Meet Our Maker of the Month: Amy Tangerine

For artist and author Amy Tan (better known as Amy Tangerine), creativity is all about loving the process, expressing emotions and embracing life's messiness.

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Chances are, you've seen Amy Tangerine's colorful prints, scrapbooking tutorials and trademark watercolor brush-lettering techniques in your travels through social media and beyond. But before Amy became Amy Tangerine (her given name is Amy Tan), the Los Angeles–based designer had several side hustles. Only back in the day, they were called something else.

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"We used to call it 'having ‌a lot‌ of part-time jobs!'" says Amy with a laugh. "I went to Georgia Tech and majored in industrial design, but after two and a half years, I realized I wanted to focus on fashion design and marketing, so I transferred to a smaller school, which gave me the opportunity to explore ‌a lot‌ of freelance opportunities. I was a restaurant hostess, cocktail waitress, phone answerer at a modeling agency.... You name it, I did it."

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Years later, after putting her keen sense of style and fashion to use as a stylist for photo shoots, Amy discovered the world of scrapbooking. Although, technically, it wasn't a new discovery. As a kid, she was obsessed with journaling, collaging and magazines. It was that passion for multimedia creativity that fueled her inspiration and drive.

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Today Amy is many things—mom, artist, entrepreneur, author and social media content creator.... Just don't call her an influencer! We sat down with Amy to discuss her love of all things crafting, the power of embracing mistakes and why just 10 minutes of crafting a day can work wonders.

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"Don't let the blank page intimidate you, let it invigorate you." —Amy Tangerine

How did you come up with your brand name, Amy Tangerine?

AMY:‌ A long time ago—probably around 2000—I was living in Atlanta, a student at Georgia Tech and a hostess at a restaurant. I was thinking about coming up with my own magazine and was talking to a friend of mine at a restaurant on Peachtree Street. Peaches are everywhere in Georgia, and I lived on Peachtree Street. So he suggested ‌tangerine,‌ and I thought, ‌That sounds good!‌ At the time, I was starting a production company that specialized in styling photo shoots, and I didn't know if Tangerine Productions was taken, so I decided to make it Amy Tangerine and call it a day. There is also an author named Amy Tan, who wrote ‌The Joy Luck Club,‌ so Amy Tangerine was a fun play on words. It was great for logos, and it's a fun twist on my actual name.

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You wear so many hats—you’re an artist, a designer, an entrepreneur, an author. I see you as a creative coach. How do you describe yourself?

AMY:‌ Even though I don't label myself a creative coach, I love that you said that and not "influencer"—I do not like that title at all! It's a little tough to narrow it down because I love doing so many things. I don't know if this is an appropriate term, but I consider myself a "multi-passionate maker" and I also love "creative guide"—that's what I landed on for my website.

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Amy Tangerine's new book

After becoming a mom, do you find that your kids have an impact on your craft?

AMY:‌ I have two kids, Jack, 9, and Juniper, 2, and they absolutely inspire my creativity. They delight me in new, small ways. I love the little moments and being so present with them—seeing that little things are what make up a beautiful life and that's what has had the biggest impact on me. I think my creativity is linked to that childlike wonder without being naive. Their curiosity and the way they see the world is so amazing, fresh and spirited.

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Did you journal or scrapbook as a kid?

AMY:‌ Absolutely! Do you remember those Hello Kitty diaries with the little lock and keys? I had a couple of them, but I only wrote in one of them because I wanted to save the other ones. That's when I really got into journaling, doodling and writing things down. After age 10, I kept a consistent journal—it was called a diary back then—but I mostly wrote about what I did instead of what I was feeling because I was scared someone might read it despite the lock and key! As I got older, I loved magazines. Do you remember ‌Sassy‌?

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One of Amy's many journals

I loved that magazine—so '90s!

AMY:‌ Yes! I remember wanting all those magazines, and when I was about 12 or 13, I used magazines to make collages. I didn't buy the traditional scrapbook supplies because I didn't have the budget, so at the time I was just using the resources that were available to me, which were colorful markers, pens and magazines to cut up. Once I made this collage—which ultimately became a vision board, but at the time I didn't know it—on a poster board, and my dad and I hung it in our basement where I would hang out with my friends. So much of what I put on that board has come true.

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Creative Toolkit: Amy Tangerine's Must-Haves

When it comes to scrapbooking and journaling, Amy Tangerine is a big fan of these essentials.

Scissors:‌ "Investing in good scissors will make your life so much better in a variety of aspects. Fiskar scissors are my favorite."

A notebook:‌ "I would say get a notebook that you love. You can even take a composition notebook that kids have for $1 and start there."

Pens or colorful markers: ‌"Use pens or colorful markers that you love writing with. Find ones that make you want to express yourself creatively."

Glue sticks or washi tape:‌ "Using glue sticks to paste things you cut out with your scissors or washi tape means you don’t have to fill page with writing. It’s a good shortcut, especially if you see something inspiring in a magazine!"

At the time, were scrapbooks and collages most of what you were interested in?

