Meet a Mintie: B Wise

Today we have mintie Alston Wise of B. Wise Papers with us to tell us all about her love of design and what people and places inspire her. You will absolutely recognize her recent The Perfect Match Save the Date entry; it won first prize in our recent Save the Date Challenge. And oh my goodness, you just have to see these pictures of her absolutely adorable family.

At age nine, you wanted to be?
I wanted to work at the post office.  I couldn’t think of much better than using stamps and pens and paper all day.  I also went to the office with my grandmother, who was a secretary, a fair amount when I was young.  I thought she had the coolest job — second to the post office, of course.  Not only did she have unfettered access to the office supply closet, but she also got to go to the Fanta machine whenever she wanted.

Alston and her family's photo taken by Laura Negri Photography.

Absolutely adorable! So when did you give up your post woman dreams and decide to be a designer?
After college, I started taking classes in drawing and oil painting.  I had happy visions of making a living as a painter, spending my days in a studio painting and listening to music.  Then I had a baby while my husband was in grad school, and realized that this wasn’t such a practical idea.  I was working at a stationery store at the time, so it was a sort of natural progression for me to start combining my visual arts training with my love of paper goods.

Alston's "helpers" at her desk!

Do you have any formal design training?
Some.  While we were living in Cambridge, MA, I took classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  I can’t tell you how much I love that place.  My first graphic design teacher taught me one of the most valuable lessons: don’t edit your ideas before you brainstorm them.  No idea is a bad idea before you’ve flushed it out.  Though this may seem simple, I was blown away.  It completely freed me up to explore every thought that popped into my head, and not to be paralyzed by the fear of a bad idea.

So what do you do first when designing?
First, I sketch.  This is my favorite part — brainstorming ideas and making a rough depiction.  From there, I go through and pick out the ones I like the most and start to create a digital version.

How many iterations does it take for a design to become final?
It really depends on the design.  Sometimes a design will just work, and other times I have to really fight for it.  Sometimes I win, and other times it’s just not going to happen.

What tools, techniques, and mindsets do you find absolutely essential?
I read a book by Anne Lamott called Bird by Bird.  She’s really talking about writing, but I think a lot of  what she says can be applied to anything that requires original, creative thought.  Maybe I shouldn’t use her exact language in this interview, but essentially she talks about the importance of a “not-so-great” first draft.  How in creating something, you need to feel freed from perfection, editing, criticism, and just get “it” out.  No one ever even has to see it, but if you don’t get it out, it could impede other things that might actually be beautiful and wonderful.

I completely agree! Just get it down! Once you’ve done that, are there any other sticking points?
The most difficult for me is the details.  I can come up with lots of ideas in my sketch book, but then to actually create a digital, polished version often takes a lot of time, adjustments and patience.

Do you have a favorite font?
I don’t think I could pick just one favorite, but right now I’m loving Adios Script by Alejandro Paul.  It’s a graceful, versatile script that is tons of fun to work with because of all it’s options.

Favorite pen?
Black Sanford Mirco Uniball

Favorite notebook?
I sketch in a Moleskine.

Tell us about one of your favorite cards offered for sale on Minted and how you came up with the design.
Noel is one of my favorites, partly because of the process it took to get to that design.  My original vision for it was colored lights — like the big bulbed ones that used to hang around my grandparents’ door and in their boxwoods — with the letters of Noel hanging down:  bright colors and fun lettering. I worked on those lights for hours and could not get them to look anything but bizarre and cheesy.  I was so irritated with them at one point that I hid all of those layers, and typed out a gigantic NOEL, like “Take That Illustrator!” And AHA! It was at once clean, colorful and festive. So, the color and placement of the letters were inspired by vintage twinkle lights. Who knew? It’s not the road I had set out on, but I love where it led.

What design trends do you think will emerge this spring/summer?
I hope that we will continue to see the use of hand drawn elements — illustrations and lettering.

What is your least favorite recent design trend?
I think there is a reason that a trend is a trend:  because people responded to “it” in a positive way.  So to me, even if something has been done a lot, it can still work IF it’s done in a new and different way.  Seeing the same thing done the same way over and over is tiresome, but then I’m always pleasantly surprised when someone uses a “trendy” element in a fresh way.  That should always be the question:  Am I doing this in a way that hasn’t been done before?

How does living in Florida influence your design?
This is actually the 5th city I’ve called home in 8 years:  Atlanta to Houston to Boston to Chapel Hill to Gainesville.  I’ve probably been more influenced by all of our moving around than by one city.  What I love about Florida is the close proximity to the beach!  I wonder if the number of hours spent at the beach directly correlates to future inspiration and productivity?  I think it does.  We should go to the beach more.  You know, for work purposes.

