Meet a Minted Artist: Kimberly FitzSimons

Kimberly FitzSimons spent a decade working in investor relations and product management for leading Fortune 500 companies before becoming who she is today: a successful designer and parent of two girls. Like many of Minted artists’ success stories, Kimberly’s career transition didn’t happen overnight. As a self-taught designer, she built her creative path from the ground up and got her hands dirty with her own letterpress company before focusing solely on the design side of stationery. In this interview, Kimberly shares the wisdom she’s gained from working on Wall Street, connecting with the Minted artist community, and “learning how to fly” as a designer.

Kimberly’s style is timeless and refined with eye-catching type.

Minted: What did you study in school?
Kimberly FitzSimons:
Finance. I spent 10 years working as an investor relations consultant for several public companies and then led a product management team for a large financial technology company before giving it up to be a full-time mom and part-time graphic designer.

While I was planning my wedding in 2007, I fell in love with the letterpress printing method. Not long after my wedding, I enrolled in letterpress printing classes at the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College in Chicago. It was letterpress printing that ultimately jump-started my passion for design. I taught myself Illustrator so that I could have something to letterpress print in those classes. Eventually, in 2010, I bought a restored Vandercook (letterpress printing machine) and started a design and printing business for wedding stationery. My business grew very fast, and ultimately, I had to outsource the printing work to my commercial printing partner (Rohner Letterpress) and focus on design. My old Vandercook is still a workhorse and is now owned by Steel Petal Press in Chicago. I had a few very crazy but good years offering custom letterpress wedding stationery, but I closed my business in 2014 to focus on my family and concentrate on designs for Minted.

Fresh Christmas Wishes” holiday card by Kimberly FitzSimons

How has your former career in finance and tech shaped you as a designer?
All of my jobs within the finance and technology industries helped shape who I am today and how I think about my business. As an investor relations consultant, I worked with management teams of Fortune 500 companies and interacted with their large institutional shareholders. I learned so much about the financial markets and Wall Street, but I also learned very quickly how to ask questions, build relationships, and creatively spin a “story.” It was not always the easiest job, but it had it’s thrilling moments, like interacting with well-respected executives and helping companies plan their IPOs.

When I moved into product management for a financial technology company, I was able to use some of my previous market knowledge and relationship skills to help build and implement products for a web-based asset management and trading platform. One of my favorite parts of the job was brainstorming new product features with our engineering team in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale, California). There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes to brainstorm, build, test, implement, and launch new products. It makes me truly appreciate all that the Minted Engineering and Product teams do for artists and their customers.

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Meet a Minted Artist: Annie Mertlich of Wildfield Paper Co.

Casual, bohemian, whimsical, vintage, organic. Those are the five words that Annie Mertlich uses to describe her style of design. As for the words we’d use to describe Annie as a person, we’d say prolific, hard worker, and unstoppable creative energy. Annie is the visionary behind Wildfield Paper Co. and the woman who works around the clock to build her brand that’s become known for breathtaking watercolor florals.

When Annie entered and won her first Minted design challenge in 2013, she was simultaneously working a full-time job that sucked the creative life out of her. About four months after winning, she quit her day job on what she calls a “hope and a prayer,” in early 2014. Although she says she wasn’t sure if she’d succeed as a self-employed creative, she was very optimistic and determined to make Wildfield Paper Co. a reality. “I had no idea at the time how big of an impact those early Minted challenges would have on the success of my business,” Annie says. Fast-forward nearly three years later, and she’s a creative force to be reckoned with. Here, Annie shares more of her experience of building her passion into a successful career as an independent designer and entrepreneur.

A Very Merry Christmas” and “Peace on Earth in Watercolor” holiday cards by Annie Mertlich of Wildfield Paper Co.

Minted: How did you discover Minted?
Annie Mertlich: I remember being so unhappy at my job and desperately seeking a creative outlet. I worked at a company doing creative work, but the environment was so toxic that I really needed something creative that wasn’t for that company. I remember browsing Pinterest for some Christmas decorating inspiration, and I came across a beautifully designed card and I followed it through to Minted. I read all about how Minted’s Design Challenges work and joined right away. The first challenge I entered was the 2014 big holiday challenge!

