The Everygirl | 3 Things I Learned After Moving to Europe to Pursue a Dream

I wrote this piece for The Everygirl blog, with the intention to expose how it really feels to pick up  a life and move it.  How the days without family and friends can make you feel regretful, but that the good days remind you how free life is, and how much there is to see and do. I don't think I am the same person I was before we moved here to Amsterdam.  I'm more open to the world and what it has to offer me as a person and a small business owner.

Here is the link to the article! Hope you enjoy!

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Happy New Year.

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As I sit here this morning at 8am, December 31st, back in Amsterdam - I realize I haven't written much this fall/beginning of winter.  So many people bought me such wonderful journals for Christmas, all impeccably designed, and the only reason I can think they did so was because of how introspective I've been since moving here.  So thank you to those people for supporting me in that, as sometimes we can feel silly writing our feelings out for the world to see. 

I also realized that this year, while hard in its right, was not hard in the grand scheme of life.  We are lucky that we are able to travel the world, and follow our dreams.  We are lucky we have choices. We are lucky we have each other.  We are lucky we have family, and health and happiness.  There are so many people who were affected in such a devastating way this year through loss of homes, loss of life, loss of a daughter, struggling with addiction, struggling with what's happening in our country, and the list goes on.  I don't want anyone for one second to think that as I post and write on social media, or here, about our life, that I think we are not lucky in every single step we have been able to take.  

I created Al Stampa because I like to tell stories, but am not great with my words.  I have a beautiful, courageous sister for that part (although she's good at words and visuals, god bless her). I hope that this year brings me more stories to tell that impact our world, and help people do what they can't, and I can.  

As we set off into the New Year, and my birthday (!) I want to thank everyone for their amazing love and support for us this year.  It's amazing to me the amount of people who I think are not watching, or interested in what I do, be impacted.  That for me is my biggest success.  I also truly felt this year that sentiment that if you do things from your heart and for yourself, it will be your best work.  It's easy to get caught up in competition, and instagram numbers, but it's harder to make work you truly believe in, so in that regard, this year was one of my favorites from my lifetime.

This year it's not about choosing a "new me" for 2018.  It's more about sticking with the belief that who I am is not about improvements all the time.  We can be happy with who we are right now which will leave room for more greatness. :)

Happy New Year. Thanks for following along. 

Freelance Wisdom

Seeing your name, your business name, and a cool little bio on a website you look up to, is almost like seeing your name up in lights!! 

Freelance Wisdom is such an incredible site, that focuses on the nitty-gritty of owning your own business, and allows people tell their stories about their business struggles, triumphs and words of advice.  I was lucky enough to be featured on the site, and here it is!

Life Abroad + Inspirations

When I lived in Florence, Italy for 7 months studying printmaking and painting, I lived with a family that I became very close to, and still after over 10 years, try to keep in touch with.  I used to go to the book markets and collect children's books to learn the language better, since my host mother at the time did not speak english 100%.  This tradition has been carried through my travels over time to other countries... I have one from our Amsterdam trip last year, one from Croatia, lots from Italy when I studied, one from Paris and one from Spain.  It's not mandatory when I travel but if I love a book in a foreign country that's simple language and has beautiful illustrations I like to capture the essence of the place, and my trip that way.  I hope my kids use them at some point in their life, but for now they are used as illustration inspiration and a token from each city experience. 

Louise Fili, a huge inspiration to me, began her own "library" of sorts by going to Italy and taking photos of signage she loved.  From there she had an archive of inspiration to go back to for her own work.  I have to say, not knowing I had this in common with Louise, in addition to some childrens books across the seas, I love taking photos of signage to bring into my work somehow.  I love the way they are designed, what material they are made in, how they are installed, and lit up.   I hope to someday be better at hand-lettering to be able to really incorporate it into my work more and to most importantly, have an amazingly designed, made, and installed sign of my own on the streets of the world wherever we land. 

Another great source of inspiration to me has been the design of record covers and movie posters in the 50s-60s. Something about the simplicity of the designs, the use of color, transparency, illustration, photography, really call to me and the work I pay homage to whenever I design, or art direct.  For instance the image I used as the thumbnail of this post is so gorgeous but is so deeply rooted in such a sad and powerful story about the way jazz music, during the 18th century, was an outlet for the horrible daily events going on in the African American community... Here's a really amazing article about what was going on, and the background to this powerful artwork.

