A couple of weeks ago, we introduced a new way for you to discover projects and makers on Brit + Co. through Brit Picks. Each maker in the Brit Picks program has a unique sense of style and making that inspires our work (which is why we love them). This is the first installation of our Meet the Maker series—a chance for you to get to know our Brit Picks. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Tiffany and Sarah, the creators at Offbeat + Inspired.
And don’t forget, if you’d like to be part of the Brit Picks program, apply here. Now, onto Sarah and Tiffany.
First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up, what’s your background?
Tiffany: I grew up in northeastern New Jersey (the oldest of 4) and attended Hawthorne Christian Academy (K-12) where I met Sarah! A lot of our primary interests aligned, as we were both involved in ministry, sports and art. We were the ones doodling during class, ditching last period early for an away game, and chatting for hours about our plans to be missionaries someday.
When it was time to move on to college, I had NO idea what I wanted to do. I was torn between ministry, art and business. At that point in my life, I wanted to focus on everything I loved at the same time and there just didn’t seem to be one major for all of it! The solution? Get hitched. Just kidding, but I really did get married (to the most amazing man ever) about a year after I stopped going to school, and soon after that we moved to Kentucky which is where we are now! Throughout all of that, Sarah and I stayed in touch and eventually started up our blog!
Sarah: I grew up as the youngest of six kids in northern New Jersey. I lived in the same house my entire life and attended a small Christian school from first grade (when I met Tiffany) through high school graduation. I ended up in the Chicago suburbs to attend Wheaton College where I met my wonderful husband. We’ve been living in the Chicago-land area ever since.
When did you first realize you love to make? Was there a particular moment or project that inspired it?
Tiffany: I realized I loved to make pretty early in life. My Dad made video games and my mom was a graphics designer, so I was sort of destined to do something artsy. I was interested in fashion at a young age and spent ridiculous amounts of class time doodling comic strips with female characters decked out in all kinds of crazy outfits. In middle and high school I was upcycling old jeans into purses and knitting hats to sell to my classmates. I was even taking orders in my marble notebook! As I got older, I started collecting books and magazines on crafting, graphics design, fashion design and cooking. A love for photography sprouted up somewhere in there too. All that to say, it was definitely a lot of little moments that made me realize that “making” was something I truly loved.
Sarah: I think I’ve always loved to make. I remember in first grade, Tiffany and I had competitions to see who could draw Disney princesses better. (She definitely won.) While my drawing skills may have peaked by fourth grade or so, my desire to make has continued. My mom was always very creative and I grew up with her making dinner, having an incredible garden, sewing nearly all my clothes as a little girl, etc. “Making” was just part of normal life, and I think that has stuck with me.
Why did you decide to start Offbeat + Inspired? What do you hope people are able to find through your blog?
Tiffany: Offbeat + Inspired was born over a weekend cabin trip to Red River Gorge (KY), where I was trying to convince Sarah to get into soap making. I had been a soaper for about 2 years at that point, and when the topic arose and she seemed interested, I explained the process. It was so long that I ended up sending an e-mail with the full instructions and then she had the idea to start a blog and share it with the general public in case anyone else wanted to learn soap making too! The BIG soap tutorial (as it’s known to us now) was the post that sparked O+I. Once that idea was on the table, we were SO excited about the endless possibilities. We could share about food, beauty, fashion, life, photography, art — all of it! Finally there was one home for everything we loved. Sarah lives in Chicago and I live in Lexington, KY, so even if no one ever found us, the blog would at least give us a place to share our projects with each other. We loved that (and still do), but when people happen across O+I, we want them to find something that inspires them to create with purpose.
Sarah: Tiffany and I decided to start Offbeat + Inspired after spending Labor Day weekend on a mini-vacation with our husbands and another couple. Tiffany had been working on a number of crafts and projects, and I was especially intrigued by her soap-making. She passed down some of her soaping supplies to me and then told me she’d write me some instructions. I had spent some time researching soap-making instructions, but when Tiffany sent me hers, they were absolutely the best beginner’s instructions I had seen anywhere. I told her that she needed to start a blog…and I guess the rest is history. We started talking and video-chatting for hours every day (since we live in different states) and out of those conversations, Offbeat + Inspired was born.
Through our blog, I want people to find inspiration to live creatively, but not just for creativity’s sake. I want people to see the deeper story behind the recipes, crafts, etc. I hope that people don’t just read about food, but they read about the importance of a shared meal with family. I don’t want people to just see a patio furniture upcycle. I want people to see that project as a catalyst to spend time cultivating relationships with others. I hope that people find through our blog the deeper things that really inspire us – our faith, family and friends (sorry for the cheesy alliteration – that was not intentional).
How do you choose different projects or recipes that you try? Where do you get your inspiration?
Tiffany: Inspiration comes from everywhere. Pinterest (obviously!), our favorite blogs, magazines, adventuring in our local cities and beyond, getting to know small business owners and what makes them tick — it really does come from everywhere. When choosing specific projects, we have one rule: we have to love it. We won’t make stuff that doesn’t truly get us excited. Sometimes it’s tempting in blog world to gravitate towards projects or recipes that are getting a lot of buzz, but that takes all the fun out of it! We really don’t want O+I to turn into a chore, so we focus on anything that makes us want to happy dance on the spot.
Sarah: Much of my inspiration, especially for recipes, comes from my mom. I’ve blogged about a few recipes of hers that I’ve grown up with, and I’m excited to share more of my childhood favorites. Nearly every night growing up, my family sat down to dinner together. It wasn’t just any dinner, but it was usually an incredible homemade feast accompanied with hours of conversation. For me, food isn’t just food. It’s a means of bringing people together to do life with one another.