Did you study art or design formally in school?
I did classic training with a composite major in painting, printmaking, and drawing from Southern Utah University, a little university in my hometown. It may be a smaller university, but the art program is highly acclaimed, and they really push you to discover your potential. It was a wonderful experience, and I wouldn’t change anything about it. With a composite major, we really had to take a lot of different classes to fulfill the credit requirements. I ended up learning so many unique artistic techniques that I likely wouldn’t have explored otherwise. I never anticipated liking watercolor, but I was required to take the class and I fell in love. Bonus: I met my husband at SUU.

How many hours per week do you usually work, and what does “work” mean for you?
I’m honestly too scared to keep track — it averages at about 12 hours per day. During my busy seasons, it’s usually closer to 17 hours a day. I’m running the full business, so work is really everything from painting to posting on Instagram, billing clients to ordering shipping and printing supplies, and filing taxes to responding to emails. I wear all the hats.

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A Day in the Life of Minted Artist Carly Reed Walker

Written By Carly Reed Walker
Portraits By Courtney Bowles Photography

6 AM: I’m somewhat of an early riser, rarely sleeping after 6 in the morning. It works well for me, because I find those early morning hours are my most calm, quiet, and productive. I try to start each morning with yoga. Usually that means practicing in my living room, but I just started a prenatal yoga class that I love — I’m 20 weeks along! I’ll have breakfast and coffee with my rescue pup, Buster, and husband, if he’s home (he has an irregular work schedule as a locomotive engineer). Buster is an adorable little beagle mix that we adopted from a great organization called the Richmond Animal League, where I volunteer regularly. I also spend a little time on Instagram before I get to work for the day, but don’t we all?

Gala” is my favorite holiday card I’ve created for Minted. I love how modern and editorial it is.

8 AM: I like to sit down at my desk between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. to get organized, which is somewhat of a challenge for me. I have an amazing office/studio in our house. It’s a dream to get to work and create there every day. When we purchased our home in Richmond, Virginia, last year, my very generous husband agreed to give me the largest room in the house for work. It doubles as an office and meeting space for clients. I’ll start things off by going through emails and making a to-do list for the day, which tends to be a little scattered. From there, I get to work designing whatever is on said to-do list. My workload is balanced between wedding stationery clients, branding projects, and other stationery/design work like Minted. It’s a challenge for me to focus on several different projects, so I take frequent breaks away from the computer to snack or take Buster for a walk through our neighborhood.

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Meet a Minted Artist: Lea Delaveris

Minted artist Lea Delaveris spent a decade working tough hours in the newspaper business and loved just about every minute of it — tight deadlines and all. Now that she’s a mom of two boys and the news industry has changed substantially, she’s designed a career for herself as an independent stationery designer. “Most of my day is spent in ‘mom mode,” the Columbus, Ohio, artist says of her freelance lifestyle. “The line is quite blurry between work and play for me. I honestly don’t think I can quantify the hours I work, but I know I spend quite a bit of time at my computer. Lea says she enjoys being able to work from home and be with her kiddos. “I just wish I were better at resisting the lure of my desk, though.”

In the past six years, Lea has made a name for herself on Minted as a designer who creates clean, simple, type-drive designs. “I really like when I can incorporate a bit of humor or playfulness, too.” In this interview, the Ohio artist talks about her love of visual communication, being “Mintie spotted” by a teenage boy, and what she hopes 2017 has in store for her.

Did you study art or design formally in school?
Yes, I majored in publication design and informational graphics at Ohio University. It was sort of a journalism and graphic design hybrid that felt like it was created just for me. In high school, I was really involved in the journalism department, but I didn’t love the writing part — layout and design was my area. So when I was looking at colleges and majors and found OU’s School of Visual Communication, I knew that’s where I had to be. It was exactly what I wanted to be doing.

