Local Maker Spotlight: The Ladies edition

We work with some truly amazing people at the shop.  Coming up this Saturday, Dec 14th 7-9pm we are spotlighting 4 local makers for a holiday Sip and Shop trunk show event featuring Maria Burlingham of Calliope, Elena Baikova of Humble Salve, Jennifer Fish of JFish Designs, and Alexandra Whisnant of gâté comme des filles chocolats.  We asked each of these amazing ladies a couple of questions about themselves and their businesses. Here is what they had to say:

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started?

Maria: I am a native San Franciscan. The only time I left  the Bay Area was for four years to go to NYU and then for six months to study decorative art history in London.  I have always loved fashion and I have always "made" things so  I decided to study apparel design at Louise Salinger Academy of Fashion in San Francisco . I wanted to know how to design and construct a garment. I am very hands on!  After graduating, I worked as a pattern maker for Erica Tanov. Then I  got married and had two kiddos, Owen (11) and Kiki (7).

While raising the wee ones I started a kids' clothing line and began selling it at the Temescal Farmer's Market.   My products were received well and I began to get a following.  I loved doing the Farmer's Market because I could give my new products a "test run" without too much of a risk.  It was fun to chat with my customers and get direct feed back on my products.  

Elena: I grew up in the Bay Area, and have lived in Oakland for ten years. I have always had uncooperative, sensitive skin that was happiest when I nourished it with chemical-free body products. A few years ago I began making my own lip balms and giving them to friends and family as gifts. About a year ago I got the crazy idea of starting my own body care line, and started seriously playing around with different ingredients and recipes. In doing so, I found a way to combine three of the things I love – using all-natural body products, making things by hand, and following earth-friendly practices. And, of course, I love being able to share my creations with others!

Jennifer: I have always loved working with clay. I started my business as a little side project- I was working full time as an Industrial Designer on the computer all day and when I got home at night all I wanted was to get my hands dirty. So I started making a few pieces in clay...and then people started buying them. So eventually I decided to try and turn it into a real business, and here I am!

Alexandra: I began making chocolates in Paris, first as a pâtisserie student at Le Cordon Bleu and then as an intern at Ladurée. I later worked at Chez Panisse in pastry, where I learned the value of using fresh, seasonal ingredients to achieve sublime flavor. While at Chez Panisse, I made boxes of chocolates for Valentine’s Day and Christmas and discovered that chocolates were my true passion. After a stop at Cornell to earn an MBA, I moved back to Paris and started my own artisanal chocolates company. Now I am back in the Bay Area with the aim of making my best chocolates ever.


Where does your name come from? 

Maria: The name Calliope was a long time coming.  After reviewing a very long list of potential names, I picked up a book of greek mythology  and Calliope was listed as one of nine Greek muses. The moment I laid my eyes on the name Calliope it clicked!  Calliope is also the name of an instrument, a steam piano. The horse in my logo is a Durer etching. I knew I wanted a horse image to be part of my branding, for I have a deep affinity for horses,  and animals in general.

Elena: I wanted to create a name that represented my values of using simple, straightforward, and nourishing ingredients. I Chose 'Humble' because the ingredients I use are unpretentious and marked by modesty in spirit, and 'Salve' because my finished products are meant to be soothing and consoling to those who use them.

Jennifer: My business name is my name - Jennifer Fisher = JFish. I have always liked the "fish" in my last name (I even have a fish tattoo) so I thought it should be a part of my business name.

Alexandra: I wanted a name that evoked a feeling of decadence and indulgence to fit with the spirit of the chocolates. The name was inspired by a piece of poetry a poet friend of mine in Paris had come up with. “gâté comme des filles” loosely translated means spoiled like the girls.


Which of your products are you loving the most right now? 

Maria: Right now I am focusing most of my design attention on my vegan bag collection.  At the present moment my favorite product is my fold over chevron clutch.  

Elena: Right now I am really loving my hand salve, which has been rescuing my dry and cracked hands (as well as elbows and face) in this cold weather. I’ve seen it soften up some gnarly dry hands, let me tell you!

Jennifer: I guess I'm most into my new releases. I just finished two serving dishes and its a whole new area for me. There's a long dish called the squiggle plate and its made up of three curvy shaped pieces that fit together and the "pie plate" which is a big round plate broken up into pie shaped wedges that fit into a large main dish. I like shapes that are made up of smaller parts that you can play around with.

Alexandra: My favorite right now is my honey-walnut, because the honey is absolutely special. It comes from a tiny farm in downtown Oakland called Ghost Town Farm, where Novella Carpenter grows all kinds of delicious produce on a formerly abandoned urban lot. This year’s fall harvest of her honey is divine. It has waves of flavor that hit you minutes after eating it. My goal with making the ganache was to express this magic honey. Happily I think I succeeded. You must try it!


Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Maria: In five years, I see myself running a successful  business with integrity! Perhaps I will be running the business and designing from a pastoral setting with a bevy of farm animals, with streams and trees as my backdrop.

Elena: I hope to continue doing what I love and to help make others’ lives a little bit better, whether through my salves or in other ways.

Jennifer: In 5 years I hope to have an a bigger broader catalog of products that cover all sorts of areas of home decor...lighting, dinnerware, bigger plantware. Maybe I'll even delve into some other materials- I've been thinking a lot about textiles lately and that would be fun. But mostly I just want to be doing what I'm doing in a bigger way.

Alexandra: I would love to have a tiny storefront in San Francisco where I will make small batches of fresh chocolates using the best ingredients I can find in the Bay Area. The chocolates will be made right in the retail space so you can watch the chocolatiers at work, and order chocolates à la carte as soon as they are dipped.


Any wisdom you would like to impart to all those budding entrepreneurs?

Maria: To any budding entrepreneurs starting and building a business takes time. So for me, learning how to be patient has been a very positive life lesson. I love watching the twists and turns my business takes and I do my best to follow my intuition and stay in the flow.

Elena: Believe in yourself and your dreams, have fun, and go for it!

Jennifer: Hmmm. Well. Make sure you LOVE what you're getting into because its about to become your whole life! And if you're an artist, hook up with a business/marketing person as soon as you can. They can help you with all sorts of stuff that you would never even think of!

Alexandra: Yes, use all the resources available to you, and jump on every opportunity that presents itself! And don’t forget the old axiom: negative income equals positive outcome.

kerri johnson

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