WorkSpace Features

WorkSpace Feature: It Tops the Cake

Karen Rowe based out of Rome, New York is the creator behind Etsy shop It Tops the Cake.  Karen has been designing silk flower wedding arrangements for 3 years.

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 5.36.49 PM

Describe your workspace and/or tools or machinery you use.

My workspace is essentially a bedroom, and a small one at that! I have two 4′ x 8′ tables on either side of the room, one for working and one for photography. With the exception of a desk that we picked up at a garage sale, every other inch of the room is used for storage – flowers, boxes, Styrofoam, ribbon, pins, etc. The closet door can barely open! This large amount of inventory provides me with the opportunity to be creative on the spot, as well as have supplies on hand for a custom order. It does make for a rather tight space, but I am hoping to expand once we move into a new house. I use basic tools – a glue gun and hand held fence cutters. Yes, fence cutters! It’s pretty incredible how thick some flower stems are, so I found that regular wire cutters just weren’t, well, cutting it!

I also have tubs of cut flowers that I keep on hand. Since cake topper don’t require stems, I often have left over pieces that need to be stored. I keep them in tubs by color so I can quickly access what I need without searching through tons of small pieces.

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 5.37.36 PM

What inspires you or compels you to stay creative?

I often go online and do a lot of research. Being surrounded by hundred of silk flowers is great for my personal, on the spot kind of creativity, but that isn’t often realistic for actual customers. Each bride usually already has an idea in mind of what she wants for her flowers – colors, flower types, style. Since I wasn’t born with ESP, I can’t predict what my customers will want unless they ask for something custom made. So to give myself a little bit of help, I go online and look for trends and color schemes that I know are going to be “popular” for a particular part of the season. It was just my luck that Emerald and Mint were this year’s colors, because those aren’t really flower colors! But there are always classic styles and colors that brides are drawn to, so I always have those on hand.

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 5.37.59 PM

Tell us about your most recent project

While I am waiting for wedding season to gear up, I am taking all new pictures of my current inventory. This meant getting my dummy cakes covered in fondant to make them look more realistic! This will hopefully be eye catching and draw people in. So far the pictures have been turning out great, and when I need a break from being a photographer, I get back into the trenches and start creating toppers.

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 5.38.49 PMScreen Shot 2013-04-04 at 5.38.31 PM

What is your typical day like from the time you wake up until you go to bed?

My typical day is often very busy, but I rarely work on my business until 9:00pm. I have a 14 month old daughter who is very active and curious. Ever since she was a little thing, 2 or 3 months old, she refused to be in one spot for more than a few minutes. Before she was born, I thought “I’ll just put her in the bouncer or the pack and play and I will get work done.” Nope! She refuses to let me do creative work while she is awake, and unfortunately my office is so small that if I attempt to let her roam free, she creates a huge mess! Sigh.. alas!

I wake up between 7:00 and 8:00 to get Keira out of her crib and we eat, play and read until nap #1. I use this time to get dressed, do an assortment of chores like laundry or dishes and have a snack. By the time she gets up she’s ready to get dressed and have lunch. The afternoon is usually reserved for running errands and doing my other job for the YMCA, which involves handling their scheduling and payroll. This can be hard because it means a lot of time on the phone, which can be hard for a baby who always wants to know what’s going on and be in the thick of things. Nap #2 is often reserved for any extra chores and then perhaps some time on the computer to resize some photos, post on FB or the Ning or just surf. Once my husband gets home around 5:45, I either get right to work making dinner or head to the gym for an hour of Zumba!

Bed time for the baby is 8:00 or so, and then we clean up toys and sit down to a couple of smores before getting to work. Around 8:30 or 9:00 I head up to the office and take stock of what needs to get done. Usually this involves taking pictures, bookkeeping, creating new cake toppers or packaging up recent items. Around 11:30 I decide whether or not I have another 30 minutes in me to keep going or if I should call it an early night! The best part of all is going to sleep knowing that I will get to stay in bed asleep the whole night through, which only started about 6 weeks ago.

The weekend looks VERY different from this because my husband is home to share some of the responsibility of watching Keira and my YMCA job doesn’t go on weekends. I can spend much more time in my office working, creating and hopefully growing It Tops the Cake.

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 5.37.09 PM

To learn more about Karen from It Tops the Cake:

WorkSpace Features: Cottontail Digital Press

Adrianne Curran the designer behind Los Angeles, California based Cottontail Digital Press has been in business for 5 years.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 7.17.35 PM

Describe your workspace and/or tools or machinery you use.

I’m very fortunate that this year we moved into a larger space and I was finally able to set up a proper home office and production area. Most of my work is graphic design so I mostly use the computer for design/creating and sending emails. Some of my orders are printed off site, for anything I print in-house I have my large format Epson printer by my side. I feel like my printer is like my co-worker, some days we get along and other days we fight and it eats all my paper.

I also have a nice wooden table for all my cutting, tearing, perforating and packing needs. I’m lucky enough to have a husband who understands why 1/3 of the storage space in our home is dedicated to paper, envelopes and other business supplies.

One unique feature about my home office is that I share it with my husband. He is creative as well and works in the video game industry. So while I’m working away making lovely wedding invitations, it’s not that uncommon for me to turn around to see him working on a gruesome monster for his game.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 7.15.58 PM

What inspires you or compels you to stay creative?

I’ve always been creative. My mother loved to draw and we would spend out summer days outside drawing and painting. I was creative all through school and received my Master of Fine arts in 2006 from California State Universality, Long Beach. I studied Printmaking with a emphasis on metal engraving.