Give Glory” by Lea Delaveris

Before life as a wife, mom, and stationery designer, you spent 10 years working in newspaper design. Why and how did you make the transition into stationery design?
I interned at a few newspapers in college and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I liked the fast pace, quick turnaround, and the behind-the-scenes aspect of it. I admired the work of The Columbus Dispatch while I was at Ohio University and jumped at a job opportunity there just a few months out of school. I got to work with such an amazingly talented staff of artists, designers, writers, photojournalists, and editors. I have such an appreciation for the way words and images work together — and the importance of good journalism in general.

But I got in as the news industry was really beginning to change dramatically, so I had a few years of getting to do a lot of really fun creative stuff (my absolute favorite work was for an irreverent humor page), but as more and more cutbacks happened, the more scarce the fun stuff became. Between that and the hours — which were not very conducive to having a family; typically working 4 p.m. to midnight and having to be on duty some holidays and weekends — I opted to stay home when my oldest was born and start a freelance design business. I stayed on staff a few more years as a weekend fill-in, but it was too hard after that late night Sunday sports design shift, from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., to snap back into mom mode bright and early Monday morning. I do miss it sometimes — especially the people I worked with — but the newspaper world is just so different now even from when I left for good three years ago.

Colorful New Year Wishes” by Lea Delaveris

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Meet a Minted Artist: Leah Bisch

Leah Bisch certainly is a talented graphic designer – especially for someone who majored in physical geography and originally intended to be a meteorologist. As she tells the story, Leah was always dropping in and out of art classes in elementary and high school, “but it never occurred to me that I could make a career out of it.”

Here, the Los Angeles Minted artist talks more about life as a part-time happy-go-lucky designer and part-time crazed-toddler-mommy.

Where did you go to school?
While I loved art and illustration, I ended up earning my BA from UC Santa Barbara in physical geography. I know—what? My studies focused on the planet and its processes, like weather and natural disasters. I’ve always had a strange fascination with weather—I’m actually irrationally terrified of thunderstorms, so I guess it’s a good thing I live in sunny Southern California. When I was a child, my dad owned a roofing company and he was always watching the weather channel to keep an eye out for rain in the forecast. I remember being interested in watching how weather patterns form and it seemed like a cool career.

So how did you go from geography student to artist?
After college, I eventually found myself working in marketing for a winery in Malibu. We didn’t have the budget to hire designers to create promotional items, so it was on my shoulders to create email blasts, event invitations, and flyers for the company. I found that I got swept up in that kind of work—in a good way. However, I soon felt limited in my design capabilities and wanted to get a formal education to enhance my skills. I enrolled in evening design classes at Otis College of Art and Design. The more classes I took, the more I wanted to learn, and I eventually left my job and enrolled in classes full time at Santa Monica College (SMC). The program at SMC gave me a solid foundation in the fundamentals of design like typography, layout and color theory. I also committed myself to reading every design book I could get my hands on.

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Meet a Minted Artist: Denise Wong

After working in a variety of art-based professions—art-exhibition planning and design as well as practicing art law—New York City-based painter Denise Wong decided to quit in order to pursue her own art practice full time. Here, Denise shares her artistic journey, where she finds inspiration, and what Minted means to her as a working artist.

Meet a Minted Artist Denise Wong Denise Wong was photographed at the Minted Local store in San Francisco alongside her limited edition art prints “California” and “Highway One.”

Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist, ever since I was a child. I have very early memories of drawing, it was my favorite activity to do. When I was younger, I treasured my art supplies and I’m happy now to have finally integrated my childhood visions into my adult life and to have made art a full-time career. I think the things we truly enjoy should be the stuff of our everyday lives.

Tell us about your art.
My specialty is painting, particularly acrylic painting, but I also work with mixed-media works on paper. Painting is a wonderful, expressive form—it’s a very visceral form and I really love getting my hands into the paint. I started out drawing, like many artists do, and eventually transitioned into painting, starting with figurative painting. Later, I transitioned from figurative painting to more abstract works.

