howie life – met my best friend at HOW

Posted by on Apr 7, 2015 in HOW Conference
howie life – met my best friend at HOW
darcy hinrichs and kelly parke

HOWie Life: Darcy and Kelly at their first Dinner & Design meet-up. One of the many after events during HOW Conference Live.

Yep, this is my BFF – Darcy Hinrichs. Now a talented web designer for Cabela’s, we met in the HOW chat forum when she was finishing up her design degree and forging her way to a level 2 designer from production. For me, it had been almost 4 years since finishing a BA program in technology and I felt that my creative brain took a back seat. It was 1992 when I finished a design/illustration AA and spent many years in production before advancing into design. Design is definitely my passion! After diving so deep into programming, coding, web development and design – I needed to get back in touch with my creative roots with renewed enthusiasm to reach out and be inspired. It’s embarrassing to say that for most of my career I kept to myself and did not share much with anyone. College helped to make a dent in my perspective by having to do presentations in teams, but I still didn’t fully “get it”.

So in 2008 I was a print and web designer for a medical lab for a year before given the task of a new branding direction. As luck would have it, a conference mailer was mailed to the previous designer and I checked it out, proposed it to my boss and she approved the cost for me to go. Never did anything like this before but I was excited more than anything else.

Before Darcy and I even made it to the conference – my first time and her second time – we hit it off in a design community with about 600 members. My original goal was to make a few connections so I wouldn’t be totally lost in a new town when attending for the first time. I was looking for newbie tips, local info and what to wear – as well as what to expect. As we got to know each other, it was clear that she was one person I’d like to hang out with, especially since she’d been around the conference “block”.

It was an extraordinary time as we prepared goody bags to give away at Dinner & Design (one of many “after events” when conference isn’t in session), projects that we would share, business cards printed so we could hand them out and shopping!

how after party accessories

A successful shopping spree yielded the perfect accessories for the “Black & White” HOW After Party.

Got the little black dress and all the accessories, hotel booked and flight paid for. All set for my first HOW Conference Live and I get to meet up with Darcy and all the other people I met online: Jasmine, Nikita, Karma, Ken, Steve, Pam, RJ and sooooo many others!




^Heh, another great friend I made, Karma – doesn’t she look beautiful?! This conference was the start of an amazing professional journey and a new connection that would be a huge part of my life – still is…

After HOW Boston, we were on fire for HOW Austin. We stayed in constant touch during the year and followed up with other HOW attendees and speakers – plus the new HOW Marketplace – we took that town by storm!

how austin 2009 darcy kelly donovan hoops and yoyo

HOW Live Austin – Darcy, Kelly and Donovan met the genius behind Hoops, Yoyo & Piddles.

kelly parke at HOW Austin session with Donovan Beery and Darcy Hinrichs

Kelly Parke hanging out at a HOW session with Donovan Beery and Darcy Hinrichs

HOW Austin with Kathleen, Darcy and Jasmine

Here comes trouble! Kelly with HOW Austin attendees Darcy, Kathleen and Jasmine “Jazzy”

HOW Austin Happy Hour with HOWies!

Happy Hour at HOW Austin with Jeff, Kelly, Smit, Mel, Steve and Darcy

Darcy and I collaborated on a project that started back in Boston. Included in the goody bags I distributed during the In-House Luncheon, were wellness items to stay healthy during conference. Knowing that as much fun and exciting as HOW is, the week-long full day and night schedules can take a toll and we end up getting the conference ick, missing work when we get back. After many requests during the months after conference, I decided to make something everyone had access to. Just my luck that HOW created a marketplace for our wares.

HOW Austin Marketplace

Darcy and Kelly selling their wares at HOW Austin 2009. With Darcy’s beautiful cards and my Conference Survival Kits, our table was a hit!

Conference Survival Kit by Kelly Parke

A collaboration was born: Darcy Hinrichs illustrated my invention: Con Survival Kit. I bring these products to every conference and all my trips.

