When we asked Minted artist Susan Asbill to describe a typical day in the life, she explained that as a working mother with two small children, the real constant in her life is chaos. “As a type A personality, this has been hard for me to accept, but I’ve found that no amount of planning will keep things from going awry,” the Dallas designer says. “For now I’m just settling into the chaos with these two little humans and soaking up all the mess and magic while it lasts.”
That perfect combination of life’s beautiful mess and magic shows in her Minted work, a bold, colorful collection of designs that celebrates life’s major moments. After asking Susan about her goals, how’s she’s developed her career, and what she does for fun, we’ve learned that she’s a hard-working Texan with a heartwarming sense of humor, and she’s committed to the Minted artist community.
Minted: Did you study art or design formally in school?
Susan Asbill: I’ve had my heart set on an art-related career as far back as I can remember. As a child I drifted in and out of other activities, but art was my constant. In high school, I was taking so many art classes that I was short on regular credits needed for graduation—oops. I had to make these up in summer school and correspondence classes. I got my bachelor of fine arts in design from the University of Texas at Austin. I initially spent two years in studio art before moving into their design program. It was a difficult transition at first. I was used to the looser world of fine art, and it took me a while to get my footing. I had wonderful teachers who kept me challenged—and sometimes overwhelmed—throughout the program. I’m grateful for that push today. They also kept the class size small, and our group really bonded through the years. We stay in touch to this day. The bonds I’ve made in the Minted community remind me of those early designer friendships.
What was your first design-related job?
My first design job was as an art director at a small agency in Dallas. They had a lot of home goods clients: surfacing and tile companies, gourmet ranges, roofing, etc. Since then I’ve worked 10 different jobs, both at agencies and also as an in-house designer. Working with such a wide variety of clients has been interesting, and I’ve been able to bounce between different brand styles, everything from Dom Pérignon to the WWE. It’s been a wild ride.
Do you think 10 jobs is a lot, or not necessarily?
Ten jobs may sound like a lot, but it’s common in marketing and advertising. There is always employee turnover when agencies win and lose accounts. I’ve also moved around to learn new skills, like switching to an interactive agency at one point to learn web design. My most recent job change was to focus more on my family.
“Pegasus” children’s custom art by Susan Asbill for Minted
How many hours per week do you usually work? And what does “work” mean for you?
Currently I work three days a week in TGI Fridays’ corporate office, primarily designing their menus. The other two days I work at home on freelance clients, Minted, volunteer work, and of course the toughest and most rewarding gig of all, being a mother.
Susan’s 5-year-old daughter Eden “is the ultimate girly girl, obsessed with fashion and all things pink.” Susan’s 2-year-old son Knox “loves cars like his father, a happy little guy who makes us laugh daily.” The family pup is Velma, a rescue dog.
“The Modernist” birth announcement by Susan Asbill
It’s interesting that you call yourself Type A, but you also have a background as a fine artist. Do you think it’s unusual for a fine artist to be Type A?
I’m not sure if it’s unusual for artists, but many of my designer friends are perfectionists about their work. It has definitely helped me in my career. As a designer I often have to take a mess of complicated information and make it easy for a consumer to navigate. Intense focus, drive and attention to detail is so important in this field.
Susan’s husband, Marc, works as an Operations Director in the semiconductor industry, or as she describes him: “He is an engineering type and the perfect left-brain balance to my right-brain tendencies.” He enjoys anything mechanical, and spends his spare time restoring old cars; his current project is a ’31 Ford Hot Rod. They’ve been married for six years and knew they wanted a family right away. “We ended up celebrating our first wedding anniversary in the hospital with the birth of our daughter,” Susan says.
How do you balance personal life with work? Or is “balance” not the right word?
I really craved a return to work after having my babies. I need the structure and interaction with colleagues—adult conversation!—in order to better focus on and appreciate my children when I’m with them. With that said, I did have to leave behind agency life. The hours were often long and unpredictable, and I just couldn’t make it work anymore as a mother. Thankfully I found my current job, where I can work part-time and have the best of both worlds. Minted has also been a great complement to motherhood. I can keep my creative brain active and work when time allows. I actually entered my first Minted competition while I was on maternity leave with my daughter. I needed a creative outlet, and that was something I could do from home while still focusing on my girl. Fittingly, it was also a birth announcement challenge!
Atop Susan’s table is her “Downtown” art print.
What’s an interesting thing about you that most people don’t know?
I am obsessed with all things Halloween. At one point I wanted to design haunted houses for a living, but the closest I got was working in one. My current colleagues are also into Halloween, and we go big at the office. A couple years ago we built a massive circus with a fun house. It was months of work, but so worth it. I played a bearded lady who worked in a kissing booth—ha!. In 2016, we all went as Snapchat filters and I was the cop. I even built a full evidence wall in my office, gave out citations, and had a mug shot station set up for “offenders.”
You worked in a haunted house?
One year in high school, I worked at a haunted house for kids. I played a mummy, and while it was a cool experience, it was also really hard work. The costume was uncomfortable, and I was stuck in a dark, cramped space for my shift. The kids reacted in surprising ways to being scared. There was the usual screaming, but I also got kicked in the shins more than once. And that was it for me!