What did you do before pursuing art full time?
I’ve dabbled in many things over the course of my life—I’ve worked at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Columbia University Department of Art History in their Modern Art and Curatorial Studies department—but my own art practice is the thing that keeps pulling me back. Whenever I would veer off course, I would continue making art. I went to law school to study art law; prior to that, I was in graduate school for social science, focused on anthropology. I studied museum-exhibition design to make art more accessible to the public in an approachable way. While doing that I became interested in issues on cultural property and repatriation of stolen art; so I went to law school and studied art law, worked for an art-law journal, and became a lawyer. The legal work was very detail-oriented and I found that the more detail-oriented my work became, the art I was making—which initially was figurative in nature—started to come more abstract. Painting was a great outlet for me because I could balance the details of my work with the free-flowing nature of abstract painting.

How did you transition into a full-time art career?
It was slow and gradual. I took a number of art classes on the side as I pursued a variety of career opportunities. I was always making art but I just needed the right opportunity to begin selling art. While I was a student, I was interested in making art accessible to a wide variety of audiences and was always interested in innovative models of art exhibition and art sales. Companies like Minted are very forward-thinking and when I saw that Minted had expanded to the art world, it was a perfect match.

Meet a Minted Artist: Denise Wong

How did you discover Minted?
I was extremely busy with my day job and my art practice was getting pushed to the side. I was trying to think of ways to get back into making art and spending more time with my art practice. One day, I discovered through a blog post an ad for Minted and I checked out the website. Once work calmed down a bit, one day I opened up a magazine to a full-page ad for Minted. I went back to the website again and saw they were launching an art competition in a couple of weeks—I applied and the rest is history.

What makes Minted’s artist community unique?
What I love about the Minted community is that it’s extremely friendly, it’s almost like being in art school with family. It’s a very personal community and is a great way to get feedback in an honest and friendly way—I love it.

What’s inspiring you these days?
Inspiration is everywhere. I live in New York City and it’s very diverse and vibrant. I find inspiration around every corner—I love where I live and it’s a great place to get inspiration daily for the variety of pieces I’m working on.

How would your friends and family describe you?
They’d probably describe me as creative, with many interests, and very dedicated to pursuing them all.

What does your future look like?
When I think about the future, I’m very excited about the many opportunities I have in mind. One of those is Minted’s recently launched commissioned art program. It enables me to connect with art enthusiasts from all over the United States. I love working on commissioned pieces because it’s a way to connect with a customer in a personal way to create a piece that suits them.

Click through for more from Minted artist Denise Wong…

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Meet a Minted Artist: Mya Bessette

Meet a Minted Artist Mya Bessette

How did you end up doing what you’re doing now?
I worked for over a decade in the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where I met my husband, Cody. When we found out we were having a baby, I left that career (because babies and oil fields don’t mix). I found myself finally able to decide what I really wanted to be when I grew up. So I revisited my life-long love of painting. Initially, I was painting for my daughter, Nevi—I wanted her world to be full of color and uplifting art. As I began honing my skills and my personal style, my little sister encouraged me to begin selling on Etsy, which I then did for about seven years. Eventually, my paintings began to filter out into galleries and I launched my website and began selling directly from my site.

Did you study art formally in school?
Nope. I’m self-taught.

Where do you currently reside?
Bigfork, Montana. My home overlooks Flathead Lake. The towering Mission Mountains are to the east, Glacier Park is a 30-minute drive away, and the village of Bigfork is an artistic little hamlet tucked beside the Swan River and behind a marina that spills out into the lake. I can’t figure out why everyone on the planet isn’t living here. It’s a dreamy place with a slow and peaceful pace.