I used to think I was not a good designer back when I was younger, because I never gravitated to computer illustrated, highly graphic, "in your face" type of design.  What I found as I designed and illustrated more and more was that it's okay to not be bold and loud to get attention, but to have a style that is approachable... that people generally enjoy.  The artwork for the Billy Holiday album talked about above, is a perfect representation of how simple but emotional artwork can tell a very powerful story, and engage your audience. It can even provide peace through beauty, during a hard time.

I think that is why I chose to collect children's books in some of my travels because it simplified my over-the-moon feelings of traveling in Europe, especially, and allowed me to take something that was approachable and joyful along with me throughout  my life.

Here are some inspirations I've found along the way... also follow me on Pinterest to see a daily dose of inspirations flowing through my head and the studio on a daily basis!

Keeping Warm & Well

As someone that always gets sick around this time of year ... and throughout all of winter (eye roll) I made it a point to have a date with my lovely and wise italian mother and grandmother to learn the art of making their chicken soup / chicken stock before leaving for damp Amsterdam.  

Something I initially learned in reading a bit about making stock was that making stock from veal bones is the best because lamb dies young so the bones have lots and lots of healthy nutrients.  Totally sad I know...  My family uses chicken, which is what this recipes is for but I'm sure you can interchange the bones. 

1  small bunch of celery (you can leave leaves on), finely chopped
1  small bunch of carrots, finely chopped
3-4 Plum tomatoes (peeled* and finely chopped)
3 lbs chicken carcass / wings** (you will discard the carcass bones, but the wings will provide the actual meat for the soup once finished) 
6 quarts water (water should rise approx 3 inches above the bones) - keep a kettle of hot water on the stove to replace water as it evaporates
Frozen homemade meatballs*** 

Skimmer / Spoon
Large pasta pot
Storage for extra soup to freeze for later!

The most important skill here in making broth is spending the whole day next to the pot skimming the foam! Basically all the bad stuff rises to the top and foams up so you need to remove that constantly.  Always keep the flame under the pot low enough that the foam doesn't boil and go back down to the bottom.

  1. Rinse the chicken parts in cold water
  2. Add to large pasta pot, with water, almost to the top and bring to a boil.
  3. Lower the heat, and keep at a low simmer.  Begin skimming the top foam that is starting to form at the top layer of the pot.
  4. After most of the foam is gone, add a small handful of salt, cover the pot and lower the flame for an hour.  Throughout this hour SKIM SKIM SKIM!
  5. After an hour, take the chicken out. Discard the bones/carcass but keep the wings.  Add the frozen meatballs into the pot and raise the heat, they will start to pop up when they are ready.
  6. Take the meat off the wings or other parts of the chicken you put in the pot for the meat.  Discard the bones.
  7. When the meatballs pop up, add the chicken, tomatoes, celery and carrots to the pot, and add more water so that the pot is full.  Simmer, covered for 35 minutes. 
  8. KEEP SKIMMING and don't let it come to a boil.

*Peeled Tomatoes: Easiest way to do this is to put a pot of boiling water on the stove, and throw in the plum tomatoes - before you put them in the water cut an X on the top of them, so when the skins start to separate, it's easier to pull it all off - take them out of the boiling water as soon as they are peeling naturally.

**Chicken Parts:  One advantage of being in Europe are the amazing butchers, markets etc.  If you have a relationship with your butcher, you can definitely ask to have them bag up chicken parts for making stock if they don't already have it prepared.  Our butcher sells 2 bags or chicken parts for stock specifically for one euro!  I also buy a few wings or thighs so that you can use the meat from those parts later on for the soup.

***Homemade Meatballs Recipe: I actually did this while my broth was simmering / as I was skimming:
1 lb of chopped meat - all beef (needs to be cold!)
2 eggs
1/4 cup Locatelli Romano
S + P
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup of parsley
1/4 breadcrumbs (wet them - this makes them mix well and not separate)

Ball them up, and put on a sheet in your freezer for 30 minutes until you need them for the soup. If just making them with sauce, ball them up bigger and put them in the oven at 420 degrees for 10 min on one side, them flip them for 10 min on the other!

AL Stampa Photoshoot I

As I gear up for #alstampaphotoshoot II,  I have been reflecting a lot on the first shoot I ever did for AL stampa, and realized that I never really wrote about it!

