NAPW: Would you like to be featured on NAPW’s new Member Spotlight Pinterest board, where your photo and a link to your NAPW profile will be pinned?
Calamai:Yes, I would love to be featured on NAPW’s new Member Spotlight. Although I reached out to the NAPW a while ago, at an embryonic stage of my “Celery Charles & Pals” project, I feel that now it is the right time for Charles and his Pals (the Charlespals) to leave the drawing table and end up were they belong, in the tiny hands and under the curious eyes, of children who will, hopefully, benefit from their message: “Eat well, be well, HAVE FUN!”
NAPW: When working on a team, what role do you usually take? Why?Describe a situation in which you were able to positively influence the actions of others in a desired direction.
Calamai:My “profession” had been that of a stay-at-home mom, until all my kids left for college.
I was born and raised in Florence, Italy, and come from a very traditional upbringing: a girl will, before anything else, be a good wife and mother! I studied graphic design at the Accademia Cappiello, and worked in Architectural Studios in Florence, where I also freelanced, designing wine labels for renowned Chianti wines and sportswear for the Count of Florence label.
When I moved to the United States, I worked for a fabric design studio in New York City until I got married and moved to Philly.
The story is long; the core of it is that, since my husband’s job required a great deal of international traveling, and not having any extended family nearby, the decision to stay at home and raise our children came to me naturally. Which I would do all over again! It truly is THE “full-time” job—no weekends or vacations! A job that often gives you the best rewards after a looong time, when you start to believe nobody noticed what you were aiming for, and accomplished, all those years…
While the kids were growing up, I continued experimenting with colors any chance I had, and created the “Antologia di Sassi” (The Stones’ Anthology) collection. My paintings are in private collections in several countries.
I have always been particularly fascinated by children’s books, even before I had my own children. When I first arrived in New York, I actually started to create a couple of really cute stories with an American friend—she would write and I illustrated them. Then I moved from NYC to Philly, we both started our own families, and the project remained, literally, in a drawer.
Team work has been the way I have dealt, and deal, with my children. From the beginning, everything was, and is, very simply based on respect and trying to be our best, with others but, most importantly, with ourselves. Of course I had to be the “example,” but eventually they each very much became their own person, and the rule of the house was, and is, collaboration.
NAPW:Describe a situation when you failed to meet a dead line. What did you learn?
Calamai:I am punctual to a fault! It comes from my father, who actually reprimanded me for being eight minutes late for church, on the day of MY own wedding! I recall that, while working for the Count of Florence, I would often draw in the middle of the night to meet deadlines, when I returned from whatever social gathering was going on. I was very young, and still without “grown-up” responsibilities. But I never actually missed a deadline! My pride and education would not allow it. I would wear the deepest, darkest lines under my eyes you’d ever seen, but my job was done, and, usually, done well. What I learned is not to procrastinate! Every girl needs her beauty sleep!
NAPW:What ways have you found to make your job easier and more rewarding?
Calamai:Screaming and yelling is not the way we deal with each other in our team and, while there obviously are the unavoidable contrasting views, disappointments and long faces, civilly talking about the “monsters under the bed,” more often than not, results in a positive outcome. Collaboration and kindness, given and received, are what made my “job” easier and enjoyable. As I said, I would apply for it again!
NAPW:Describe the most creative way you have solved a customer’s problem.
Calamai:About solving not just one, but three tiny customers’ problem: what about asking a mighty confused Swiss waiter for “chicken fondue”?! (As toddlers, for some weird reason, the kids would call anything they eat that wasn’t a vegetable “chicken.” ”Would you like more fish?” “It’s chicken, Mommy!”)
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