Meet a Minted Artist: Mya Bessette

Can you share the schedule of a typical day in the life?
Wake up before the kids, sip Mainline coffee while I reply to customer emails, and formulate my “to-do” list (so I’ll have something to laugh at later in the day). Wake the kids for school, make a bagel with cream cheese for one, slightly “burny” toast with thin pats of cold butter for the other, tend to all special requests for lunches, pack ‘em, dress ‘em, hug ‘em, and put them on the bus. Breathe. Spend every possible moment creating without interruption. I go into a bit of a trance when I paint—texts are ignored, usually phone calls are as well, and time passes so quickly; I’m almost always surprised by the roar of the bus coming up the hill. Then, I get to hear all about kindergarten and first grade from the two sweetest little kiddos and start the evening routine. After I put the kids to bed, I try to reflect on the day and take time to catch up on all of the correspondence I missed while creating.

What are some of your own “rules” for living + working?
I try not to put too many restrictions on how I work. It seems that the more flexible I am with my process, the more genuine my paintings are. However, since my studio is in my living room, I do try to paint when I have that space to myself. I’m not very good at starting and stopping; when I’m in my creative zone, I like to stay there!

Meet a Minted Artist Mya Bessette

What objects have been most significant to you lately?
I never would have thought that I’d ever say this: flowers and botanicals. I’ve always meandered between abstract works and landscapes. Creating my latest abstract florals has been such a unique and organic journey. I’m also pretty obsessed with geometric shapes right now.

Please describe your last month in a word.
Rejuvenating

Can you share an as-of-yet unrealized project with us?
Yes! In the spring, I plan to team up with children’s clothing company, Couture Flower, to release a line of children’s swing dresses created with fabric from my original art.

What are you serious about?
Teaching my kids to be kind and honest. Being punctual. Following through with commitments.

What things will you never take seriously?
Anti-aging serums, Web MD, shabby chic, people who tell me their kids love broccoli, salmon, and kale.

What are some keys to balancing work and life?
It’s all such a big jumble of chaotic fabulousness that’s it’s difficult to even separate the two. An artist’s eye rarely rests so when I’m out and about enjoying the day with family, I’m the one stopping to investigate the leaves on a fern or photographing a cluster of clouds. When I’m in the studio, I love to involve my family and it’s not unheard of for all of us, my very creative husband included, to sit down for an art session together. When your job is to be creative and innovative, I think life and work naturally blend into one another.

Click through for more from Minted artist Mya Bessette

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How to Overcome a Total Creative Void

Written by Amy Fontes

In my dreams, I am a designer with never-ending creativity and one who has the artistic chops to whip out amazing designs one after another. In reality, I am a mom to two active elementary-age kids, a wife to a busy surgeon who works long hours and weekends, and a daughter to a terminally ill mother.

And while I mark down “graphic designer” as my occupation, in any given day I could be handling the management of my husband’s practice, running soccer practice for my son, discussing medical options with my mom, or just plain doing the things to keep our lives going. Nothing that is really unique or different from others, but things that have me wearing many hats with limited time for design.

So as much as I love design, truth be told, the creative process is often a struggle, and inspiration doesn’t always come easily for me. Sure, ideas would pop into my head here and there and was enough to keep me designing, but for all of 2015, I found myself in a complete and total creative void. The stress of life became so great that, in short, all creativity and inspiration just stopped.

While I was happy to focus on my helping my family, I was quietly growing more and more frustrated during this creative void because, in a way, design had been my therapy. This was the one thing that was mine and mine alone. I needed it. It was my place where I could escape for a while, forget about everything, and hopefully create something that brought me (and others) happiness. It was my balance. But the more I forced creativity, the larger the void seemed. I had to figure this out.

How To Move Forward

TURN OFF THE NOISE
The first thing I did was walk away from design. It might seem counterintuitive, but I was putting so much pressure on myself to “be creative and produce” that it only made things worse. I turned off my computer, stopped participating in challenges, tucked away my pens and sketch pads. I stopped “pinning,” swiping, scrolling, and following blogs and just left design behind. I needed to wipe my mind clean from what I thought I should be designing or what I thought would be the next big design trend.