Being creative is a core part of who I am. I’ve always done music, dance and art. I can’t image doing anything else. I’m constantly inspired by the beauty I see in other artists/dancers. When I see something beautiful I’m always driven to make something myself.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 7.17.12 PM

Tell us about your most recent project

Recently I had to pleasure of working with a former co-worker on a destination invitation package for her wedding in Belize. She’s a very creative person herself so working with was more of a collaboration. It was great to sit with someone and exchange ideas. I’m so used to just presenting an idea to a client and having them say “yes” or “no”.

This project really pushed me to try new materials and take some risks. Destination weddings are always fun and it was great to work with so many new colors and papers.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 7.17.57 PM

What is your typical day like from the time you wake up until you go to bed?

6:30am- Wake up and take care of any household needs: Feed the Dog, Feed the Husband.
7:30am- Log into email and see what emails I need to respond to.
8:00-10:00am- Cut and package any orders that need to go out the door.
11:00-12:00- Drop packages off at main LAX post office. Then stop at Starbucks- a must for me!
12:00-1:00pm- Lunch time and walk the dog
1:00- 3:00pm – Work for “other jobs” I also do contract IT project management work.
3:00-6:00pm – Responding to emails, printing orders, replenishing supplies and emails, emails, emails.
6:00-7:30pm: Dance rehearsal – I belong to a belly dance troupe!
8:00pm – Have dinner with husband
9:00pm – Check email one last time to ensure there are not last urgent emails.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 7.19.32 PM

Any other information you’d like to share about yourself or your business?

In addition to wedding invitations I also work on other creative projects. Since I belong to the belly dance community here in Los Angeles I make a lot of dance collateral (Business cards, fliers, etc). I’ve also made album covers, holiday cards, Photoshop work and much more.

I also teach Introduction to Printmaking once a week. While I make all my wedding invitations using a digital printer, I still love to stay close to my roots of traditional printmaking- Linoleum cutting, metal plate etching, metal plate engraving, monoprinting and colograph.

To learn more about Cottontail Digital Press:


WorkSpace Features: Mavora Art and Design

Abby Morton the designer behind Portland, Oregon based Mavora Art and Design has been in business for over 5 years.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 6.15.30 PM

Describe your workspace and/or tools or machinery you use.

I work out of my home so that I can be a half time printer/designer and a full time mother of two. My main office is a giant wood table my husband made for me. I call it the Trump Table. It holds one of my printers, my computer, and a mix of items or shipping boxes I’m using that day. Behind me is a custom cut sheet of metal that I keep my current clients’ tags on for reference as well as lists, notes and pretty things I create or enjoy. Above me, also built by my husband, are custom shelves that sort each client’s materials. This helps me keep my supply ordering organized and I cannot live without it. Another table holds two giant stack cutters with custom storage for another printer and paper underneath it. Racks on the side of this table hold popular ribbons, twine, fake flowers, and office supplies. Honestly, I have paper tucked away all through my house, but I hoard it in the most organized way possible. My other favorite workspace is my blue table. It’s a low table I can beat up without guilt. Folders, tags, bows, and notepads all find their way here at some point. I can drag it out to create more space when I need it or hide it away when I don’t. My husband and I have worked very hard to make our business work where we live over the past 3 years and it helps that he can build whatever I need. I juggle too many things not to be organized. Actually, when I look around right now, I’m not sure if I should say I work from home or I live at work.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 6.16.21 PM

What inspires you or compels you to stay creative?

If anything, I have to fight to keep my creativity in check and get to work! I’m blessed with orders to fill and a schedule that is usually booked out a few weeks. And this is fun and slightly creative but it’s not my favorite. Being creative in my job (developing new products and designs) is like my vacation. It gives me rest and joy. And maybe it is so refreshing because I can’t do it all the time. My biggest pushes to be creative are the thoughts I wake up with in the morning and listening to the needs of my clients. Six months ago I really wanted to design a peony and I just didn’t have the patience for it. I was fighting and coming up empty handed. But when a client asked for one three months later I wrestled again and figured it out. If I know someone needs it I always push though the creative battles and it helps my skill level in the process. My clients have some really great ideas and I’m happy I get to work with them to make new products.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 6.15.23 PM

What is your typical day like from the time you wake up until you go to bed?

Everyday I wake up at 7:30am to get my son out the door to school and if my toddler lets me go back to bed I will. Coffee has been my new best friend since my husband started school and left me with the morning duties. My day planner usually will already have my list for the day but if not, I check my e-mails and fill it up. I can’t live without my lists. I’m not a morning person so I feel like I actually have my brain together by 9:30 or 10:00. After that my day is never the same. I always have a few proofs, a few orders to print and process, and a few conversations that need to happen but I am constantly flip flopping between work and my daughter. We play, read, and eat together whenever it’s needed and a lot of cleaning goes on between every activity. One day a week we go swimming together. That is a treat for us both. And when Daddy and my son get home someone usually goes for a run and the other one cooks dinner. My work doesn’t end at 5 because I take off time during the day. I usually start to relax around 9pm. Tonight I’ll be playing volleyball matches until 10pm. But the good news is my husband works hard as well and we stay up late watching Netflix TV shows and eating a second late night dinner together. That’s our bonding time and my favorite part of my day.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 6.16.29 PM

Any changes to your business recently?

This month I hired my first employee! I just have too much work to handle on my own and Lora was a great match for Mavora. She is an RN and between jobs in this tough market. I am so happy my little business could help provide for her family. She helps with my daughter, processing items, and shipping packages. And maybe the best thing is just having another woman around! I am a very social person. I always used to tell people that facebook was my co-worker but now I have a real person on my team! I am very excited about the work coming in and the products I’m offering. This has been my best year yet!

To learn more about Mavora Art and Design: