redesign: inspire 2013


i’m hugely excited to announce that i’ll be speaking at the redesign: inspire conference this fall, october 21 – 22, 2013, at the smog shoppe in culver city!

described as equal parts conference, salon and retreat, redesign: inspire is shaping up to be a fantastic creative getaway [or staycation, if you’re local]. i’m already overwhelmed at the company i’m in honor of keeping at this event. as you’ll see the speaker lineup unfold through june and july, it’s a group of truly outstanding design thinkers and industry leaders. this year’s event symposiarch is lawrence azerrad, a fantastic designer i met at aiga’s blueprint: freelance panel discussion.

parlato_2013_150this year’s theme is cross-pollination, “drawing from sources beyond traditional design to enhance, strengthen and inspire our work.” i’ll be talking about my long and winding road in design, moving ever outward from the day-to-day bubble in order to give my work balance and clarity. i love the idea that this is a forum format, because while i have plenty to share from my own experience, i’m equally excited to hear from attendees as well. every speaker will be tackling this topic from a different angle. join us and get in on the conversation!

this conference has an early-bird registration deadline of june 30, 2013, for the best possible rate! register this week, and keep your eyes on the redesign: inspire site for new announcements.

get in on patio season


in case you haven’t heard, i’m hosting a little something called patio season, which is an open invitation to sit & chat, network, or mutually brain-pick during either morning coffee or afternoon happy hour. take me up on it, and all this [snacks above] and more can be yours. ha.

recently, someone i’d never met before answered the call and came for a visit! she’s a lovely person, a writer, and a neighbor, ana ottman. we chatted about running our freelance practices, managing clients, how and where we might hire each other if the opportunity comes up, and life in los angeles. i’m so glad she took a chance on coming to meet a new person for a patio chat! turns out, we have a lot of friends in common and have just missed meeting somehow within the same circles, but no more—we just ran into each other at LA creative mornings last week, and she has given me the low-down on where to get earl grey pie downtown.


so, conquer your fears, people! there’s no better way to get some in-depth networking done than a one-on-one conversation over snacks & drinks. let’s hang!

here’s how it works. choose a morning coffee [10:30am] or evening happy hour [5:30pm] appointment, tuesday, wednesday or thursday. tell me when you’d like to meet and what you’d like to talk about. if it’s open, i’ll make the drinks & snacks, you come over and we chat. about design, about business, about ideas, about food stuff–whatever, up to 2 hours.

basic cabinetry wrap-up

i completed my first building class at community woodshop, basic cabinetry with levi brewster. we learned so much, and had a great time. i would highly recommend levi if you are considering custom cabinets, he’s easy to talk to, gives good, solid advice, and prefers quality environmental solutions.

the basic box

on our first day, we got familiar with measuring, planning, and using tools we could all afford to use at home. the table saw is very nice, but at 10x the cost and many times the size of a circular saw, levi thought we might like to have first-hand experience with things we might buy. we measured out our 4′ x 8′ ply to give us the pieces necessary for our basic box cabinet, with extra pieces for doors and shelves. we were also taught different cutting techniques, such as setting up a fence with clamps, or freehand cutting.

once we cut our pieces, we were also given the ins & outs of drivers and drills, discussed the differences between phillips-head and star-head screws, where & when to drive at an angle, what to look for in quality plywood, how to prevent chipping out, etc. you know, all those things you never knew that can make or break a beginner project.

the hand router

for our second class, we took apart our box so we could add tracks for sliding doors. again, they have a really great table router in the shop, but we thought we’d look at the hand router to get some experience with it. we learned how to set it up, how to measure exactly where it will land, the rules for track depth, and how far to safely indent the tracks to prevent chipping.

our doors are pretty small and kinda funny, but they were a nice, snug fit. not in this photo is the drawer box we built, also using the hand router.

concealed cabinet hinges

back again to take apart our work and start with a new technique, the next on the list was concealed cabinet hinges. these seem fancy and complicated, but they often come with a template for perfect placement. the 2 tricks are, you’ll need a special drill bit for 1.25″ holes, and you’ll want to take lots of extra time hanging and balancing the doors. we had a moment of group doubt that we measured wrong, and trimmed our doors an extra .125″ only to find we had indeed hung one of the hinges incorrectly. once the error was corrected, our doors were slightly short. our main lesson for this day was, in addition to measuring twice and cutting once, maybe don’t cut twice before you double-check your hardware.

variable-height shelves, drawer sliders and facing

for our final class, we talked about how to use variable-height shelf templates. you can buy templates for creating stacks of holes, but you’ll want to measure to make sure they’re all level. we talked about techniques for doing this, and the benefits of different templates available. once we checked & double checked our work, we drilled in, set the pins and installed the shelf. it was solid as a rock!

we also put a face on our drawer box and installed ball-bearing self-closing sliders. these tend to be fairly standard and have their own foolproofing, but are also a bit tricky to balance. we learned how to tack them with one screw, adjust and balance before tightening the 2nd screw. these fancy hardwares are nice, but each opens a new can of worms in terms of complications with installation. a good reminder to choose what will work well in the long term, but what will also be reasonable for your skill level.

in the end, we graduated officially as professional-level beginners at cabinetry. i’m excited to foist my beginner-ness on my next dream project!

open season on the parlato design patio


i was escaping the early-season heat on the patio last night with a friend, when i realized that maybe it’s time i combine my love for making snacks and drinks and my love of patio sitting with friends into one thing: patio season!

here’s how it works. choose a morning coffee [10:30am] or evening happy hour [5:30pm] appointment, tuesday, wednesday or thursday. tell me when you’d like to meet and what you’d like to talk about. if it’s open, i’ll make the drinks & snacks, you come over and we chat. about design, about business, about ideas, about food stuff–whatever, up to 2 hours.

i’m interested in connecting with old friends, colleagues i don’t see often enough and meeting new people. we’ve got the shade of the loquat tree and a nice breeze. pick a slot and let’s hang!

condiments at poketo with zach negin


so, like i said, on sunday i took a condiment class at the poketo store as part of their new series of workshops. our instructor in the photo above, zach negin, is telling us about great books for homemade fermentations. he’s a co-founder at sono trading company whose product, the mustard, i was introduced to at my first artisanal LA event. so cool to see small, handmade food companies making success happen. zach talked about using only natural ingredients, cooking with lard, and highly recommended sandor katz’ books, so we are totally on the same page, food-wise.


we were 15 people, set up around 3 long tables covered with vinegars, syrups, herbs & spices. we had basic instructions and some mixing implements. yet, in a mere 3 hours, we flavored and blended our own mustards, chopped chilis and prepped sriracha to ferment for a week before finishing, seasoned and blended a lacto-fermented ketchup, and cooked up a vegan worcestershire sauce—all with time to spare for a tasting of some of sono trading’s “in development” creations with complimentary wurstkuche fries from next door. what a fun day!


i made a yellow mustard with lots of red flavors, including some red fruit vinegar, pomegranate molasses and cassis syrup. we all made notes about our flavor profiles so we could possibly try to recreate them again, or compare with future recipes. i can see that mustard on its own is a pretty exciting world of possibilities. i can’t wait to try some variations on my own, but i’ll try to eat this up first so i don’t end up with a fridge full of mustard.

poketo has a great write-up here. they were gracious hosts, keeping our equipment clean, visiting and saying hi to each of us, giving gift bags [!] and offering a discount on same-day shopping [of which i took advantage]. they announced that the next class will be about kimchi, so i know i’ll be watching the site to make sure to get in.

condiment class


one of my recent monday mornings at the back door coffee club introduced me to zach negin, co-owner of sono trading company, and the instructor of poketo’s upcoming condiment class. i tasted their mustards at my first visit to artisanal LA and really enjoyed them. of my experiments with condiments, these 4 are not ones i’ve tried yet, so i figured why not learn from a pro?

spaces are limited and nearly sold out, but sign up if you’re interested: condiment workshop with zach negin.

completing the cutting boards


last month, i talked about community woodshop and the first half of our cutting board class. last week i completed the class and came away with 2 nice cutting boards. the first step in finishing up is to trim the uneven edges, which i am doing with a squaring template on the table saw above.


once i got my trimmed pieces, it was time to decide if i would do any cross cuts and flips. the wood grain itself will always look pretty on its own, but i used the trimmed edges to see where they flipped cuts would match up. i decided to cut the board into 5 pieces and flip symmetrically.


after these final design edits, when the glue is dry, we plane both surfaces and decide on any edge finishes. i decided on simple rounded edges for one, and only one round for the other. then it’s off to the sander to get all surfaces perfectly smooth.


once they’re ready to go, we got out the beeswax. it’s more of a heavy grease that smells like fine bath products and soaks into both wood and your hands, giving both a nice finish. the color of the wood really came alive with this application. i think they look great, but now i’m a little hesitant to take a knife to them. next up, i’ve signed up for basic cabinetry. i can’t wait to see what manner of trouble i can get into there!


AIGA blueprint: freelance

aiga blueprint: freelance
jason adam, mark leroy, heather parlato, spencer cross & petrula vrontikis. photo by paul dimalanta for aiga

last week, i had a blast participating on the aiga los angeles discussion panel blueprint: freelance! i was in excellent company, in concert with mark leroy of silver echo, spencer cross of tokyofarm, and petrula vrontikis of vrontikis design office, moderated by jason adam of hexanine.

i considered the many freelance debates and debacles i’ve been through in preparation, but it seemed once we got going, we really could have talked for hours. one great thing about running your own business is that you can always learn from 3 other people if you sit down and talk about it. everyone has a different experience or has learned some specific twist that can help ratchet the industry ever closer to best & ideal practices. jason kept us from picking apart the details of every point by moving the discussion along.

we talked about a great many things, and all kinds of questions rolled in. aside from saving your money, increasing your moonlighting till you can’t stand it and attempting to take your employer as a client, i think the most general statement about the great unknown can be summed up by these 3 steps of transitioning to freelance:

1. know yourself first. you will have to search yourself for your personal philosophy about how you want to run your business. you’ll draw on past experiences, books and articles you’ve read, inspiration from mentors, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how you want things to go. you’ll decide on your market positioning and your mission statement, and you’ll brand accordingly.

2. get prepared. knowing yourself is a good start, but you’ll want to check with industry references and standards. find out the main styles of business and see where you fall. learn about book keeping, accounting, tax qualifications, project management, legal specifics that pertain to design and intellectual property. learn all this stuff you don’t know!

3. learn on the job. the first two steps only describe the situations you can imagine—but the business world is all ready to throw you a bunch of curve balls you haven’t considered. there will be intricacies you haven’t prepared for, questionable situations that don’t point to a clear answer [or maybe they do and you’re just mired in it enough you can’t see it yet], interactions that make you question a policy or contract line. and so be it. you will learn what you didn’t know, you’ll consult your network, you’ll make a valuable mistake that informs your future, you will grow, and you will keep on truckin!

if we look happy, it’s because none of us have bosses! thanks so much to paul dimalanta for the great photos.

with that said, if you have a specific question about something, email me!. in the meantime, here’s a recap of the resources we all talked about:

jason’s recap:
on the hexanine blog!

mark’s resources:
win without pitching manifesto
the brand gap by marty neumeier

petrula’s resources: class running a design business: freelancing

spencer’s resources:
AIGA professional practices in graphic design by tad crawford
design is a job by mike montiero
the education of a design entrepreneur by steven heller
graphic artists guild handbook: pricing and ethical guildelines
talent is not enough: business secrets for designers by shel perkins
california lawyers for the arts
join the spencer-founded kernspiracy list:

my additions:
creative freelancer conference, blog & events!
the designer’s guide to marketing & pricing by ilise benun & peleg top [check their blog too] blog
smashing magazine’s legal guide for designers, check their blog too!
jessica hische’s thoughts on getting freelance work and the dark art of pricing once you have it.

and a couple of my own interviews:
freelancing 101, 102 and 103
creative freelancer blog’s interview with heather parlato on freelancing