What’s your design philosophy?
I don’t know if this is a design philosophy per se, probably more of a general working one, but I saw this sign once hanging over a desk that said “Work hard and be nice to people.”  Two little things that can make the world a better place.

What’s currently inspiring you?
We recently took a trip to Copenhagen, and I am incredibly taken with that city:  the architecture, the people, the culture, the food, the shops.  I pretty much just stared the entire time we were there.  It just seemed that every direction I turned there was something else to see.   We had our then-10-month old daughter with us, and would take her to these playgrounds with amazing sculptures.  And in one subway station [which, but the way, they were all sparkling clean] there was this calming music playing over the loudspeaker and ballet-like images flashing on the walls.  It was all very relaxing.  It came across to me as the kind of place where people are concerned about others’ well-being, and making things beautiful and enjoyable for no other reason than that it will be beautiful and enjoyable, which is reason enough. All this to say that I’m inspired by travel in general — just being in a new place energizes me.

Alston's favorite window in Copenhagen.

Daughter Maggie at the park in Copenhagen.

What are your favorite online design sites and blogs?
I’m a shelter magazine junkie, so I’m loving all these new online magazines like Lonny, Adore, Covet Garden, Rue.  Sometimes I do miss holding them in my hands, but I’m thankful that there are still creative people out there putting together these little gems.  I also really enjoy the eclectic mix of Sneak Peaks on Design Sponge, and the quirky interviews and interiors on Freunde von Freunden <> .

What designers do you really admire?
I’m a big admirer of Marc Jacobs.  I love the way he pushes the envelope and exudes originality in what he does.  His ad campaigns are usually pretty great, too.  Remember the one with Winona Ryder?  He’s definitely not afraid to take risks and put himself out there — with a sense of humor about it all, which I appreciate.

I’m also a big fan of the Kate Spade ad campaigns; they do an excellent job at not just selling a product, but also telling a story.

What can’t you travel without?
A noise machine and ear plugs.  I’ve become a very light sleeper since having kids.

Do you have any hobbies of note?
I dabble in calligraphy, and my husband just started teaching me the mandolin.  Now it’s just a matter of finding the time to practice…

Biggest self indulgence?
I watch the Real Housewives while I eat lunch.  And I really look forward to it.  I said it.  It’s out there.

LOVE it. What was the last book you read?
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman.  I chose it because of the cover:

But lucky for me, it was also a good read!

What’s on your playlist when you’re designing?
Brandi Carlile Radio on Pandora.  I don’t have a lot of time to look for new music, so Pandora is perfect for me.  I would now call Missy Higgins, Chris Pureka, Joshua Radin and Colbie Caillat new faves.

What advice would you give a new designer?
Work hard and be nice to people!

Stay in touch with Alston over on her chic blog–she does a great job of posting regularly. And see what her husband did for her on Valentine’s Day–so amazing (and I’m so jealous!)–and also her son’s adorable dinosaur birthday party! Also how she wraps her Christmas gifts… lots more great inspiration!

Find more of Natasha on her blog.

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  3. Sandra Pons

    What a pleasure to learn more about you Alston. Love your advice. Beautiful family too!

  4. Jessica Y.

    great to learn about you Alston! your family is beautiful, and i really, really love your work!

  5. Paige

    Thanks for sharing, Alston! So great to learn about you and your work! (PS – love that you watch the Real Housewives at lunch! Guilty pleasure of mine too. lol)

  6. Karen Glenn

    LOVE your work, Alston! So nice to read more about you 🙂

  7. Anng

    Nice to get to know the person behind those beautiful designs!

  8. Laura

    You have a beautiful family, Alston! Really great interview 🙂

  9. annalouise

    Great interview! I loved hearing your perspectives on the creative process & the pic of your helpers at your desk!

  10. Meg G.

    Wish you lived closer because I think we would be friends! (Lovely to get to know you better Alston.) I really love your clean beautiful designs. My friend also gave me “Bird by Bird” to read and your post makes me excited to dig in.

  11. stacey day

    adorable family and a lovely interview, alston! thanks for sharing.

  12. Angela

    love the interview. nice to meet you!

  13. Yolanda

    Love your work Alston,.. so clean and sophisticated… beautiful family too.

  14. alston

    thank you all so much for these kind words! makes my day.

  15. Hailey Myziuk

    This is super delayed – but it was really nice to read about you and ‘get to meet you!’ through your interview. I’m a big fan of your work 🙂