Gerrie Magnani’s life sounds like a dream. Having grown up in Indonesia, she now lives in Ravenna, a beautiful historical town in Italy, and strives to work no more than 20 to 30 hours a week as a freelance graphic designer. Going by the moniker Chocomocacino, Gerrie lives and loves creativity, food, and travel. She found her design footing as a teen, and after studying graphic design in San Francisco, took a hiatus to become a yogi in Bali. While on hiatus, she met her husband, an Italian bodybuilder, who took her back to his hometown.
Much as her life story so far is a winding journey, Gerrie views her design and art as a constant evolution. You can’t quite pinpoint her signature style in a few words, and that’s what she’s going for—for the moment. “I like things that either have elegance, uniqueness, modernity, and adorable/cutesy quality to it, so that’s where I’m directing my designs, too,” she says. “I haven’t found the right combination or balance between all of these. Maybe it’s because my work is so different.”
Minted: Why did you move to Bali after college?
Gerrie Magnani: I lived in Ubud for almost two years, to pursue my yoga life, both teaching and studying. I got a scholarship and studied my yoga teaching right before moving to Ubud, also in Bali (Canggu) with Australian Yoga school. I taught yoga mostly privately in villas and hotels for guests who came to Bali, and some retreats. I also attended yoga-related workshops like astrology and meditation. My husband was my neighbor in Ubud; he managed an online rental accommodation. As a bodybuilder, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s completely the opposite of a yogi.
Before living in Bali, you attended Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and majored in graphic design. What was your first design job after graduating college?
I went back to Jakarta after school, and my first job for almost 10 years was as a wedding invitation designer—very much my dream job. I’ve always had a passion for paper and stationery, and I liked going to card stores to look at the illustration, lettering, and how cards are printed. Creating beautiful cards was really not a job for me; I had so much fun that it felt more like a hobby. I learned so much about printing processes—from laser cut to embossing, foil stamping, creating boxed invitations, and even printing with velvet texture. Dream world!
In addition to your Minted work, you’re a freelance designer of stationery, branding, and logos. Do you create your own schedule?
I try not to work nights and weekends, so I can have time to refresh myself and spend time with my husband. It can be watching TV, reading books, playing games, or just relaxing. To be able to create fresh and creative work, our brains need to be well-rested. On weekends, we try to visit other nearby cities or just stay at home—but completely away from work. If I have many things to do, nighttime is for ideas, weekends are best for doing production work while watching one my favorite TV series: Sex And the City, Mad Men, or Fixer Upper.
What is Ravenna like?
Ravenna is a very quiet and peaceful suburban city, with many small satellite cities around and is near beaches of the Adriatic Sea. It doesn’t have big-city vibes, but I love the safety part. You can go out with your open tote bag, iPad inside, and nobody will try to snatch it. Other than that, it’s a very strong rustic place, filled with many historical buildings. Dante was exiled and buried here. There is also a pine wood passage where it’s said he liked to take a walk for inspiration. I try this sometimes, and it might be one of my favorite places here.
Ravenna is known for the colorful mosaics adorning many of its central buildings, like the octagonal Basilica di San Vitale (shown above) and the 6th-century Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. Have these mosaics influenced your design work?
The mosaics are spectacular, especially San Vitale. Since college, I am more of a painting girl, but nevertheless, the mosaics here are some of the best I’ve seen. I’m definitely inspired by Italian craftsmanship and how much time and effort they put into handcrafted work like leather, mosaics, and wooden products. They are very dedicated and meticulous, which make me want to have more finesse in my work, not just rushing things to get it done.
What’s a typical schedule like for you?
My days are quite free and flexible, but I try to have a certain order. The most ideal day starts by waking up at a decent time, because I’m a night owl, and eating breakfast. During breakfast sometimes I watch short videos from Skillshare 0r Creative Bug—I call it “warming up the brain.” I find that’s the only time I can sit and absorb knowledge. Lately, I’ve been trying to learn gouache, so I try to set aside time for that before anything else. After that, Pinterest time accompanied by Spotify, my favorite part of the day—I can spend hours and get lost in it. Somebody said, Pinterest is a “Black Hole,” and I totally agree. Then, I stop to cook for lunch. After lunch, normally I take a short break; sometimes I read books and magazines before going back to work. Afternoon is production time for me—I usually do computer work, either tweaking or refining or preparing Minted files for launch. Then I stop work completely for dinner. If I get creative block, I stop this routine and try to do something different—maybe start cooking earlier or bake a cake. Or do extra yoga, random doodling, cleaning, read books, watch TV, or go out.