AMY:‌ When I was in the eighth grade, a girlfriend and I used to pass notebooks back and forth to each other. We would doodle in them, write each other notes or just write down inspirational quotes that we liked. It was a place where we could use the colorful supplies we loved. We both had such an appreciation for it, and we carried that tradition into high school. I think it was a way of uplifting one another without having folded-up pieces of paper everywhere. It was contained in one journal that we shared.

Some people see scrapbooking as a means to an end—a place to store pictures and memorabilia. But your work is emotive.

AMY:‌ I really believe that it's all about the creative process—not just the result. I love scrapbooking in the traditional sense. When I was a first-time mom, it was a creative outlet but also a great way of documenting little things and milestones. Looking back at those pages, I would never have those tangible memories had I not taken the time to do it. I love that it cements the memory or whatever you're feeling at the time you're experiencing it. When you stop to take photos and then sit down with the printed photography and your stickers or anything you're using to create a page, you're reliving that memory again.

We're reminded when we look through our scrapbooks that life is happening. I love that scrapbooking can serve as a reminder to stay present too. The creative process allows us to pause and take pictures, and then reflect and relive those moments when we actually scrapbook or document them in our memory planner or however you're creatively processing it. This archive of special moments is a precious gift.

"I'm a notebook collector—I have probably 200 or more. I have never met a single person who has filled every single notebook that they own. That's the beauty of it. Life is unfolding, and so are the pages in our journals, planners, scrapbooks or traveler's notebooks." —Amy Tangerine

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How are journaling and scrapbooking a form of self-care?

AMY:‌ They are so meditative, peaceful, messy, beautiful and raw at the same time! When you sit down at a craft table or even work through grief, it's so freeing to just allow yourself a blank page. It's about putting feeling into the process, and I love the fact that there is no expectation—it's not for work and doesn't have a deadline. You're just going through the process of healing through creativity.

3 Creativity Prompts

Amy Tangerine recommends writing these questions down on journals or scrapbooks to jump-start your creative process:

1. What are you finding that’s wonderful right now?

2. What do you need to let go of?

3. What’s nourishing your soul? What’s calling to you right now?

Why do you think it’s important for people to document their lives even when they think nothing is happening?

AMY:‌ Wouldn't you love to look back at a family member's day-to-day? That's really what makes up their lives—the day-to-day. My dad passed away last September, and afterward I craved hearing a voice mail from him or seeing some of his writing just to see his print—it's those little things. On one of his last trips to visit us, he and my son, Jack, were doodling in our dining room, and Jack was teaching him how to draw a robot. I saved both of their drawings and jotted down a note in my journal that says "When Pop-Pop said he didn't know how to draw a robot, Jack demonstrated with this." It's not something that we took a lot of time to think about—we were just sitting around playing with our supplies, but it's such a treasure now.

People who don’t have experience with journaling could find it intimidating. How can they begin the process?

AMY:‌ Follow your curiosity to where it wants to go. If you want to champion your inner child right then, if you want to play with color, if you want to just take your kids' markers and crayons and start doodling and filling in the background, do it. Then decide if you want to journal further—maybe someone said something you want to write down or someone gave you a card. You can cut it apart and put it into your journal or notebook. If you're curious about watercolors, start with your kids' set and see how that feels. You don't need expensive supplies—it's about giving yourself permission to play.

There are so many things in the journaling and scrapbooking universe. For those of us not immersed in that world, where do we start?

AMY:‌ Sometimes we're so inundated with choice that we don't make a decision! Choose one thing, and start with that. You don't have to say, "I'm going to make a scrapbook." Instead, start with "I'm going to make a scrapbook page." So what do you need for a scrapbook layout? You need paper, photos, a pen, and that's about it. If you want to add more things to it, you can, but I would just start where you are and what feels good to you. You can document a special memory or just document today. Don't be intimidated by the blank page. I just encourage people to make some marks. You can write about an amazing moment you've just had or vent—wherever you are in the moment or whatever you feel inspired to document.

Forget Negative Self-Talk

"Let go of this idea of perfection when it comes to creativity. We’re so hard on ourselves with everything else—you don’t have to be with creativity. Remember: Done is better than perfect. Going through the process and expressing yourself creatively is such a gift." —Amy Tangerine

What advice would you give someone who wants to create but doesn’t think they’re creative?

AMY:‌ I believe everybody is creative and has a story to tell. I also believe that 10 to 15 minutes a day can make a huge difference. So give yourself permission to take it by saying, "This is what I need to be doing." In my book ‌‌Craft a Life You Love: Infusing Creativity, Fun & Intention into Your Everyday‌‌, I encourage this idea of starting now and starting small—10 to 15 minutes a day to prioritize what matters to you when it comes to your creative outlet, whatever that may be. Some people might argue that they can't complete a scrapbook in that amount of time. And they're right, they can't. But you can start something. If you just chip away at it with a few minutes a day, it turns into a habit. You almost have something that shifts inside you—it becomes essential to take time to be creative.

Check out more of Amy's work on her Instagram account or by visiting the Amy Tangerine website.

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