Do you think of yourself as having a “personal brand” or style as a designer and creative?
This has been a challenge for me because I’m so used to working within other brand looks. But I’m working on it. I do enjoy illustrating and gravitate to the baby and kids category. I think my illustrative work feels cohesive. I like to do bright and fun work. Even when designing simpler pieces, I usually have a pop of color in there.
“Beep Beep” children’s birthday party invitation by Susan Asbill for Minted
Do you have any “ultimate” goals for your career?
Right now I’m happy in the in-between world of work and family. My kids will only be small for a short while, and I’m enjoying this stage with them. But I would like to eventually take time to re-explore my fine art roots. Hopefully I can work on getting away from the computer more and getting back to the slower processes of drawing and painting.
“Little Dove” baptism and christening announcement by Susan Asbill
SUSAN ASBILL’S MINTED EXPERIENCE
Which Minted design are you most proud of and why?
It’s not necessarily my favorite design, but I was proud of “Adventurer” for winning first place in the Baby Shower challenge. The talent in this community is staggering, and my jaw hit the floor when I realized that somehow my invitation had placed first among so many other amazing designs. I’m also proud of my design “Baby vs. Cake.” I think it’s an original take on the first birthday/cake smash category. I actually used this design and a boxing theme for my son’s first birthday party.
“Adventurer” baby shower postcard by Susan Asbill
You joined Minted in 2011. How did you discover Minted, and what’s it been like to experience the company’s growth?
I was browsing birth announcements on Minted while on maternity leave with my daughter and realized that I could enter my own designs. Having always worked at traditional design jobs, the concept was really fascinating to me. I had always avoided design competitions, but this felt different in that unlike logos or other client-specific work, the art could be used elsewhere if needed. And I felt that the quality of work being entered was really high, which was appealing. It helped push me as a designer, which in turn helped me with my other design jobs. It’s been amazing to see Minted’s growth over the past few years. The community is huge now! It’s also been exciting to see Minted branch out into art, fabric, and partnerships with other brands.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Minted community?
That I’ve gotten to explore my own artistic voice, really, for the first time since art school. I also love the freedom of working outside a traditional schedule, and most importantly I’m thankful for the amazing friends I’ve made in the community.
“Night Owl” baby shower invitation by Susan Asbill
What have you learned from being part of the Minted community?
That there can be kindness and camaraderie in competition.
Have you made any particularly meaningful friendships with fellow Minted Artists?
I’ve made a lot of meaningful friendships within this community. There are quite a few Minties whom I talk with on a daily basis. It’s remarkable how close we are considering that we initially met online. I’ve also been lucky to meet several Minted designers and artists in person.
What’s your favorite Minted design or art that a fellow Minted artist created and why?
This is impossible. I can name about 50 pieces off the top of my head, but I’m going with Katie Craig’s “Mister.” I love the blues and her beautiful organic brushstrokes. I’m also lucky to have the original painting in my home.
“Mister” art print by Katie Craig is one of Susan’s favorite works of art on Minted
What’s your most memorable Minted community experience?
They’ve all been great. My local Dallas Minties are awesome. I loved the whole National Stationery Show experience. This fall I went to a Nashville meet-up at Hatch Show Print and had a blast with all the ladies there. But probably my favorite memory is watching the sunset over Pebble Beach with my California Minted friends—fire pit, cocktails, and bagpipes. It was magical.
Pictured Above: L-R: Ella Weaver (in pink), Julia Devine (behind her), Lea Delaveris, organizer Sara Heilwagen, Stacey Meacham, Jessica Williams, Susan Asbill, Jen Postorino, Sara Malone, Dawn Smith, Kim Elam, and Tina Frostholm
What’s your advice to up-and-coming artists and designers?
Just do you. Try to conceptualize and create without looking at what’s going on in a challenge. Your work will feel more authentic. And if you want to work within a current trend, try to push it and make it your own.
Any don’ts for up-and-comers?
Don’t get discouraged by losses and poor scores. We’ve all been there. Minted and creative life in general can be a roller coaster, but there will be success if you stick with it.
SUSAN ASBILL’S INSPIRATION
Inspiring people: My kids, my co-workers, my fellow Minties
Creative turnoffs: Bad kerning
Favorite recent discovery: Margarita flights
Favorite place in the world: Northern California. But also fall in Texas.
Favorite movie: The Lost Boys. I still love it. Someday I hope to visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk where it was filmed, and visit another Minted designer who works there (shout-out to Sarah Curry!).
Favorite song, musician, or type of music: Pixies
Number of stamps on your passport: Only a few, but watch out, world…as soon as my son is a little older, here we come! Until then we’re busy exploring things stateside. Our next adventure is a Maine road trip this summer.
Favorite blog or website: Ever-changing, but right now Studio McGee
Go-to design resources: Online: I can get lost in Pinterest for hours. In real life: I love looking at all the different illustration styles in my children’s books. I also love to browse the beer and wine aisles for gorgeous packaging. So creative! Also delicious.
Favorite font: Ever-changing
Favorite book: The Goldfinch—a haunting story woven around art
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 13, 2017Comments Off on Meet a Minted Artist: Susan Asbill