Scroll through Jessie Steury’s Minted Artist Store, and you can see that she is a prolific illustrator. Since joining Minted in 2011, she’s built a strong reputation for her signature style of perky, colorful illustrations of animals, maps, trucks, and more. Hers is the kind of art that transforms a child’s room into a gallery of rainbow-colored wonders. Jessie’s illustration style is a mix of modern and vintage influences, a direct reflection of the things she loves in real life. “I love clean modern spaces, but I also like to spend my spare time searching thrift stores for silly old knick-knacks,” she says.
Funny thing is that Jessie never planned a career in illustration. “I’ve always loved drawing, but never thought I could actually do it for a living,” says the Indiana artist and mom of three. “This is where I owe another big thanks to Minted. Entering all these design challenges have really helped me grow and find my own style.”
In this interview, Jessie talks about her original career plan, life as a “farmer’s wife,” and how she developed her successful path on Minted.
“Animal World Map” by Jessie Steury
Minted: Did you study art or design formally in school?
Jessie Steury: I did! I attended the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago, with a focus on graphic design. It was such a great experience — both the formal education and what I learned while living in the city.
“Animals of the World” fabric by Jessie Steury
Illustration comprises a lot of your work now. What were your “original” career plans?
Graphic design was the original plan. It seemed like a more realistic career choice — something I could do and get a job anywhere, even in an Indiana small town. I worked for a marketing company in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on projects like RV brochures and outdoor furniture catalogs. It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t a good fit for me. Looking back, I realize that before I left for college, I had no idea that the Internet would allow me to work with companies all over the country.
Can you share the schedule of a typical day in the life now, as a Minted artist?
I’m happy to say there is no “typical” day, although, they are all probably pretty similar. It’s a mix of normal mom duties and designing on my computer. I really do enjoy the flexibility of working for myself. I don’t force myself to sit at a desk for a certain amount of time every day, and I probably never will. If I sit down to work and I’m not feeling it, I do something else — just until that creativity comes back. Usually a few minutes of housework, and I’ll quickly feel like getting back to designing.
How many hours per week do you usually work work?
I get in about 15–20 hours of work a week. As a stay-at-home mom, I work during nap times and after they’ve gone to bed. Somedays I wish I had more time to work, but I know these little ones won’t be little forever, so I’m trying to take in every minute of it. I’m really not working too late. During the morning, I try to make a little time to brainstorm or do research on whatever I am going to tackle during that day’s nap time. Whenever there is a silent moment, like driving to school or while they are playing, I am trying to think creatively, so that very minute nap time starts I’m ready to go.
Do you think of yourself as a farmer?
My husband is the farmer. I’m more of a gardener. He works with his family, and they grow a lot of soybeans and corn. We are surrounded by wide-open fields, which I love. We also have a wild flower field in front of our house.
How do you balance personal life with work?
This is a constant struggle, but one thing I do for sure is I never work between 4–8pm. This is our family time, helping with homework, making dinner, and just hanging out. I also try to not work on the weekends, although, sometimes I do sneak it in if needed, but only while they’re sleeping. Right now, being a mom is my number-one priority.
Is there anything you’d like to change about working from home?
No, I love it! I honestly cannot imagine ever going back to an office environment. If I could change anything, it would be to have a more designated work space within the house, but we do have a unfinished basement, so it is in the works.
What was the best thing about 2016, and what do you look forward to in 2017?
The best career moment in 2016, was having an art print for sale in Pottery Barn. I owe a huge thanks to Minted for providing this opportunity. This year I’m looking forward to doing even more children’s illustration work. I’ve even created my own 52-week Instagram challenge to keep me motivated. Each week, I’ll post a new illustration inspired by a classic nursery rhyme or fairy tale.
Six posts from Jessie Steury’s Instagram
I really don’t work at a desk — I prefer my laptop on my comfy couch — but the desktop on my computer screen, is almost always a hot mess.
How has your life and your design style evolved?