As far as inspiration for some of my other projects, much of my inspiration comes simply from pragmatism – boring, I know. The practical side of me thinks, “OK, I need some bedroom storage. How can I get an inexpensive dresser?” And out of that everyday issue, I now have an upcycled vintage-looking dresser that I bought at a garage sale and repainted.
I have so many incredibly creative friends and people in my family, and they definitely inspire me, too. I also love blogging with Tiffany, because I think we feed off each other a lot and definitely inspire new ideas in each other.
What types of projects are your favorite? Do you love baking, sewing, making jewelry?
Tiffany: My favorite projects change based on my mood. I love trying new things and I tend to go on random kicks — I even spent a few months making mini foods out of polymer clay — that random (and so fun)! But I do tend to gravitate towards the kitchen, upcycling projects and fashion illustration.
Sarah: Anything with food. Growing up, family dinners were an every day occurrence. Everyone in my family loves food, not just because of the food, but because of the relationships that are built around a meal. Hours of conversation around the dinner table have resulted in wonderful relationships with every one in my family, a continued appreciation for learning, a safe place to laugh and cry together, and of course, good food.
What is your favorite project you’ve ever done?
Tiffany: I think my favorite projects are fashion illustrations. They’re whimsical and pretty, and you can decorate with them!
Sarah: Wow, good question. I’d have to say one of my favorite projects was the first upcycling project I ever did. I remade a dresser for our guest bedroom. While I hope I’ve improved a bit on my crafting skills since remaking that dresser a year ago, it’s definitely my favorite project simply because that project marked the beginning of this “making” journey for me and it’s also the first piece that I worked on for my house.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?
Tiffany: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I spent years feeling like a misfit with a bunch of random interests no direction. When I started considering putting it all on a blog, I was intimidated by the thousands of projects, recipes and amazing photography that was already online. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in what I was throwing together in the kitchen and the craft room. But honestly, it has been so rewarding to learn how to treat “making” like a valuable part of who I am instead of a frustrating lack of direction. Even if no one ever found O+I, I’ve learned more about myself in sharing what I love than I ever would have by keeping it hidden. If you’ve been dreaming about starting a business, start it. If you’ve been wanting to make a blog, make it. Life is short, and it’s amazing how much joy and purpose can be found in sharing what you love with others.
Sarah: I’ve struggled with comparing myself to everyone else, wishing that my recipes, projects, photography, etc. were as good as the next person’s. My advice would be to continue to focus on growing and improving. Don’t sink into a dark cycle of comparison. Since we started this blog, I have been learning a LOT of new things. That learning process is one of the things I love about it. Yet sometimes I find myself getting way too frustrated because I expect to be an expert at everything I try right from the beginning. Tiffany and I said from the very beginning that we always wanted to be enjoying blogging, and part of the enjoyment involves trying new things and sometimes having to retry those things. Not every recipe or project may turn out or be as good as the next person’s – and that’s OK.
Tell us how technology has changed and supported what you do?
Tiffany: Technology has made it SO easy to spread the word about our blog. I love how supportive the blogging community has been, and it’s amazing to be able to interact with our readers, other bloggers and business owners that we look up to. As far as social media goes, Instagram is my favorite. Being able to post pictures of what I’m doing throughout the day is addictive, and I spend embarrassing amounts of time drooling over other people’s feeds. I’m @tifforelie in case anyone wants to join in on my habit! Without technology, sharing inspiration would be so limited. It’s been huge for us!
Sarah: Without technology, we could not do what we do. As I mentioned earlier, Offbeat + Inspired was born out of many phone calls and video chats – video chatting especially has been especially important for us since we live in different states. It makes it possible for us to work together despite the distance.
Technology allows us to share our story, our lives, our projects. Through social media outlets, photography, videos, etc. we’re able to get our ideas across to a broader audience. We’re also able to glean from the expertise of many other makers, bloggers, chefs, etc. through the use of technology.
What’s up next for Offbeat + Inspired? Is there anything new you’ve been wanting to try?
Tiffany: We’re just taking things day by day. We’ve been so humbled and blessed by the opportunities that have come our way, to work with some of our favorite publications and businesses, and we’re really excited about whatever’s around the corner. We would love to continue collaborating with and supporting companies and causes we care about. Overall though, our goal is to continue honing our skills and sharing our lives, our faith, our projects and our inspiration with people, and in turn, being inspired by them.
Sarah: We want to continue to grow in ever area of our blogging. We especially want to grow in our photography skills and continue to find our personal photography and blog style. We’ve been learning a great deal from other incredible makers, and we want to use that knowledge to improve upon our recipes and projects. More specifically, I would love to continue to develop original recipes and grow in my culinary knowledge and skill.
We also want to continue to share our story. We hope that through reading our blog, people will get to know us, and we’ll get to know others. I’m always a bit nervous when writing something more personal, because I think, “What if people don’t like this? Then they don’t like me.” I’m a people-pleaser that way. But we continually want to grow in our storytelling and sharing parts of our lives that we think may be an encouragement to others.
Lastly, I think in the future for Offbeat + Inspired, we’re hoping to incorporate the use of video a bit more. There’s so much more we can share through video that may be difficult to share through photography or text.
Love Sarah and Tiffany as much as we do? Don’t forget to visit them over at Offbeat + Inspired. What other makers inspire you? Tell us in the comments below.