Friday, March 27, 2015

Hip + Urban Girl of the Month: Michelle the Piñartist

By Wendy Kam Marcy

Michelle and I go all the way back to the 6th grade when I rocked a barrette in my hair. I long chose to forget this geeky image of myself but she recently reminded me and we got a good laugh at how far we both have come.

Pretty, smart and witty, Michelle was one of the "popular kids" in school - but she was never a mean girl. She was the girl that made us LMAO before we even knew there was an acronym for that. We lost touch over the years and it wasn't until I started noticing these Piñatas taking over my Facebook feed did we reconnect. Of course, these unique and fabulous creations belonged to Michelle, the beauty + brains behind Big Ass Piñata... see how this Mama took partying to the next level! Say hello to Michelle Laratta, our hip + urban girl of the month!

1) Tell us about Big Ass Piñata!

Big Ass Piñata is the way I do life: big, silly, and barely held together.

A piñata is merely a container that is broken. I choose how to break it, based on a series of questions, and design a piece of art that makes sense, for whatever its intended purpose. No sticks, no hitting, no confetti is how I roll 99% of the time.

Right now, I'm working on a 3 foot, glazed, Kim K booty, a glittered 2 foot Montreal Canadiens logo, a three tiered photo-ready wedding cake, a traditional Mexican piñata (the pointy one) with gold, pearls and roses, and a ridiculously detailed Death Star. I have a niche market, but in that niche lies an overwhelming array of clients with amazing requests.

I average about two weeks per job because I work late nights cutting cardboard, glue gunning, fringing and diamond studding... not to mention painting, spray painting, glittering and making up artsy words, all while my 3.5 year old sleeps like a baby. I try to take my time because in any job, the design and build are the hardest part. I've gone back to the drawing board a few times, but once the logistics are sound, it's all 'make me pretty' from there on out.

I live for the big jobs, but I'm actually about to go in the opposite direction with a line of customizable minis that people can order and send by mail delivery to friends, co-workers, ex-boyfriends, you name it. I am pushing the envelope with this one but it's an exciting idea that I can't wait to share.

I don't like to miss a party. :)

2) Show us your coolest pinata!

I think the Stanley Cup piñata is pretty boss. I set out to do something crazy, and while it is a 'reproduction', there is so much meaning behind this piece. I just wanted to do it justice, in cardboard form. ;)

I also designed a ride-inside fire engine for a friend's son. There were so many little elements that made this unique, like working hazard lights and a beer cooler seat filled with candy. That little guy had that piñata for months afterwards, and would sit inside it to watch tv or chill with his gigantic black cat. Kids make me laugh. I was so proud of how much he got out of it.

3) You went from working as an Event Manager to choosing to be a Stay-At-Home Mom with a small business... what made you take that big step and was it a scary decision?

To answer this question I have to get serious for a moment. I think that there is a severe lack of opportunity in our culture for mothers with young children. The differences between "us" are polarizing, but as a group, new mothers are faced with insane choices to make regarding return-to-work, work-life-balance, personal well-being, and health in our relationships all while trying desperately to shape, and care for a human being.

For the moms in the "looking for work" category, you know first-hand the barriers we face. And while I curse like a pregnant sailor, I am surprisingly highly decorated in Political Science, Economics, World Religion, Human Resources Management, Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Design. I did not apply for ONE job in the field I love dearly, knowing full well what would be asked of me. Especially as a single mother.

I don't know how to explain it, but I knew I had to be home with my son right away. I knew whatever hardships I faced would be short lived and all losses, recoverable. I took a massive pay cut, sliced my cost of living by several hundred percent, and never looked back. It was the best and only decision to make, for me.

When my son turned 2, I made a wrecking ball piñata because there was nothing close on the market. I had the lightening moment and everything came together while the kids stuffed their faces with candy and I vacuumed up the remains with my Dyson. My business was born in 5 minutes.

4) When you are not surrounded by tissue paper in every colour of the rainbow or chasing after your little man, what else do you do for fun?

I am chronically low maintenance, but I recently discovered Sephora LOL and love playing with makeup. Thank god my first makeup artist, now with MAC and a client of mine, is my bff on Instagram (@fortheloveofliner) because she keeps my eyebrows in check when I'm posting idiotic selfies!

I rock ripped jeans, studded sneakers a killer bag and a samurai bun on a daily basis. The big shades hide my tired eyes and a gigantic coat hides my big ass because I try to have all-you-can-eat sushi, prime-rib, nachos and gyro whenever possible.

Right now my part-time delivery girl gig takes me to College street every week, where I love to get a bifana sandwich, grab an espresso and buy fruits and veggies. It's like a little one-hour vacation!

But my first choice, is, and always will be, seeing my friends. Coffee on the run, hours over beer or the unimaginable over shots is the best. I lived in Montreal for 15 years so I love to slow life down. People are fascinating creatures and just being able to talk without yelling, "mommy does not want to go to the emergency room today!!" every eight minutes is gold.

5) Who inspires you?

Eeesh. Where to begin?

I am an Instagram noob but I look to it #alldayeveryday for inspiration. My work, surprisingly, takes me all over the place and I am actually horribly uncrafty by nature despite being somewhat creative. I live on IG late at night and draw ideas from color palettes, ad campaigns, comicon snaps, food shots and more. I geek out with other designers around the world just by double tapping and starting a conversation.

6) What would you tell your 20 year-old self?

Haha, master Photoshop, learn code, stick with wrestling, take care of your body and mind, quit being afraid to fly, invest in better jewelry and leather jackets, and never be afraid to challenge ideas or rules outloud where everyone can see and hear you.

7) What life advice do you have for hip + urban girls looking to trade in their day job to start a business?

Fear is murder. In this city, we let work take over our lives and hearts. Pretend you are a woman in any other part of the world for a moment. And imagine how different your mind and actions would be, simply because the scenery has changed. Think long and hard about what is actually, physically or mentally stopping you, and make a choice whether or not you care enough to ignore it. Even if that means revisiting an idea down the road.

Michelle | Big Ass Piñata will be a vendor at the ReBash Wedding Show on April 18. You can also connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


Wendy is a New Mom to a curious and rambunctious little boy. Plugged in she is the Co-Founder of HUG and the Director of Marketing at Adfluent Media - an Ad Agency that specializes in Online Advertising, Google Adwords and Affiliate Marketing. She also teaches the Business of Blogging and Content Marketing workshops at Camp Tech.

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