How do you describe your creative process?
When a Minted Challenge starts, the first week is my idea week. The idea stage is possibly one of my longest processes, besides the computer tweaking stage, but it’s also my favorite. This is when I explore and be adventurous, take risks, and brainstorm. Maybe it relates to why I like to travel. I like to see new things and get inspired. I try to look at as many related materials as possible from magazines, blogs, etc. It helps me to look at the decoration and styling to get certain mood, color, and ambiance. I never jump directly to one idea and execute it immediately. I am always amazed by people who are submitting during the first week that a Design Challenge is open. I feel so behind, because I’m just starting to warm my brain.
Then there is what I call “computer ideas” time. Some ideas are easier to be tested on the computer directly, such as trying fonts or moving shapes around. Then when you are playing around, a new idea just comes like that on computer. Many times, these ideas are the ones that do well. From there, I would choose some to finalize, tweak it until I like it. As the Challenge nears the end, last-minute ideas still pop up—I call this “panic attack design.” Sometimes, these designs sell well also, so, we really need to keep all eyes and options open.
How do you describe your design style? Do you feel that you specialize in a particular aspect of design?
I have a hard time answering this question. With every Minted Design Challenge, I like to give myself a new goal or style to try, so it’s not easy to pin down my style. For example, maybe this time I want to try something simple, bold, modern, and more geometric. But next can be just typography and colors. Other times I want to be more groundbreaking or cutesy. For one Challenge, lettering is my focus; for the next one, I might do heavy illustrations with rich textures.
Overall, I think my strong suit is probably my ideas and concepts. I like to come up with unusual ideas, either from the layout or design or the concept itself. Typography has always been one of my passions, so maybe that is next. I can spend hours just tweaking type into what I feel is right. And colors, I love playing with colors. I think whatever you are passionate about, you will try spending so much time in improving it. In that way, eventually you will become good at it.
Gerrie’s work from her teen years
How has your design style evolved, and where do you see it going?
My design has become more open. I am trusting myself and my sketching more. Before, I would never submit my doodles into Minted Challenges. Now, I am actually trying to explore my doodles. I am retracing back to what I liked to draw when I was a kid and a teenager— believing that’s where “the true artist’ is hidden—and trying to refine that early style. I feel the last 10 years, I was more computerized, probably. Lately I’ve been inspired by artists’ original sketches. It’s their “voices” and that’s where I want to head as well, to be more true and original to my artistic style, let loose. I want to explore more and hopefully I can combine and find balance with all my styles.
On your Instagram, you posted about reading Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa, a book that Minted gave to you and fellow CMYK artists.
Oh my god! I love Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk! It came at just the right time. I felt I got slapped in the face hard. I had been doubting myself, especially since I started an Instagram—seeing so, so many talents, can really make you feel small easily. I had a similar feeling participating in Minted challenges. Not only is the book funny, original, and honest, but it also provides fun guidance on how to quiet your self-doubt. Not to mention the illustrations in the book are so inspiring and delightful.
You describe yourself as a “foodie.” What’s your favorite kind of food?
I’m one of those people who says I live to eat! My favorites are Japanese and Italian food, followed by French, Thai, and Indonesian. Then Mexican and Korean food. I just love food! I really hunt for the best food, from the cheapest street food that was sold in cart to restaurants’ most creative, unique presentation and delicious dishes. I still dream to try both a Michelin star restaurant and get cooking lessons from real Nonnas (Italian grandmas) straight from their kitchen.
I cook almost every day, especially since I cannot find certain food that I want to eat badly in Italy, so I learn how to cook them. Normally, I will try one to two new recipes every week. It has been a whirlwind experience! Italy has great food, but they are very strong regionally. In smaller cities, you can only find what that region is famous for; for example, you can only find Chicken Milanese in Milan. Jamie Oliver and his Italian mentor, Gennaro Contaldo, are my two heroes who saved my gastronomy life.
