Meet a Mintie: Karen Glenn

Since joining the Minted design community in July of 2009, Utah-based designer Karen Glenn has been a humorous, thoughtful, and warm pillar of the design community.  She combines a clean and friendly design aesthetic with a passion for helping others. When she’s not running her newly launched design business or trading design tips with designers in the forum, she’s designing for (and oftentimes winning) minted design challenges.  It’s my pleasure to present this week’s Meet a Mintie.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got your start as a designer.

I quite literally fell into life as a designer, and have bumped my way along ever since! While I was in college (studying theater), my boyfriend of the time was working at a small studio building stained glass windows. I hung out there with him quite a bit. The owner had just bought out his partner, who had been doing all the design work, so he looked at all of us and said, “Who wants to try designing?” I sketched up a few ideas on graph paper, and got the job.

I worked part time as the sole designer at that shop for nearly ten years. During that time, I got married (not to the aforementioned boyfriend) and had three children. I had just begun to wean back my hours in anticipation of becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom, when my infant daughter suddenly began having frequent seizures. I’m afraid I ended up quitting on the spot.

2010 Beus Family Reunion

I loved (and still love) being home full-time with my children and knew that was where I needed to be, but I also felt a need to keep creating. That’s when I was first introduced to scrapbooking. I took to it immediately. Shortly after adopting the hobby and on a bit of a whim, I entered a contest in Creating Keepsakes magazine—and, much to my surprise, I was one of the winners! This launched my next ‘career’ as a scrapbook designer.

For a number of years, I created commissioned scrapbook pages from home for Creating Keepsakes and then its sister magazine, Simple Scrapbooks, where I eventually became a Contributing Editor.

Simple Scrapbooks

Simple was a better fit for my clean aesthetic. Unfortunately, about two years ago, in the wake of this struggling economy, the magazine closed.

In the meantime, I had been doing a bit of layout and design work for the IDEA League, the non-profit that supports my daughter’s condition. After getting flak from printers about design files created in Microsoft Publisher, the non-profit purchased me Adobe’s Creative Suite.

Back to my job-hopping—in the wake of Simple folding, I had started doing a small amount of work for a local scrapbook company. They were looking into the possibility of launching a line of stationery. Although at that point I had only dabbled enough in InDesign to create a couple of brochures, it sounded like something I wanted to try. They sent all the interested designers a list of sites to visit to get a feel for the market. Serendipitously, Minted was on the list! I stumbled across The Inspired Personal Stationery Challenge, and again on a bit of a whim, I entered. And again, to my surprise, I was one of the winners!

Alphablocks Personalized Stationery

So, like I said, I’ve just kind of been bumping along. I haven’t planned any of it. My family is really my plan. But I do love doing some creative work on the side.

Did you go to school for design or are you self-taught?

I haven’t taken an art or design class since a required course in the 8th grade! I would love to take some courses to gain a stronger foundation—both in the nitty-gritty of working with Adobe software and in the broad understanding of design. Maybe even get a degree. But, given my life circumstances, that isn’t likely to happen any time soon *sigh*. And I’m not getting any younger! *double sigh*

Who have been your most influential mentors?

Probably scrapbooker, graphic designer and super-amusing blogger, Cathy Zielske. I learned a lot about clean design from her during my time at Simple Scrapbooks. Also, many of the other very talented artists I worked with there. You can find quite a few of them (including my sister, Kim Morgan) here.

Scrapbook-Inspired Photo Card

Take us through the creation of two of your favorite minted designs.

Eek! These are the kinds of questions that cause me to break out in a cold sweat—LOL! I’m not entirely certain that I have a design process . Or if I do, that I am in touch with it enough to explain it But I will try.

Let’s start with ‘Our Little Sprout’. I knew I wanted to express the essence of birth and felt that a tender young sprout would accomplish that very sweetly, as well as work equally well for either a boy or a girl. This particular concept came together really quickly. That’s a rarity for me, BTW.

Our Little Sprout Birth Announcement

Generally speaking, images or ideas for designs just pop into my head. This often occurs at night as I am falling asleep—which makes them somehow seem really amazing. Then I am disappointed the next morning, as they are usually much less magical in the light of day!

Otherwise, sometimes I sketch out very rough ideas on graph paper (usually when I have a thought and want to make sure I remember it).  Mostly, I just sit down at my computer and start. My designs typically morph tremendously from the initial picture in my head to the final version. If there ever IS a final version. I can tweak with the best of them!

