I’m so incredibly proud to be a part of the Amber Collective, a community for Asian American women creatives in the Bay Area. We started this as a group of five women who are grateful to have formed community with each other and wanted to help foster that for other Asian American women as well. In just under seven weeks, we had put together our first event. It was sold out, with 82 people in attendance, even on a rainy night. Better yet, attendees came away that night speaking about honesty, connection, vulnerability, and inspiration. We were intentional in designing the gathering, and it was reflecting back at us, which was the most wonderful feeling. Instead of leaving our attendees to fend for themselves, we ushered them in from the moment they arrived at our event with personalized name tags, we asked them to pour drinks for each other, and even sneakily color-coded their name tags to get them into small groups after the panel rather than just leaving them to go fend for themselves in networking. Instead of only touting our panelists’ successes, we invited them to share their real stories, struggles, and turning points. We discussed acceptance, anxiety, and depression. Of course all of that is not to say we did everything perfectly or that our work here is complete. We also learned many lessons on what to do better next time. And we do feel that we’re only at the beginning. Community-building, after all, is an ongoing, lifelong process. But we’re so excited to take a moment and celebrate our beginnings here.
If you’re wondering about the name Amber Collective (this is one of the things we forgot to explain at the event), we chose amber partly as a form of reclaiming ‘yellow’ which has long been used to describe Asian people, to mixed effect. We also love that unlike other gemstones, amber is neither stone nor mineral but is fossilized tree sap, transformed over millions of years into a gem. For us, this fit our desire to have our name be beautiful and strong without it being overly pretty or precious. And as a bonus, if you’re into gemstone symbolism, amber has also represented courage (the ‘soul of the tiger’ in Chinese culture) and has been said to have healing properties (releasing negative energy).
Thank you to Chrystal Irene Photography for these images from the event. And thank you to Honeybook for their beautiful space. Our logo and branding was designed by one of our own, Do-Hee Kim of Shoppe Theory.
Our thank yous continue for our amazing sponsors: thank you to La Chinoiserie for the desserts (rose & lychee cream puffs).
Thank you to Jade Leaf Matcha for their powdered matcha sticks which were takeaway gifts for our attendees, alongside our elastic hair bands. And Tea Crush, which supplied delicious bottles of their tea (which were all gone by the end of the night).
Also a big thank you to Brianne (Brown Fox Calligraphy) for hand writing all the name tags and making our signs for the evening.
I loved our first directive to our attendees: pour a drink for someone else, because communities thrive when we all take care of each other. Plus, this was such a wonderful icebreaker to get people talking to each other upon arrival.
Here were our fantastic panelists: Joanne Encarnacion, Emi Grannis, Cassie Valente, Brianne Knowles, and Do-Hee Kim.
A giant group photo before we broke off into our small groups.
Cassie and her pink name tag folks, getting to know each other.
Jo took her group off to lounge on the side.
Yes, this was our number one thing we would have changed if we could: we would’ve loved to have more time in our small groups, because as soon as we got started we actually had to get ready to close the event. Here I am breaking up the fun. But we also wanted very much to be intentional about closing this really special evening, so we could wrap everything up before sending people home.
And last but not least, thank you to Isabell of Chiarashine Photography for this photo of the five of us who planned all of this remotely while we traversed five different countries and various time zones. It all came together beautifully. I’m so grateful for each of you.
Amber Collective’s Inaugural Gathering
Panelists: Joanne Encarnacion, Emi Grannis, Cassie Valente, Brianne Knowles, Do-Hee Kim
Hosts: Courtney Yee, Anna Wu
Sponsors: Jade Leaf Matcha, Tea Crush, La Chinoiserie
Photographer: Chrystal Irene Photography
Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco. She creates beautiful, soft, and timeless imagery while capturing the most fleeting of moments. View her work at annawu.com, follow her daily adventures on instagram, and contact her to book your own session today.