Asking for a Friend with Amanda Witucki
I met Amanda Witucki the way that I meet most people these days— through Instagram. We met for coffee on a muggy day and she told me about her project where she leaves beautiful packages of goodies for strangers to find and I was hooked. She’s kind, so so creative and one of the most colorful personalities I’ve ever had the chance to get to know. Excited for you to meet her now!
Tell me a few things that you want us to know about you? I'm from Michigan and I miss the snow dearly. I have a degree in Psychology. I speak French (mostly fluent) and I jump at any opportunity to practice it. Even though I'm pursuing a creative business right now, I'm super passionate about creative social movements and the ability we all have to inspire each other. I just want to help people believe in love, generosity from a stranger, and even though there's so much ugly happening in the world, we have the opportunity to create so much beauty. I have a passion project on the side called the Secret Prezzie Project (@secretprezzieproject on instagram) where I hide thoughtful presents around the city for strangers to find. I eat salads everyday, and I'm told that a salad was the first solid food I ever ate. I also never get sick of sandwiches.
Do you remember the first time you remember being emotionally affected by failure?
Do I ever! I think I'm just barely crawling out of that hole. From 2013-2015 I was co-owner of a wedding decorating business here in Austin called The Confetti Committee. During that time we poured ourselves into making hand-crafted weddings. We did really well in getting the word out about us; said yes to a ton of unpaid styled shoots/promotional events, and were just at the point of actually getting paid consistently for our services. Then in 2015 my brother unexpectedly died and a few months later my partner gave birth to her first child. Both of us were emotionally and physically tied up with things other than the business, and we kind of disappeared for a while. I knew how much effort it would take to regain the momentum we had lost in the months after my brother died, and I just didn't have the energy to jump back in. So we ended the business and each focused on what was important for our lives: Tara on her newborn son, and myself on trying to heal from the loss. This became a 2-year creative sabbatical where I fell into depression. It took me a long time to have to energy to even think about starting another creative business, but it killed me because pursuing something creative was the only way I knew I could be truly fulfilled. I spent a long time in this creative slump. After 2 and a half years, I was anxious to do something, but I didn't know where to start. I felt like I had squandered my opportunity to have a creative business and I knew that if I started something again, I needed it to be the right fit for me. Skip forward through a lot of trial and error: lots of "I like making paper ferns, should I sell them on Etsy?" or "would anyone actually hire me to make paper food?" (not kidding, when you asked me to do that my mind was BLOWN) and a very short-lived pinata-making business. Eventually I decided to do what I have always done: make awesome parties happen. This took a lot of refining and experimentation to see if people will actually let me make my creative dreams come true, but now I'm here: at the very beginning of a new creative business.
What’s the biggest accolade you earned while you were in school?
It's not an actual accolade, but when I was in college, just about to drop out of the Fine Arts program to pursue a more practical degree (this is where I decided on that Psychology degree that I'm not using), my art professor told me that "I would do myself a huge disservice to not pursue art." I had a giant crush on him and never felt like I was "good enough" at art, so you can imagine how happy this made me. And the best part is, his advice was totally right even though it took me 10 years to realize it.
What does your day to day look like in your occupation?
I have a full-time job at Paper Source, and my day-to-day involves helping people craft their wedding invitations, helping with creative projects, etc. It's the best. But I do get really anxious to get home so I can work on all the fun projects that I have with the business.
What does your morning routine look like?
Wake up, drink iced coffee in the shower because I just can't wait, make my banana peanut butter smoothie and take a bunch of vitamins, then ride my bike to work. I need to get better at making time for some self care. Someday I'll get up 30 minutes early to meditate, or read, or just sit outside and stare at the sky. I wish I was that person, but I. AM. NOT.
If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
You're probably always going to follow your heart, because that makes you who you are, so keep doing that. But maybe drink less. You'll get more done. And write more, you need to hear yourself better.
Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
So I just started a craft tutorial show on Instagram--in 5 years I want to develop this series into the hilarious potential that I KNOW it has.
And naturally, I will have quit my full-time job at Paper Source to work creatively full time! Also a 401K--really need to have that by then, no more excuses.
It’s a random Tuesday and you have the day off and no plans, what do you do to fill those hours?