Above the Las Vegas desert on one of my hikes

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Meet a Minted Artist: Lauren Adams

Lauren Adams studied visual and studio art at Fairmont State University, painted en plein air for many years, and has since transitioned to abstract, large-scale works by rolling out raw canvas and painting directly onto the surface with acrylics. The West Virginia-based painter took some time to discuss her work, creative process, and a typical day in the life of a working artist.

Meet a Minted Artist Lauren Adams

How did you end up doing what you’re doing now?
It’s been a long, winding path that started in college. My work has been through several phases over the last 15 years. The changes have been quite a process, but what I am always most interested in reflecting on is how the work is still connected. I spent most of my time in college studying the figure through live model gesture drawing/painting (met my future husband—Minted artist Derek Overfield in a figure-drawing course!). Upon graduating university, I worked for years on plein air painting, directly observing the landscape as opposed to the figure. In 2011, I began doing small, more expressive studies on paper and then decided I wanted to translate them to canvas. I wanted to grow the scale of my work plus emphasize the expression of the landscape and experiences felt (versus on-location observation), so I moved back into the studio and utilized one of the methods that I had touched on in school, but hadn’t spent much time with—stained canvas painting, only on a primed substrate. The possibilities felt limitless and I’ve loved it ever since! All of these phases involve embracing the physical work of painting: the gesture of your entire body, your engagement with the process. A celebration of life.

Did you study art formally in school?
Yes, I hold a BA Interdisciplinary Degree in Studio Art and French along with a BFA in Visual Art.

Where do you currently reside?
I live in North-Central West Virginia, in the Allegheny Plateau. It’s great because we have quick access to many beautiful lakes and rivers along with gorgeous views of ancient mountains, yet are still within a day trip to cities like Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

Can you share the schedule of a typical day in the life?
A typical day starts with coffee and a small breakfast, a bit of morning reading, and reviewing my plan for the day. If there are urgent emails or client questions, I will get to those first. Personally, I find that once those most pressing things are completed, I can then focus easier on my work, without distractions. I will spend the rest of the day painting, either inside (accompanied by my cat) or outside if the weather is decent enough (not too much rain in the forecast). Then dinner with my husband and some exercise. The evenings will be packing any orders, answering other emails that have come through, ordering supplies we have run out of, or sometimes an additional painting session in the summer when it stays light out later. Then it’s time for some rest, with Netflix or reading.

What are some of your own “rules” for living and working?
I don’t know if it qualifies as a rule, but I attempt to keep my daily focus on gratitude. It seems to help with everything else.

Please describe your last month in a word.
Exploration

What are you serious about?
Painting

What are some keys to balancing work and life?
I think sometimes you have to understand that there is no perfect balance—certainly not every day. And maybe that’s okay. I’m guilty of over-planning and it took me awhile to come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to schedule that “perfect balance” in my life. Shifts will happen and certain seasons will come and go. I personally try to watch out for self-care, making sure I am getting fairly consistent exercise, eating healthy foods (for the most part!), and working on maintaining a positive attitude.

Click through to read more from Minted artist Lauren Adams

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Brain Surgery and Equal Love Inspired Lauren Packard’s Art

You don’t often hear people say they’re grateful for brain surgery, but for Lauren Packard, this life-threatening experience served as inspiration to pursue her childhood passion of creating art. By day, she works as a New York City art teacher, and in her free time, she is a mixed-media artist in Brooklyn.

A member of the Minted Artist community since 2014, her painting “Lina y Challie” is featured in the August 2016 West Elm catalog. In this interview, the New York City artist and school teacher talks about the urge to create, encouraging her students’ individuality, and the celebration of gay marriage — the impetus for her prize-winning art print in the Minted X West Elm Challenge.

Lauren Packard’s painting “Lina y Challie” (shown above on the easel) is featured in the August 2016 West Elm catalog. Fellow winning art prints in the Minted X West Elm Art Challenge are featured clockwise from top left: “Aperature + Cellular” by Jennifer Morehead, “Malachite Reinterpreted” by Leslie M. Ward, and “Autumn” by Jennifer Morehead.

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