GERRIE’S MINTED COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE
You joined the Minted community in 2010 and are one of the few Italian artists on Minted. How did you discover Minted?
When I worked as a wedding invitation designer in Jakarta, I often browsed Minted for ideas. I loved how Minted was different and saw what I wanted to do. I liked my job at that time, but with clients, the focus was always creating elegant, beautiful, and sophisticated design. I knew I had a quirky and adorable design side as well, which I hadn’t explored fully for a long time. I saw Minted as the right place to do that.
Gerrie has traveled far from her current hometown of Ravenna, Italy, to attend two Minted artist meetups: this one in Paris in May 2016 and another meetup in San Francisco several years ago. Pictured here, from left: London artist Annie Montgomery, German artist Cécile Kotsch of Bonjour Paper, American artist Liz Conley, Parisian artist Gwen Bedat, and Gerrie Magnani of chocomocacino.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Minted community?
So many things! Here are three of them:
- The community friends. The feedback and comments are always so heartwarming. And just like any other Mintie, I have developed a great bond with like-minded Minted artists.
- The flexibility and challenges that Minted offers. I’ve worked on Minted projects from three different cities. To be able to have a fun, creative outlet and no need to worry about the final printed pieces—plus still making money while you are traveling.
- With the never-ending talent of Minted artists, we always grow. The bar is always set higher and higher every day. And there is never “a safe zone”—you always have to continue to hone your skills. Minties’ work is one of the most inspiring things I have in my life. I always can’t wait to see what Minted artists will come up with. It’s fascinating for me—like a child waiting for her Christmas gifts.
What have you learned from being part of the Minted community?
- Let the photos shine.
- Last-minute ideas are sometimes the best—never neglect them.
- Trust your gut.
- There’s always a second chance, even for design.
- How to create better design, better illustration.
- Friendship. Minties are some of the kindest and most understanding artists around.
- If your best and most loved design doesn’t get picked or liked, but if you like it, there is potential.
- This is classic: Never give up.
What’s your favorite Minted design or art (that someone else created) and why?
There is always at least one design that I love from each Minted artist, and I have a small collection of many artists’ work. But if I have to pick, I’ll pick any work from Lori Wemple or Melissa Egan of Pistols, because I am a huge fan of illustration.
What’s your advice to up-and-coming artists and designers?
Trust your designer’s instinct. I like to work until there is that “click” feeling. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not. But when it happens, that design normally does well. Critique and self-edit your work, but still respect and believe in it. There are so so many talents out there, both inside and outside Minted. It’s very easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed, but our own voice has its uniqueness too. If you believe in your own voice, you would not try to copy somebody’s else. You will use them as guidance to find your own personal style. During college, we learned how to recreate somebody’s work. I think that was a perfect way to learn a new technique, how they created it, how much time and effort they put into it and in that way, you learn to respect both the artists and their art.
What inspires me: The list never ends. Food, traveling, nature, magazines, unique product and interior design, Japanese and Scandinavian design, Italian furniture design, French rustic style.
Favorite recent discovery: Gaudi and tapas
Favorite place in the world: Santorini (shown above), Bali, Paris, and New Zealand.
Favorite music: In exception of super pop like Justin Bieber and metal, I love almost any kind of music, including Jpop and Kpop, my guilty pleasures. Spotify playlist is perfect for me.
Number of stamps on my passport: I never count them.
Favorite blog or website: Artistic Moods
Favorite design resource: Pinterest
Favorite side project: Restaurant and food logos and branding
Favorite inspirational quote or mantra: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” and “Your eyes are the cameras.”
About the Author: Amy Schroeder, Minted’s Community Content Manager, founded Venus, the magazine about women in the arts and DIY culture back in the day, and has written for Etsy, West Elm, and NYLON. Connect on Instagram @thevenuslady.
Published March 2, 2017Comments Off on Meet a Minted Artist: Gerrie Magnani of Chocomocacino