Since I still work full-time, my days off are always filled with researching, crafting, or brainstorming new ideas for future projects: what new material I want to work with; what holidays/seasons are coming up and how can I capture that in a fun and imaginative way; who will want to hire me for these ideas? After I fulfill the responsible side of me, I reward myself with an espresso somewhere, and then go buy a new plant. I love plants. I have too many. I should stop. Then I come home and make a lovely dinner for myself.
If you’re comfortable, would you mind sharing one failure from the six months?
A couple of months back someone contacted me about potentially hosting an online craft tutorial series. They interviewed me via Skype, like a real actor, and even though I think I did well, they didn't choose me. I'm not sure why, but I know that I struggled with "describing my personality." I'm very comfortable talking about my work, but have never had to talk about myself. Cut to me giving a super bland explanation of who I am. YES I'm goofy, and awkward, and makes friends with everyone, but I'm so much more than that! It killed me to think that I might have been passed up on what has always been a dream of mine (I've always wanted to host a multi-platform diy craft/talk show), so I decided to start my own craft show. It's still in the making, but it's going to be part Martha Stewart, part Drunk History, and a whole lot of sass. Who knows why they didn't choose me, but it resulted in me finally pulling the trigger and just TRYING to do what I want. I didn't know I had a vision until I thought I wasn't able to share it.
If you’re comfortable, would you mind sharing one success from the past year?
I have a hard time even owning the word success. I'm still in that purgatory of work work work, but I'm super thankful that I had the opportunity to help out at the FOMO Factory here in Austin. One of the founders put out on Instagram that they were looking for help and I reached out. I didn't expect much, but they gave me a whole wall to create in the Back to School room. The FOMO Factory has hundreds of people travel through there each week, and I'm honored to have my work be seen by so many. I'm so accustomed to spending hours upon hours for something that will only be visible by a few people for a few hours. Finally people will see it for months. Makes my heart happy.
Who is the most ‘successful’ person you know?
Jihan Zencirli of Geronimo Balloons, the originator of the giant balloons with a stream of tassels, and more recently the inventor of the hundreds of balloon installations that we see all over the country from different businesses. This woman is the sole inventor for two widely popular balloon movements in wedding/events. There are now literally hundreds of businesses that do what she does. She currently focuses on art installations/movements and honestly I don't really understand it, but I love that she's still forging forward trying to challenge herself. She's also hilarious and weird and you should totally follow her on Instagram @geronimo.
What do you think makes them ‘successful’?
She had mind-blowing original ideas and even though so many people have copy-catted her business, she kept moving on to the next thing that fulfills her and she's a GENIUS when it comes to innovative design. She doesn't sit back when her ideas became moneymakers, she changes courses constantly to feed her soul. That's beyond admirable.
Describe your relationship with failure?
I've never been a fan of inspirational quotes, but recently I read this interview with Karamo Brown talking about how many no's he had on the route to his eventual success on Queer Eye. It's essentially the same advice I've heard before, but something about hearing it from one of the Fab Five really stuck with me: "Don't be scared of NO" Every unanswered email and every "that doesn't fit our concept" or "we can't afford to pay you" is a building block to your future success. Don't be scared of no's. We all get them. Stories don't work without them. Something changed in me when I read this, and I'm almost excited when I get these failures because I feel like I've taken one for the team and I'm that much closer to a YES.
Describe your relationship with success?
I don't believe I have a relationship with success yet. Well, I guess it depends on how you define it. Am I making money? Heck no. Am I following my heart and creating art that I'm proud of? Heck yes. So I almost have a relationship with success. Soon.
What parting words do you have for us?
The worst thing you can do to yourself is believe something is too far out of reach. Everything is baby steps. Just start walking.
Where can I get a good slice of pizza?
I know it's no secret, but VIA 313 has the most delicious, caramelized crispy-edged, juicy freakin pizza. Get. On. That.
I’m a freelance creative artist that makes art installations and backdrops, usually out of paper, but sometimes other fun textures and materials. I’m in the very beginning stages of starting a new business, so until I have an official website up (soon, promise!) you can check out my work on Instagram @amandawitucki. I also have a small piece in the FOMO Factory (check the paper airplane wall), and you can see that until December 30th.