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.
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.
“Merry + Bright” holiday card by Wildfield Paper Co.
What’s a typical day in your life?
Schedules are not really my jam! I have to work while the inspiration is hot, so I don’t like to have a set schedule of what I will accomplish at which time because it will likely get derailed at some point in the day. I have a bunch of “to-do” post-its arranged around my computer screen, and I just try to barrel through them. My main constant that remains is Instagram. A major part of my business is run on Instagram so I end up putting a lot of time into what is going to be posted, responding to messages, interacting with with my followers, etc.
Just one of Annie’s many beautiful Instagram posts @wildfieldpaperco
You have more than 65,000 followers on Instagram, and your posts are gorgeous. How did you build such a strong following?
When I started my Instagram account, I posted a ton of random art from college and little crafty side projects. I started noticing what people were drawn to in my posts and built it up from there. Every time I posted about flower paintings, I gained followers, and if the picture was taken in a nice clean and well-lit space, I would gain even more. So I just followed that model. I also collaborated with a lot of wedding vendors my first year of business, and that really helped me gain a good following.
“Wildflower Noel” holiday card by Wildfield Paper Co.
How does family play part of your creative life?
My family is my biggest support system. I don’t how I would do anything without them. My husband is my constant steady and does so much for me and my business. I am also one of eight kids in my family. Yes, eight children — and all from the same parents! Growing up, we really didn’t have a lot, as far as material items, and we moved around quite a bit, so we really relied on each other for support and entertainment. To this day we are all best friends and we get together as much as possible…usually a few times a week. My business has really become a family effort. Every time I have a big sale or a market and I need help packaging and shipping, everyone comes over and we chat and stuff prints in cellophane sleeves. My husband is building frames while someone cooks, someone cleans, and my brother figures out my taxes, it really is a family affair and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Why did your family move around quite a bit?
We were living in Utah when my dad was accepted into a medical school in Missouri, then he had residency in Iowa. When he finished residency, we were looking to move back west to be closer to family. We moved to Idaho and lived there for a short time before moving to Utah when I was 12. Utah has been my home ever since.
What’s it like to live in Utah?
So amazing! We have incredibly towering mountains filled with pine, fir, and aspen trees, Zion National Park and Moab with their striking red rocks, and The Great Salt Lake — it’s all just so physically diverse and beautiful in their own right. Salt Lake City is full of beautiful historic homes and old buildings and so much diversity. In the summer there are wonderful festivals happening all the time, and for just about any interest/culture you can think of. All nestled just below the beautiful Rocky Mountains — it’s incredible.
“Winter Wildflowers” holiday photo card by Wildfield Paper Co.
How do you balance personal life with work?
Admittedly, not well. Working so many hours that it really does takes its toll on personal time. Every day my husband and I make time for a long walk around the neighborhood or up in one of our beautiful Salt Lake City canyons. We leave our phones at home and just chat about the day. I also choose to completely leave work behind when we are gone on any trip. No responding to emails, no sketching new card designs, just spending time with the ones we love and leaving work for the studio.
What do you like about working from home, and what would you change about it?
I get to go to work in my pajamas and listen to my music full blast, and there is tons of natural light in my “studio” (traditionally know as a living room). I work best at night, so it’s nice to have my studio right in the house for when inspiration hits. I am incredibly introverted, so being at home by myself all day is really a treat. I also live about five minutes from a beautiful canyon that I often drive up midday for some inspiration and a quiet break. There are definite drawbacks, however. We live in a little 800-square-foot apartment, and my studio is about half of our living room and growing! The shipping and printing room is overflowing with cardboard and paper, and the garage is completely overtaken with market walls, framing supplies, etc. So we’re searching for a new studio, so we can have our house back.
What has been the best thing about 2016 for you, and what are you looking forward to in 2017?
2016 has been a great year for Wildfield Paper Co., and I feel incredibly blessed for it. A major highlight was when I was contacted by the Magnolia Market to sell at their annual Silobration in October. On the same day that I met Joanna Gaines, I found out that I had won the Joanna and Chip’s Guest Judge Pick for Minted’s 2016 Holiday Card Photo Card Challenge.
As for 2017, my husband and I have been battling infertility for six years, and we are doing our first round of IVF next year — we are very nervous, but so hopeful and excited.
You’re big on traveling. How many countries have you visited, and which one is your favorite?
My husband used to work for an airline, and we would get to fly on any flights that had un-purchased seats…so we did a ton of travel around the USA and a little out of country. I think we have been to about eight or nine countries. My favorite, for sure, is Italy. The colors, foods, smells, and all-around friendly and laid-back attitude of Italy cannot be beat.
