors – all in the most selfless way. I don’t think she ever even craved a thank you. She was just happy to be there doing her part.

Out of all the amazing things my tia would do, I think the one I saw her do the most was sewing. Back when I lived in Venezuela, she would come visit us from Colombia and I swear from the moment she arrived until she left, that sewing machine was going. My mom had bought it, but I think my tia was the only one who ever touched it. I now see this is how my tia started guiding my creative side to go in a streamlined direction. I’d always liked coloring and building paper models or mice out of toilet paper rolls, but while my crafts were just for fun and games, my tia’s stuff had a purpose. She taught me how to use the sewing machine and even though to this day I have trouble hooking the bottom bobbin, I’ve been able to do quite a few projects with it thanks to her.

The first thing I’d like to highlight – and possibly the coolest – is this towel bag my tia “invented.” I’ve only just now seen a lot of different versions of this, but the first time I ever saw it was when my tia made them. They were a total hit and she made dozens of them, everyone wanted one. Since she lived in Santa Marta, which is a beach town in the coast of Colombia, these were super useful for everyone, because it’s a towel that wraps into its own bag, so you don’t have to stuff it into another bag where it won’t fit or carry it on your hand. It was genius. Still is.

The other great thing about my tia is that anyone would come to her with an existing product, and she’d have no problem replicating it almost identically. This is something I now realize I do as well, and I think I got a lot of my confidence from seeing her do it so seamlessly. For example:

  • This head towel – I think my mom asked her if she could make more like it, and she did, but with a few modifications at my mom’s request
  • This doll party favor – as you know, party favors are expensive. So in order to save money for this party, my tia decided to make a different version of these cute hanging dolls she saw:

I also remember, my mom was a big user of shower caps but she always lost them, so one time my tia cut up a poncho and bought some elastic and bam! Extra shower caps for everyone. I wish I had a picture of those, but none I could find. All I remember is they were bright yellow and I was impressed how quickly she came up with the idea and made them.

As I mentioned earlier, my tia was a very talented seamstress and the best show of that, of course, is clothing. She could mend and make pretty much anything, and she did. Here are some of the stuff we have record of her making:

Trust me when I say that this is just a sample of the many, many things my tia created. Unfortunately, back when she was in the height of her making phone cameras weren’t a thing yet, and we didn’t feel that urgency/ease to document everything. But I hope these were enough of an insight for you to imagine all the beautiful things my tia’s hands were able to produce. My tia had such a huge talent, I’m lucky to have been able to see her do it and to have learned from her. One of the last times I spoke to her before she passed, I was able to thank her for teaching me all she did and I told her I put an M on my sewing machine in her honor, and she laughed, as always.

Tia, I miss you more than words can express, and I am so grateful that among my crafty and talented Friends & Family, I always counted on you for inspiration, knowledge, and most of all your can-do attitude and smile.

I want to introduce you to… My talented crafty friends & family!

People say a lot of who you are is a direct result of your environment and those closest to you and upon some reflection, I’ve come to realize how much of my love for crafting has been reinforced by those around me. Of course, I’ve got tons of support from non-crafty people (which are the majority of my close relatives), but I am so happy to be able to share my craftventures with both friends and family that are just as excited about getting their hands dirty with DIYs as I am.

Some of my earliest memories include feeling happy finger-painting at school, and admiring my cousin’s drawings and wanting to be just like him (funny enough, I only just discovered I can actually draw, like two years ago! You’d think I would’ve attempted it because I was so inspired by him, but it appears I focused on other crafty endeavors…). He’ll definitely have a post completely dedicated to his stunning work! At summer camp, I wasn’t much of an athlete so I’d run off early each day to schedule my activities and make sure I got a spot at any of the crafting disciplines they offered, especially pottery. I even got the Arts & Crafts trophy at the end of my season.

My cousin, my tia, my grandma, and so many of my crafty friends and family members have helped me learn more about myself, gain confidence in my skills and supported me with advice on DIYs, orders, dealing with customers and beyond. Now I want to highlight them in this series called Friends & Family. Stay tuned, as I’ll be showcasing them individually on this blog!

*I’ll come back to this post to add each family member/friend to the list as I post them to have an archive*

Blogs to date: