Making a Difference: My Work on Extreme Makeover Home Edition

I wanted to post the Q&A with the editor of my local paper, the Agawam Advertiser News, who interviewed me about my work with the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s Walker Family Home in Springfield, MA.  The two-hour episode airs on 12/2 at 8pm on ABC.

Tell me a little bit about yourself as well as Anselblue Design (including what you do, where you are located, and how you got started). 

My name is Sarah Platanitis.  I am a writer and photographer, born and raised in Feeding Hills.  I’ve also lived abroad in Spain and Japan.

I’m the owner of Anselblue Design Studio, a small, independent business where I do creative consultations and make things like hand printed kitchen textiles and reclaimed home décor.  My website is www.anselblue.com and my online shop is anselblue.etsy.com.

How did you get involved with EMHE? (what did you do there? were you working with anybody?)

I got involved with the EMHE Walker Family Home because of a professional connection with 42|Design Fab, another small, independent business in Chicopee that creates amazing museum exhibits, themed environments and custom creations in all kinds of media. They put in a bid two years ago and snagged the chance to design the 8 year-old boy’s sports-themed room.  I’m part of the team’s network that they call on when there’s a special project and this definitely qualified as a special project!

What was your experience like working there? 

Busy!  I somehow thought that I would just go in for a few hours each day and leave.  I soon realized that wasn’t the case when we were pulling 18+ hour days to make our designs come to life.  My daily to-do list was a little bit of everything, including tracking down all the baseball bats that later became room elements, making the city skyline, helping build the desk and foul pole plus lots and LOTS of late-night painting.

How did you feel about/what was your response to getting chosen to be a part of EMHE? 

I was so proud to get the call to join the design team.  I think I hung up the phone and did a little dance, actually.  I put my life on hold and went to work in 42|Design Fab’s off-site dream shop with every tool and supply imaginable.  My dad taught me a great deal about shop work but I never really got to use any of it until the EMHE project.  I would call him each night and excitedly tell him about how I almost broke the band saw or how I learned to countersink a screw.  I could tell through the phone that he was smiling.

The on-site install was impressive.  We carried what felt like a two-ton desk, the rest of the room elements and all our tools up a mountain goats-only flight of stairs.  We had so much work to do and we just got to it.  There were an unbelievable amount of people, EMHE workers, crew members and volunteers, helping to build a beautiful house for such a deserving family.  We met some of the cast members when they filmed a reveal in our room.  On the way back from picking up tools at our shop, a volunteer asked to have her picture taken with me because I was “one of the designers.”  It was all kind of surreal at that point.

What sort of pressure were you under working on EMHE’s strict deadline? 

We literally had one week.  It was immense pressure, beyond anything I’ve ever felt before and I’ve been in some pretty high-stress situations.  There was something about it, though, like the thought of the little boy’s face when he first got to see his room and the camaraderie of my team that seemed to make it easier.  In some instances, members on my team were building super difficult elements like composite images and electrical features that took hours.  Cooperation and communication were key.

Why do you think it’s important for small local businesses to be a part of such an event? 

I think it’s important for small businesses like me to be part of an event like this because people don’t always know we exist and it highlights our innovative creations on a bigger scale.  Being able to work on such a high-profile, nationally viewed job provides us with an amazing experience that few people can say they have had, professional connections that we rarely would have made otherwise and helps us get just that little bit closer to our dreams and goals as successful, independent businesses.

If you could do it all again, is there anything you’d do differently?

I came home covered in dust and exhausted each night but wouldn’t change a single thing.  This experience reminded me that we should help others as often as we can and that I’m capable of doing work that has redefined me as an artist and designer.  Best was the post-EMHE consultation that led to my first solo design project and the comrades that I found in 42|Design Fab.  I hope to work with them again and, even though it might seem a crazy idea, I’ve thought of seeking a job with EMHE because the long hours, worries and laughter made for the most memorable experience of my life.

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