When did you start teaching calligraphy workshops?
I started teaching workshops in 2015. Now I only teach in-person workshops about four times a year — once in the spring, one around the holidays, and a few individual workshops. I mostly teach online now. I currently have a class open through the Modern Calligraphy Summit that is all about the techniques I use to paint and draw flowers and organic embellishments. I also have some online classes coming in 2017 covering color theory, modern calligraphy, scanning, and digitizing watercolors, and step-by-step painting instructions on individual flowers that will be hosted through my website.
“Garden Rose” wedding invitation by Wildfield Paper Co.
Annie Mertlich’s Minted Experience
When you entered your first Minted challenge in 2013, what were your initial thoughts about Minted, and what were your goals at the time? How have you evolved since then?
I originally planned for it to be a little creative outlet and a little extra money for spending. I didn’t even really have plans to submit to multiple challenges, but once I started participating, I couldn’t go back. The community is wonderful, and the entire setup of Minted works really well for me. Minted is now a major part of my business, and one of my favorites really. It’s the only part of my business where I get to just create the art, and someone else does all the promoting, website designing, shipping, and customer service. I love that aspect of Minted.
Which Minted design are you most proud of and why?
Definitely my “Garden Rose” wedding invitation! It’s not even my favorite of my Minted designs, but it has the most significance to me! I painted the elements of this wedding invitation in the very early days of Wildfield Paper Co., so every time I see this card I am reminded of how far my business come since I started it in 2014.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Minted community?
Everyone is so nice and so helpful! The community is really an incredibly supportive and uplifting group of folks who are always ready and willing to help out another artist. It’s really a rare and unique experience to behold and be a part of. It truly is a community-over-competition kind of environment.
What have you learned from being part of the Minted community?
There’s room for everyone. There is an audience and a need for all of the artists and the different styles they bring.
“Mornings Away” limited edition art by Emily Jeffords
What’s your favorite Minted design or art that someone else created and why?
“Mornings Away” by Emily Jeffords. I am a country girl at heart, and there is really nothing better than a fresh country morning. The painting is so peaceful and the color harmony speaks to my soul. I love following Emily on Instagram — she is always showing the behind-the-scenes of creating these magical scenes, and it really is a highlight of my day.
What’s your most memorable Minted community experience?
The first challenge I ever submitted to was the 2014 big holiday photo card challenge. At the time, I had no idea how big of a deal that challenge was. I was super blessed to have one of my cards take the fourth-place spot! I had no idea there was a Minted Community Facebook group and that the card placements were being announced. Eric Beckett of GeekInk found me on Facebook and sent me a message giving me the good news and letting me know there was a whole Facebook group waiting to congratulate me. I couldn’t believe it…I joined the forum that day and was welcomed in the best possible way — a warm, Minted community welcome! I was overtaken with how kind a generous everyone was.
What’s your advice to up-and-coming artists and designers?
Do your style! Bring what only you can bring to a challenge. Also submit every good design…even if you are unsure about it. The Minted community will give you their honest feedback. For most of my best-selling cards and designs, I wasn’t even going to submit at all because I was unsure of how they would be accepted. There is a real power in putting something out there and seeing how it works — it’s scary — but it’s the best way to learn what is going to work.
What’s your approach to critiquing fellow artists’ work on Minted?
Always approach a critique with politeness and respect. I always read something back to myself and try and imagine it as someone else giving me the critique. Is it helpful, is it kind, will it keep the integrity of their unique design? Would that critique inspire me to give my design some tweaking? And when someone gives you a critique, really decide for yourself if that is best for your design. You gotta trust your gut on those things.
“Happy + Bright” Holiday Card by Wildfield Paper Co.
My creative turnoffs: Being too busy to enjoy the process of creating art and dealing with the business side of being self-employed. My brain does not work in numbers, taxes, and email responses!
Favorite place in the world: Hands down, Kauai. It never disappoints.
Favorite movie: So many! Top five are probably Big Fish, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the new Jane Eyre, P.S. I Love You, and Elizabethtown.
Favorite music: Lately, my go-to for music is anything classical or a pretty movie soundtrack. Dario Marianelli and Ennio Morricone are played a lot around here.
Favorite blog or website: Oh boy, that would have to be Pinterest. I spend a few too many hours browsing through a sea of never-ending inspiration.
One random interesting thing: I love brussels sprouts! I could eat those stinky crunchy cabbages all day long.
Published December 7, 2017