Sharing Joy Holiday Photo Card

‘Sharing Joy’ was one of those ‘came to me as I was dozing off’ ideas. It was based simply on my enjoyment of playing with negative space combined with a great, short, well-balanced holiday word.

How on earth do you manage a bustling career, a bustling family, plus such great, active participation in the design community?

I don’t know that I’m managing it terribly well at the moment! My family has been very patient, but I’m starting to sense a little grumpiness…  LOL! And I can’t really blame them, I have pretty much been glued to my laptop of late. It helps that my children are all in school full time (for the first time),  that my husband is amazingly supportive, and that I don’t watch television. Ever.

Also, sleep is semi-optional.

What events or occasions do you feel drawn to the most?

Personal stationery is my favorite, because it is so open. Anything goes!  And while my scrapbooking background helps me to be very comfortable designing with photos, I still prefer to create without them.

On the other side of things, I struggle a bit with wedding stationery. Wedding invitations are handled very differently in my local culture (and not for the better, I might add).  So all the save-the-date/non-photo invite/enclosures stuff is a marvelous yet mysterious world that I am still trying to comprehend! Really wanting to get that down, though.

How has your family influenced your design? For example, you designed a really beautiful wedding invitation that was inspired by your daughter.

Amelia brings has a really beautiful and gentle, yet strong, spirit. With ‘Sweet Amelia’, I tried to capture that. Her health and developmental issues mean she won’t have a wedding of her own, but I wanted to create something that I felt would suit her if she were able to marry.

Sweet Amelia Wedding Invitation

You mention that wedding invitations are handled differently in your local culture.

LOL! This might be hard to explain. Most of the differences stem from the way weddings are handled here. Which in and of itself is in many ways wonderful, just different. Most wedding ceremonies here are very small, private affairs with a large reception afterward. So, to begin with, the invitation is typically to the reception with an enclosure included only if you are also invited to the ceremony. Receptions here are rarely truly extravagant, almost never involve a destination, don’t typically serve a meal (or alcohol, either), and are usually held within a couple of months of the engagement. This leads to no such thing as save-the date cards or response cards.

From a style standpoint (this is the part I have issue with!), the invitations are usually photo-based and too often contain multiple photos, which is rarely compatible with an attractive result (in my opinion)(hopefully, I’m not offending anyone here).

I haven’t really taken too much time to learn more about how weddings and invitations are handled elsewhere, other than what I have picked up from Minted and a little on some wedding blogs. That’s probably why I still feel inadequately prepared to design them.  That will have to change, as we will be working to launch wedding invitations sometime next year.

You and your sister recently started your own business – how is that going?

Wow! Yes, we [with sister Kim] started a little stationery shop called Pearenthetical Press. It’s been really fun and exciting and exhausting! The challenges have been many. Juggling it all—the designing + business side + marketing + the logistics of running a shop where everything is personalized—especially with both of us being totally new to most of it. We’ve been ‘feeling our way along’, as they say. It’s taken much more organization than I had originally imagined getting a good work flow process going, managing files, and such. I sure hand it to the Minted Team! I have a new appreciation for everything that goes on behind the scenes!

An assortment of stationery by Pearenthetical Press

Another challenge is that the two of us are working from separate locations (read: states). Thank heaven for Dropbox and free internet phone! And then there is optimizing the printing, which Kim has had to handle all on her own.

The rewards (so far) have been the fun of working with my wonderful sister, creating something new, learning tons of new things, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it all. This past week, we mailed two separate orders to Australia! It is pretty amazing to know that something you conceived, designed, marketed, and printed is going to be enjoyed on the other side of the planet.  And of course, hopefully we’ll make a little money as well.

What is it like working with your sister?

Probably not fortuitously (but also not surprisingly!), Kim and I have similar strengths and aversions— ie, both of us would prefer to be designing and neither crunching numbers. So from that standpoint, we don’t complement one another very well! Thankfully, my husband likes numbers and spreadsheets and such, so he is helping with that (yay!). From another standpoint, though, we can bounce design ideas off of and give each other input, which is really nice. Also, it would be difficult for either one of us to crank out the quantity of designs we want single-handedly.

We determined that Kim would have the printer at her place, due to her having better access to the paper we chose to use. That necessitates that she handle all the cutting, printing, packaging and shipping. Since she has all of that on her plate, I have taken on a lot more of the digital work, shop management, personalization and file prep, and marketing. We both design.

Eventually, we hope to purchase a second printer so we can divide the workload as needed and cover for one another more easily.

