Everyday Hero: Amy Garbark

Amy Garbark

Everyday Heroes

Now that I’ve finally come to terms with where this blog is heading, I am ready to get back to posting on a more regular basis. It kind of feels like a huge weight has been lifted and the creative reserves have been replenished.

And what better way to get back in the groove than by sharing about an inspiring woman like Amy Garbark?!

Amy and I met way back when I was making books (2007?). I was immediately impressed with her style, her openness, and her willingness to get involved and help others. I was also blown away by her talent. Her silk-screened clothing and accessories are beyond amazing.

When I was putting together a list of women that I wanted to feature, Amy’s name was one of the first that came to mind. After you read her interview, I’m sure you’ll understand why.

And the next time you have a chance to see her work in person, DO IT.


Amy Garbark

Name: Amy Garbark
Job/Title: garbella // Owner, Bosslady
Where you call home: Pittsburgh, specifically Lawrenceville
Website: garbelladesign.com
Twitter: @garbella
Facebook: fb.com/garbelladesign
Instagram: garbella
Etsy: garbella.etsy.com

Where are you from, where are you located now, and what led you there?
I’m a born and raised Pittsburgher. I grew up in the South Hills, left to attend college in Alfred, NY, and moved back to Pittsburgh. I’ve been living in the East End for the past 12 years and bought a house in Lawrenceville about 8 years ago. I love to travel and visit new places, but Pittsburgh will always be home.

If we really knew you, what would we know?
Self-reflection is always challenging, so I asked two of my best friends for some insight. They both mentioned that I always pull things together at the last moment, for good and bad. They also said that I am a connector and hold things together between friends and family. In my friend Dana’s words, “You convene stability in chaos” which is a combination of the last minute thing and the pulling/holding things together piece.

If you really knew me, you would also know that I really don’t like to talk on the phone. I would much rather meet for a cup of coffee to chat and catch up than talk on the phone. I do make exceptions sometimes for my far-away friends.

You would also know these fun facts about me:

  • I really don’t like rosemary.
  • I have two different colored eyes.
  • I have been vegetarian for 21 years.
  • I have ridden my bike across 8 countries.
  • I was a college radio DJ and booked/hosted a lot of performers.
  • I take a lot of time to process things which sometimes come off as being indecisive…

Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration all over the place, but definitely from experiences and the things that I really love: teaching, traveling, riding bikes & scooters, spending time outdoors, etc. I’m also really inspired by people who do awesome stuff + so many creative business friends in Pittsburgh who are making it work and making it happen.

What “rules” do you live by?
Be kind. It sounds cliche, but I think kindness really does go a long way.

Enjoy your life now! The older I get, the faster the days, weeks, months and years seem to fly by.  I have been trying to do the things that I have always wanted to do NOW, rather than say ‘some day I’ll do that’. It’s easy to get caught up in work, stress, and the day-to-day routine. As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I could easily fill up every minute of every day thinking/planning/working on my business. Even though I absolutely love what I’m doing, I still want to make time for my life beyond my business.

What three things, people, or roles have contributed most to your success?
Family: I am super lucky to have the most supportive family! They are always willing to step up to help me in the studio, at a show, or really any time that I could use a little help. Most of the time I don’t even have to ask! If you have ever met me at a local show, then I’m sure you  have met my Mom and/or my sister. My husband, Steevo, has been a solid support for me throughout all of the transitions and growth with my business. He makes a great sounding board and always gives me honest feedback, which I really appreciate, even when it’s hard to hear.

Friends: I have amazing friends who inspire me and support me unconditionally. Sometimes they challenge me too, which is a good thing! Some of my closest friends are far away, but  they continue to play a big part in my life.

Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh loves to support Pittsburghers! I don’t think my story would be the same if I hadn’t grown my business in Pittsburgh. I feel really lucky to own and operate a business in Pittsburgh.

What was the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Generally, just sort of the “Do you really think that’s a good idea?” kind of vibe in regards to any big decision that veers from the norm or is seemingly risky.

  • Quitting my job to ride bicycles around Europe and coming home penniless.
  • Spending every last cent to buy a rough house that needed a lot of work in a then not-so-great neighborhood.
  • Resigning from another job to ride my bike across the country with my friend and coming home penniless again.
  • Turning down a job as a public school teacher to pursue a job at a non-profit whose mission I strongly believed in.
  • Quitting said non-profit job to pursue self-employment and grow my little business.

I would say that all of the above listed decisions were the best decisions I have made over the last 10 years. Had I listened to the ‘Play it Safe’ folks, then I would probably be miserable. Plus, I wouldn’t have the experiences that I treasure from traveling, nor would I have a house and a job that I love!

What women inspire you?
I am inspired to make and do more by my friend, Taryn. Her ethos is  “I can make that” and then, “I’m going to make it now.”  Her attitude and energy are infectious.

My Mom inspires me to be more organized and to plan ahead. She is always on top of her game and this is something that I struggle with daily!

My sister, Brooke, inspires me to be more selfless. She is the sweetest and always the first to offer to help someone.

My friend Dana inspires me to dream big! We grew up together and it has been amazing to watch her grow, shift her goals, and keep moving forward.

Lastly, I am inspired by lots of creative small business owner friends in Pittsburgh including: Alison Glancey of strawberryluna, Amy Hamley of RedRaven Studios, Lisa Krowinski of Sapling Press to name a few, but there are lots more!

What books are sitting on your nightstand or are currently on your must-read list?
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris and Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeir.

If there’s one thing you could change about the world, what would it be?
That’s a big one, but one of the things I would change would be related to privilege in regards to class, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. I would eliminate privilege and level the playing field so that everyone has the same opportunity from Day 1.

Famous last words:
“It’s so easy to laugh. It’s so easy to hate. It takes strength to be gentle and kind.” The Smiths

“Make rad decisions.” Matt Ruscigno of True Love Health

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More about Emily Levenson

Emily Levenson is a meditation encourager, mama, and Pittsburgh enthusiast. She recently launched a podcast called Nourish + Flourish and is a co-pilot at Propelle.


  1. Reply Amy, you rule so hard!! I'm in awe of everything you've accomplished! Great interview!
  2. Reply You went to Alfred and you didn't call us? We live a couple hours away! Seriously, Amy, you have my greatest admiration and respect. I loved visiting your shop when we were in Pittsburgh.

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