Some people say art and politics don’t mix, but for Erin Hodges, they do. Well, sort of. Under the moniker Fig + Cotton Paperie, the longtime Minted artist has established her niche for modern yet timeless stationery design. And as a senior advisor to the Governor of Texas, she tackles the Lone Star State’s politics head-on. How does she manage to do both with grace? As a full-time working parent, she says she’s “still in search of that unicorn they call ‘balance.’” “However, I am one of those people who needs—not wants—a creative outlet. Stationery design scratches that itch in the most rewarding way,” Erin says.
By day, the 38-year-old works on almost every major state policy issue, and focuses a lot of her time on issues related to public education and child welfare. And by night, she’s a self-taught graphic designer who’s figured out the complexities of Adobe Illustrator. If you asked Erin during her college days as a Communications major at Texas State University what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would have said Public Relations, but as she explains now, “the public policy/government bug bit me quickly.” Fast-forward to 2010, Erin entered her first Minted design challenge, the 2010 Holiday Card Spectacular and the rest is history.
One of Erin’s favorite Minted designs is her “Mod Palm” wedding invitation. “It just feels like ‘me,’ she says. “I feel like my style can be all over the place sometimes, but I am really feel like this wedding suite captures it.”
Minted: Have you worked in politics for a long time?
Erin Hodges: I’ve worked for the Abbott Administration for the majority of my career—from when he was running for Texas Attorney General in 2001 through a large portion of his tenure as Texas Attorney General, and now as he is in his second year as the Governor of Texas. I did take a four-year break to serve a Chief of Staff in the Texas House of Representatives…but I didn’t stay gone very long.
Erin Hodges at the Texas Capitol office in Austin. Photo by Molly Quirk
What’s a typical day in the life like?
I usually get up at 6 a.m. and attempt to get ready for my day before the kiddos—Rex and Elizabeth—wake up at 7 a.m. Then it is scrambling for my husband and I to get everyone fed, dressed, and out the door. Elizabeth stays at home with my mom right now, but Rex goes to prekindergarten at a little school close to my office. After drop-off, I head into the Capitol. My work days are full of meetings, research, writing legislation and white papers, and policy planning. I do everything I can to get out of the office by 5:00, grab Rex, and head home to see my husband, Mat, and sweet baby Elizabeth. But, when the Legislature is in town, my days tend to be much longer. We play, eat dinner together, read books, and get ready for the next day. Once the kiddos are in bed, I am either relaxing on the couch with my husband watching Netflix or with my head buried in my laptop…or a combination of both.
“Vintage Coaster” baby shower invitation by Erin Hodges of Fig and Cotton
How did you teach yourself design?
I am proud to say that I am still learning as I go. I am not exaggerating when I say that Minted turned me into a stationery designer. This is somewhat embarrassing, but I can clearly remember, during one of my earliest challenges, when Amy Ehmann of Design Lotus made a comment about my kerning in the copy of one of my invitations during the critique period. I started frantically Googling, “what is kerning?” Now I pay extra attention to type layout, appropriate white space, and ensuring the design always has “breathing room.”
How did you come up with the name Fig & Cotton?
Two things I adore: food and paper. A couple of years ago, I decided to rebrand my stationery business and start a lifestyle blog under the same name. I launched Fig & Cotton blog after realizing that so many of my friends and family members were having trouble planning easy and delicious meals for their families. I was doing a great job of keeping up with regular posts and quality content for a good while, but, unfortunately, the blog is one thing in my life that had to fall to the side—at least for now. So, for now, Fig & Cotton is focused solely on stationery design.
Erin with her husband and two children, Rex (5) and Elizabeth (7 months). Photo by Molly Quirk
How do you feel about the concept of “balancing” family life with work life?
My family is my world. Being a full-time working mom has it’s challenges, but I am lucky to have a very supportive husband and network of amazing friends that help me ease the chaos.
What’s one of the most memorable career challenges you’ve overcome?
The overall fear of putting myself “out there,” both in my career in government and with my stationery business. It is so difficult not to compare yourself to others, and I am pretty terrible at doing that throughout different stages of my career. For my “day job,” with each legislative session, there comes new policy priorities that I am focused on accomplishing for the governor. Each one of those policy packages has its own unique challenges, and each one is very memorable. For my creative work, entering that first Minted challenge and taking on my first big custom wedding were both major career moments for me.
The Texas capitol building
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about design?
Find your “you,” and stick with it, but stay open to constructive criticism and the evolution of your style. That is how you grow as a designer.
What’s your top tip for design success?
Don’t be too hard on yourself!
What are your personal goals for creative or business development with your Minted work, and how do you hope to achieve those goals?
World dominance. OK, I am kidding…kind of. I am working hard to increase my Minted presence and hone in on what makes my style unique and catches the eye of the Minted customer. I want to engage more within the community, as well. Designers really are the heart of the Minted experience, and I want be a bigger part of that network.
Have you made any particularly valuable friendships with fellow Minted artists?
I have! Shortly after I started entering Minted challenges, I realized that Lauren Chism and I—both Texas girls—had a few friends in common. We decided to meet up one day for lunch when she was in Austin, and I have leaned on her ever since. Since we are both working mammas, we aren’t able to catch up as much, but I value her and her role in my Minted life!
“Party Time” birth announcement by Erin Hodges of Fig + Cotton
ERIN’S INSPIRATION & FAVORITE THINGS
Who inspires me: Fellow Minted artists, my children, my girlfriends who seem to “do it all”
Favorite website: Elements of Style, A Beautiful Mess, Camille Styles, Emily Henderson
Favorite design tool: Illustrator
Favorite font: Gotham
Favorite color combination: Navy, brass, and white
Favorite place in the world: My bed on Saturday mornings with my family
Favorite thing to eat: Pizza. All the pizza.
Song in my head: Anything from the Trolls movie…did I mention I have a 5-year-old?
Favorite Instagrammer: @StudioMcGee, @glitterguide, @theeverygirl_
Artists and designers I admire: Kelli Hall, Karly Depew of Oscar & Emma, Lori Wemple, and too many others to mention. Pretty much all Minted artists…not exaggerating here.
“Baby Teepee” baby shower invitation by Erin Hodges of Fig and Cotton
About the Author: Amy Schroeder, Minted’s Community Content Manager, founded Venus, the magazine about women in the arts and DIY culture, and has written for Etsy, West Elm, Pitchfork, and NYLON. Connect on Instagram @thevenuslady.
Published June 30, 20175 COMMENTS