This is a good question, because my designs have totally evolved right alongside with whatever has been going on in my life. When I first started my own business in 2009, I was newly married and on maternity leave with my first child. At that time, I focused on wedding invitations and family trees. I was working full time as a graphic designer, and I really did not want to go back — which was the best motivation, but it didn’t happen overnight to become self-employed. It took about a year until I had it built up enough, and where I was comfortable leaving my job. Over time, with little ones in my life, I now mostly work on projects involving children’s illustration. I’m not sure if I’ve found my niche, or if it will continue to change and evolve as my children grow up.
“Children’s illustration is my favorite thing to work on, and it’s a perfect fit for where I’m at in my life,” Jessie says, shown here with her children in their playroom. “My little ones are great inspiration, and because I’m a mom, it’s easy to know what’s already out there and what is missing in the market.”
As a graphic designer and illustrator, do you have clients in addition to your Minted work?
Yes, I do work with a couple other companies as a freelance designer, mostly doing similar children’s illustration work.
Of all of Jessie’s Minted designs, she’s most proud of “Little Big World,” a winner of the Minted X Pottery Barn Kids Challenge. Of winning the challenge, she says, “It’s just nothing I ever would’ve imagined happening in my life.”
JESSIE STEURY’S MINTED EXPERIENCE
How did you discover Minted?
I had been running an Etsy shop for a few years, and started to feel like the market over there was getting a little too crowded, so I was searching for something else to add to my income. After entering a couple of Minted challenges, I was totally hooked.
Which Minted design challenge has been most challenging for you?
Wedding challenges are always the most challenging for me. I like to think I can make something elegant and fancy, but it never seems to work out.
The challenges. They give me motivation to try new things and to keep creating. I think the stiff competition makes me work harder than I ever would on my own.
What have you learned from being part of the Minted community?
Everyone who continues to enter challenges on a regular basis seems to grow and get better. Even the great designers get greater. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s so inspiring to watch everyone’s career grow.
What’s your favorite Minted design or art that someone else created and why?
I have a lot of Minted art all over my house, but probably my favorite is Betty Hatchett’s “Fleeting.” It’s possibly the only art my husband and I totally agreed on and both really love. We have a pretty big version hanging in our living room. I find it very calming, and it reflects the real deer we often see running outside our windows off in the distance.
What’s your most memorable Minted community experience?
In fall of 2015, I got to visit the Minted offices and meet some super talented Minted artists, as part of the annual CMYK artist visit. It was a trip of a lifetime! I was surrounded by my design heroes, hanging out in a beautiful space, meeting such brilliant and talented people is something I’ll never forget.
“Little Love Bug” custom children’s art by Jessie Steury
What’s your advice to up-and-coming artists and designers?
Never give up, and work hard. Be willing to try new things. So cliché, but honestly, I’m not any more talented than anyone — I just keep working. I kept an open mind and kept trying new things.
Any don’ts for up-and-comers on Minted?
Don’t look at the scores. I mean, you can, but don’t take them too seriously. If you created something you love, don’t immediately toss it out if it scores low. You can set it aside for a little bit, but always come back to it, maybe make some tweaks and try self-launching it. Or if you make a lot of changes to it, try it in another challenge.
How do you hope Minted will continue to grow?
I think Minted is surfacing some of the greatest talent across the world. I’d love to see more partnerships with other companies, or more opportunities to share the talent.
“Woodland Buddies” baby shower invitation by Jessie Steury
JESSIE STEURY’S INSPIRATION
Inspiring person: All my fellow Minted designers.
Favorite recent discovery: Instagram. I know, I’m super late to the party.
Favorite place in the world: Our home. It was custom built three years ago by my husband and his family. It’s just right for us, and exactly where we want to be.
Favorite movie: Anchorman
Favorite music: The Lumineers are my favorite to listen to right now, but Beastie Boys will always be my number one.
Number of passport stamps: Sadly only one, but I hope to change that once the kiddos get a little bigger.
Favorite blog or website: Pinterest
Favorite design resources: Old books and thrift-store bric-a-brac
Favorite side project: My husband and I are currently restoring a vintage Airstream camper. This summer we have plans for a big Michigan trip, and if all goes well, next year we’ll take it farther.
About the Author: Amy Schroeder, Minted’s Community Content Manager, founded (back in the day) Venus, the magazine about women in the arts and DIY culture, and has written for Etsy, West Elm, and NYLON. Connect on Instagram @thevenuslady.
Published January 17, 2017