Darcy Hinrichs Illustration

One of my favorite cards, illustrated by Darcy Hinrichs.

HOW Austin with HOWies

HOW Austin with Pam and Darcy. We finally got a chance to meet in person after 2 years of online chatting.

Breakfast at Stubbs BBQ in Austin

Breakfast at Stubbs BBQ in Austin with Judith and Darcy. Great gospel music!

So, one more year of developing a deep friendship, sharing ideas and projects, talking shop and getting ready for the next HOW conference in Denver! We were able to make arrangements with her sister to stay at her house – which saved us a ton of money over hotel accommodations. A HUGE shout out to you Niki!

By the time Denver came around in 2010 – I developed my own brand, expanded my career to more solo work, paid for my own HOW Live Big Ticket and made Denver one stop in my month-long cross-country road trip to gather cards for my sick mom. More about “Route For Grandma” can be found in the blog archives.

Darcy had been making great strides in her career, finished college and developed her own niche for greeting card illustration – all while getting closer to Designer Level 2. I’m so very proud of her progress and growth, perseverance through personal struggles and constant creativity. We’ve become like family now and cheerleaders for each other’s success. <3

Not long after the photo below was taken, I got the news that my home back in Washington was broken into. At this point, I’ve travelled about 800 miles in my journey to Ohio. Darcy sat with me on the floor, missing this great session, as I struggled to get through all the damage that had been done to my door, all my good jewelry and heirlooms taken and the place torn apart. Devastating. But there she was. I’ll never forget her empathy compassion and love that day. With her support and great support back home, I decided to go forward!

row of howies at Denver HOW

Here we are at an opening session for HOW Denver! Steph, Darcy, Missy, Katie, Cheriill, Nick and Von causing nothing but trouble!

HOW Denver Group Selfie

HOW Denver, just getting started and I stalked Jeff to give him my brand new business card! Steve was there, along with Karen and Jaime.

HOW Denver Lunch with Howies

Another talented group of HOWies enjoying a nice lunch in the city. These are the moments where ideas happen!

HOW Denver Kelly Parke and the Big Blue Bear

Kelly Parke playing tourist during HOW Denver, getting her mug next to a local landmark: The Big Blue Bear.

HOW Denver with local talent

Kelly playing tourist with HOWie girls Darcy and Missy – when we came upon some local talent: a Michael Jackson robot LOL!

HOW Denver with more HOWies!

Kelly and Darcy met up with Missy, Marc and Cherrill just before a session. Here we are, meeting up from all over the world – how great is that?!

HOW Denver chillin at the top

Chillin after a few sessions with a city view. Grab great moments like this whenever you can, hang around smart creative leaders like Stefan and Von while catching up with equally inspiring creatives like Nate, Steph, Nick, Donovan, Karen and Darcy

HOW Denver Closing Party

HOW LIve is not complete without an extraordinarily fun night with your favorite HOWies on the dance floor, all decked out in con theme attire. What a blast!

I came back with so much swag – it took two boxes shipped back to my home!

Darcy and I have experienced much growth over the years. The pure inspiration I get from her friendship has enriched my life in too many ways to count. All because we reached out in 2007.

She is very talented with events, so naturally I asked her to help with my wedding in 2011…

Kelly's Wedding with Darcy Hinrichs

Who does a creative hire to decorate her entire wedding? A talented creative like Darcy Hinrichs, that’s who!

She did such a fantastic job! All flower arrangements too. Just so lovely!

Kelly Parke Wedding

Kelly Parke’s wedding, decorated by Darcy Hinrichs – including all wedding party bouquets and boutonnieres.

Darcy went to a few more HOW Conferences while I settled into my new married life, dealt with deaths in my family and forged a new career in teaching. We are looking forward to making more memories this year at HOW Live Chicago! Stay tuned for another blog post about WORKING at the conference together. Yay!

Next up is the report that financed my next conference and tips for conference attendees!

how design live

Join me for HOW Design Live In Chicago May 4-8, 2015! Use my code for an extra $50 off: AMBKPARKE

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