Part of the reason I love what I do is working with other creatives.  For my first shoot, I had big ideas, and big plans, but definitely not enough hands or minds to organize it and produce it.  At that time, in 2014, while my mind was spinning into a messy knot of yarn - balancing work, AL Stampa, and life - it was also a great time when two of my closest friends and I would meet early in the mornings before work at around 7:30 near Union Square.  

The basis of these meetings? To vent mostly... but also to dream - to picture ourselves in our "perfect scenario" and understand that nothing is ever perfect, but to lay the groundwork for growth, positivity and happiness. We still to this day have meetings to push each other, to come to a 'round table' of sorts, and say freely what we are trying to achieve individually, and to see how we can help each other get there.

Co/Storia was born from this.  Three girls. Three cities. Countless stories.  We decided with each of our backgrounds, mine in design, art direction, and illustration, Janice's in photo production, photo licensing, and marketing, and Tracy with her MBA in entrepreneurship, coming from event planning, and high-level management roles... we had something here.  We began a collective of sorts - we are storytellers being our mantra - pulling in whomever we needed to get a project done, and to each be able to shine doing what we loved while still growing as individuals.  

Our first project? AL Stampa Photoshoot I!

We collected, scoured, shopped, styled, sorted, produced, painted, crafted, and photographed - with Jenny Gorman - producing  some amazing imagery for my site and for our first project for our own site!  My goal was to tell the story of each event the wedding invite was for, and that's exactly what we did.. Check out some imagery & a progress time lapse below!

Now gearing up for my second shoot, I will be tackling it alone, but I have a better sense of direction, and I can't wait to share it with my gals, and you all!

AL Stampa Branding Project

As someone who prides herself on branding and getting to the heart of a company, event, or individual's story, I have always had a bit of a hard time doing the same for myself.  I never want to pick one style, or one voice that is too polarizing because I want my clients to see that I'm capable of being diverse.  

While thinking more about how my business cards should look, I thought about how I attack a wedding or event invitation.  This is usually the first moment someone will hold something and get a sense of what the event or company is like.  It has to tell a little story, or at least have a bit of intrigue to it.

Growing up, my family and friends always saw me as someone obsessed with the old way of doing things.  Old black and white movies, old photographs, old cameras, old everything. The history of where things started - whether it be how movies were shot, or something strange like how doors used to lock in old Italy - I wanted to keep the nitty grittiness of that alive and surround myself with it for some reason.

I thought about all the imagery that has inspired me through time - old New York, old artists like Toulouse Lautrec, vintage Parisians dancing in the streets... and thought of how I could incorporate that into my branding because that is inevitable my story.  I am inspired by those things and that is what has drawn me to create imagery, create branding, to use my hands to draw, to letterpress, to engage with people.  

I thought about using those images and abstracting them a bit. So I had the images digitally printed, large scale on lettra paper, letterpress printed my info on the white side, and then cut them down into the business cards ... then using those abstracted black and white pieces of imagery, I hot foil stamped my logo over them to modernize it a bit.  

It doesn't matter to me that people will not know what the images are of, they are pieces of my mind, and where my passions came from. They are now beautiful black and white shapes - some very modern, some very classical, some pixelated, some recognizable.  

As I take in more and more inspiration from the world I yield more thoughtful design and that was ultimately the thought behind my cards.. I hope you enjoy them!

Little Spoon Big City

Working with your friends is one of the greatest parts of the work I do.  Helping people take their ideas and make them into something - whether a logo, a designed piece, an invitation, a photograph - is extremely rewarding.

One of my best friends took an adventure with her husband around the same time we moved here to Amsterdam.  She flew past our new home, even further ...  into China! They now call Hong Kong their city.  

As we grew up together, she was someone I always shared the important things with - whether it be art, Marilyn Monroe, old time movies, or as we got older, being independent in big cities working in our fields of passion. She was the first person who talked my mom into letting us go into NYC alone, straight to the International Center of Photography  to see an exhibit, and then "straight home".  

She now works for Huffington Post, putting her amazing thoughts and words out into the world about all sorts of things - still as inspiring as ever! She started her own blog and I was lucky enough to help set up her site and make her logo! With thoughtful reflection, new yorker sarcasm, and a bright eyed look at life, she takes you through every story, every city, most meals, and countless adventures.

Follow her journey, and check out some of the thought that went into giving her the perfect little creative identity :)


Some intial inspiration