Alabama Sawyer’s Not So Secret Diary

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Interviewing MAKEbhm: Amanda Loper

March 12, 2019

Interviewing MAKEbhm: Amanda Loper

I interviewed Amanda Loper of David Baker architects a few days ago in a small conference room in MAKEbhm. My first question addressed the length of time she's been working at MAKEbhm...

How long have you been working at MAKEbhm?

I think we started in October of 2016, so, how ever many years it’s been since then. A little over two years.

What's your favorite thing about working at MAKEbhm?

So we started in office from the west coast. In a sense I was this random satellite office on my own. But I had just come from working with 35 people everyday. And I realized very quickly that working from my kitchen was very lonely. But from day one at MAKE, it’s like I had a built in office. I actually had office-mates. I would say it’s really the community and camaraderie.

On your website it says you are working to, “bring social awareness to issues of housing and density within the urban setting.” Could you list some of the issues associated with housing and density in the urban setting?

In San Francisco that work looks different than it does here. The big problem there is that there’s a lot of jobs, and a lot people want to live there. But there’s not a lot of land. So there are affordability issues because construction is so expensive. So we work to find innovative ways to make construction more affordable and less expensive. That could be affordability by design by making smaller units. Just innovative housing models that still provides a high quality building for a lower cost. We know that a lot of people in the country are housing burdened, meaning they spend more than a third of their income on housing.

That’s not good, it’s hard to thrive when you’re paying that much for housing. Even a place like Birmingham where people think it’s a cheap place to live, the data still shows us that people are still housing burdened. In Birmingham one of the issues has just been to raise the conversation because the conversation is not being had. In San Francisco, random people on the bus talk about these issues. But here, it’s not really the topic. But still some of our cities are experiencing an economic boom, so prices are pretty high in Birmingham and Chattanooga right now. So we realized that we can use a lot of strategies that we cooked up in San Francisco in the South East as well.

What type of work do you do for the neighborhood-serving community center in Hunter’s View?

That’s a master planned community that used to be a post WWII government developed housing project that was in disrepair and not designed well. So we had done three blocks in that neighborhood, and now we’re doing a fourth. The community center is the crown jewel of that plan, it sits right in the center and is underneath affordable family housing.

We designed that whole building all the way from looking at how it fit into the zoning of that area, we configured the building. There’s a daycare center there and a food bank as well. There’s community events and exercise spaces. We designed all of that in a pretty cost effective environment. So we had to really sharpen our pencils to get that project to work.

What is your favorite project you've ever worked on?

Hmm, that’s tough. You know, I like most everything I work on. One of my favorite things is Potrero 1010 because I worked on it from the first year I was in office from 2006 and it just finished last year. It’s also a great example of a public private partnership since there’s a public park that a private developer maintains. It’s also a mixed income building so you have people making like, 30% of what the average San Franciscan makes living in that building.  

What is your favorite thing about your job?

Well, it never gets old to see something that I’ve drawn, and designed, and dreamed come to reality. I cry at probably every project grand opening just because of the stories of people that were living in their car. It gets me every single time. Even if it’s like, a coffee shop. That feeling never gets old.


About MAKEbhm

I recently got the opportunity to sit down and chat with some of the creative folks at MAKEbhm, which is a group of businesses that include Alabama Sawyer, ECam and Co., Amanda Loper, and more.

Read more →

Interviewing MAKEbhm: ECam and Co.

March 08, 2019

Interviewing MAKEbhm: ECam and Co.

I interviewed candle maker Elizabeth Cameron of ECam and Co. in her workshop where I was greeted by a strong wave of various candle scents. Glass vessels of multiple shapes and sizes lined the shelves, some with her brand specific label and some without. I began with a question about her length of time at MAKEbhm...

How long have you been working at MAKEbhm?

I have been here since September. So just a couple of months, but it feels like forever.

What's your favorite thing about working at MAKEbhm?

I love that I get to share this space with so many creative people, but that I’m not in anybody’s way over here in my little corner room. But like I said, I also love the group aspect of it. I can talk to anybody who’s in here and everyone is friendly. You meet new people everyday, and I think that’s really fun.

How do you hope your business will grow and evolve in the coming years?

This year starting in January, this became my full time job. I had a day job for a while, and so there are a lot of things that are changing daily. I've grown so much in the past two months. One is example is that I got my candles into a couple more stores. I hope I continue to get into more stores and that I continue to get my name out there so that people recognize me when they see my products. But I am still taking it day by day. I'm not really looking to become this multi million dollar company though.

What first inspired you to start making candles?

So all of my candles are made out of wine and liquor bottles. I love wine and liquor bottles, but hated throwing them away. I hated the fact that it isn't good for the environment. So I instead of buying all of these toxin filled candles I decided I would try to make my own. It's also very unique, there aren't a lot of people out there who do the same concept. I have find ways to make mine unique and different with my own branding.

What are some of your favorite scents?

Currently my favorite scents are midnight bourbon, lush linen, grapefruit mint. One I just recently got is called cashmere cedar, it's very clean and sweet which I like.

What is the hardest part of the candle making process?

There are a lot of difficult thing in my day to day tasks. Cutting the bottles tends to be very hard. It can be dangerous but it takes a lot of practice. There are a lot of technical things that go along with it, there is science behind it. It's not just pouring and drying. Communicating with other businesses is also kind of difficult, I've grown a lot and learned a lot talking to other people. One of the main difficulties is me not having any employees. I'm doing everything on the business side to actually making candles, which I chose. It's a little scary some days because the business side is the most important side of it. It's the boring side, but you have to learn. I've learned by designing a website to taxes. Like I said, it's not just pouring candles. There's a lot that goes with it.

You do custom orders, right? Like, someone will bring you a bottle and then specify what type of scent they want?

Yeah! I do custom orders all the time. I have a lot of people that bring me specific bottles from a wedding anniversary, or maybe they just like that bottle. I don't do custom scents though. If someone is like, "can you mix X and Y?" I don't do that. I offer what's available. But the custom orders are always really fun. Some people will bring me containers in funky shapes, which makes it fun not to do the same thing over and over.

I saw on your website that you are going to offer candle making workshops at some point in the future. Can you tell me a little bit about that? 

It starts next Tuesday (March 5th) and is here at Make (MAKEbhm). It's going to consist of a maximum of 10 people per class. The first one is going to be kind of a trial run. You'll be able to pick from pre-cut bottles that are going to be available for each week of the class. And you can pick one vessel to fill around 12 ounces of wax in a variety of scents. I'll be teaching the basics, and the class will be an hour and a half on Tuesday nights. Hopefully it will be once a month or every 6 weeks.

Well, that's it. Thank you for letting me interview you!


About MAKEbhm

I recently got the opportunity to sit down and chat with some of the creative folks at MAKEbhm, which is a group of businesses that include Alabama Sawyer, ECam and Co., Amanda Loper, and more.

Read more →