Who do you admire in the minted community?

Oh—TONS of people! I’m tempted to cop out on this question, as there is no way I could mention everyone who has inspired me. Top of my list, though, if I had to choose, would probably be Kelli Hall. I love how she can keep things so simple and yet somehow make them look so extraordinary. I’d like to be her when I grow up. Is that possible even though I’ve got 15-20 years on her?

What tips or advice do you have for new designers who are just starting to enter challenges?

When you see a design you admire (whether on Minted or anywhere else), ask yourself: what about this works, and why? Then try to incorporate those principles or strategies into your own concepts.

Also, as has been wisely mentioned on the forums many times—edit, edit, edit. Really take the time to live with your design and be sure you are comfortable with it before you post it. But at the same time, try not to be so married to it that you aren’t open to suggestions.

Also, don’t be afraid to jump in and participate in the community. It’s made up of really nice people! And though we’re all at different stages, we’re all learning and growing together.

A few other ‘facts’ about me:

  • I tie for the oldest of nine children
  • I love to bake, and even more to eat what I bake
  • I attempt to play the Irish tinwhistle. Attempt being the operative word
  • I’m certain the world would be a better place if everyone would put their grocery carts back in the cart catchers
  • I have a distinct dislike of country music
  • Either I have shrunk of late, or I have been deluding myself on my height for all of my adult life
  • I struggle to correctly spell the word ‘height’
  • I have thick hair, a large nose and really long toes
  • If I had more time and means, I would: travel, improve my photography, attend the theater
  • I apparently have no qualms about sharing less-than-flattering facts about myself in a very public forum, even though they may also reflect on my identical twin sister.

Find more of Katherine on her blog.

  1. Great interview, Karen! So great to get to know my fellow Minties even better!

  2. Candice Leigh

    Thank you so much for sharing, Karen. I love your new work for Pearenthetical Press (and definitely your honesty!) Kudos!! :o)

  3. stacey day

    so nice to read about you, karen. thanks for sharing!

  4. Nam

    So sweet and inspiring, Karen! Wish you all the success with your new business.

  5. Yolanda

    Wonderful interview… so inspiring… thank you for sharing Karen and good luck with your business.

  6. Meg G.

    Lovely to hear a behind the scenes of your life, Karen. I’m truly inspired by your ability to manage everything and yet submit amazing work to minted challenges.

  7. Sandra Pons

    What a wonderful feature on you Karen. You inspire me, not only with your design but as a human being!

  8. Congratulations Karen! x Brandy Brown

  9. That was such an inspiring interview! So encouraging! Your designs are lovely!

  10. You are an inspiration. I was laughing about the weird wedding culture… having been part of that myself. I totally get it!

  11. Sydney

    So nice to learn more about you, Karen! No big wedding receptions? That’s crazy!

  12. Lynn Knipe (gBellyPaper)

    Loved reading your interview. I don’t know how you do it all! Laughed about the shrinking height comment. I recently measured myself at my daughter’s ped’s appt. and was appalled to see that either I’ve shrunk 1/2 inch or I’ve been only 5’1 my entire life!

  13. Paige

    What a wonderful interview Karen! Thanks for sharing! (I agree with you about putting away shopping carts too!)

  14. Carrie O

    Karen…this was so great to read. You are a superstar in my book. I want to be YOU when I grow up. 🙂

  15. Amanda Larsen

    Great interview, Karen! It’s so nice to hear more about you.

  16. annie

    great interview, so fun to learn more about you karen!

  17. Aimee

    Karen, You are amazing and I am lucky to call you my neighbor, but more lucky to be friends!!

  18. Ashley Porter

    What a great interview Karen! Thanks for sharing your story about your journey into design. You did a great job tactfully describing the standard Utah wedding invitation! It’s one of those things you just have to see for yourself to really understand it. LOL 🙂

  19. Erin

    Thanks Karen, You are an amazing designer, and your interview showed you are an amazing person as well, so glad to get to know you!!! LOVED IT!!

  20. Laura

    Such a great interview Karen! I totally agree on the shopping carts 😉 Pearenthetical Press looks great, keep up the good work!

  21. Karen Glenn

    Thanks so much, Everyone, for your kind comments. It’s wonderful to be a part of this community 🙂

  22. Natasha

    I love ‘Our Little Sprout’! It is so sweet. It was so interesting to learn about your start scrapbooking. Thank you for sharing your talent and candor with Minted!

  23. Bunny J

    Loved the interview! Congrats on your business…I know it will be a success!