How Designer Julia Hall Turns “Inspiration Block” Into Her Secret Weapon

Written by Daryl Lindsey 

Minted Designer Julia Hall at her home studio in Queens, New York. Studio portraits by Stefan Klapko.

Most artists and designers know the pain of feeling “blocked,” when creativity and inspiration feel like they’re clear on the other side of a big, brick wall. For Minted Artist Julia Hall, that feeling is just as common as it is for the rest of us — but Hall has managed to take her “blocked” moments and turn them into opportunities for growth, both as an artist and an entrepreneur.

“Artist block” is even what helped her reach her current career path as a stationery designer. “I went to college for painting, but it never felt like a perfect fit,” Hall explained, recounting feeling stressed and blocked while trying to carve out a path for herself. “Finding stationery, where I can do different styles for different designs, and incorporate hand drawing, painting, digital work, and photography has been very freeing.”

Thinking outside the box while feeling creatively blocked helped her design the invitation suite she would use for her own wedding — and led her to a major career success. Hall created her most popular design, “Holiday Frame,” in a last-minute, down-to-the-wire Minted Challenge submission for their 2016 holiday contest.

Hall is based in Queens, New York and works full-time as a digital designer in Jersey City, New Jersey while running her successful Minted business on the side. We spoke with Hall about how she finds inspiration (even when it’s hard) and what it means to be a stationery designer in 2018.

Julia in her home studio, working on a wedding invitation design

You almost didn’t finish your bestselling design, “Holiday Frame.” Why did you turn in your design so last minute?

I had a goal of submitting seven designs that year, and “Holiday Frame” was the seventh one. At the time, seven felt like a lot! I was working on it, and some other designs the night before the challenge was due, but I needed to finish the drawing in the morning.

What I had drawn so far didn’t feel complete, and I was at a point where I had been looking at it for too long and needed to step away. I got up really early to finish, and I am so glad I did. I was stressed, but when I scanned it and vectorized the drawing, I was happy with the result.

It ended up being my favorite submission. People who saw it liked it and it got some likes online, but I had no idea whatsoever it would be my biggest Minted design.

At that point, I was still pretty new to the Minted community— when I submitted it I had only had active sales for two months. It became my best selling design— definitely life-changing in a great way.

“Holiday Frame” foil-press holiday photo card by Julia Hall

You eloped in 2017 and had a public reception in September 2018 — you wanted to create your own invitations, but struggled with the creative process. How did you push through it?

My wedding reception was on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. I wanted to do a wood texture, going off the idea of driftwood for a beachy feel, but in a new way. At first, I tried painting wood textures but nothing felt right. I made about 20 or so paintings, but couldn’t find one that jumped out to me. To clear my head, I went on a walk and happened upon a cool, old painted piece of wood that was crackly and showing the wood grain. I took a photo of it and digitized it. It ended up working for my vision much better than any of my paintings had. I had been going nowhere with it but devoting a lot of time to it, so it felt great when I finally got it together, in a completely different way than I had expected.

“Barnwood” foil-pressed wedding invitation by Julia Hall. Photograph by Kiamarie Stone.

Where do you pull inspiration, on those days you feel inspired?

I love walking around and taking photos of nature, looking at other artists’ and designers’ work, and looking at how people use color. I like to see real weddings on Instagram and various wedding sites and magazines and get inspiration from that.

I love learning the back-story of typefaces: so many we use today like Didot and Bodoni and Trajan Pro have design roots from hundreds of years ago, and I like being a small part in the long lifespan of the typefaces. It’s really cool to me and there’s something comforting about it.

I also have a vintage Higgins Ink catalog, which is where Mr. Sheffield and other fonts originated from. They were all mashups of different people’s handwriting and were used as a guide for sign painting and hand-lettering in advertisements. I also love modern calligraphy. The more I learn, the more I want to know.

Julia and her husband, Jason, on the beach in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Photo by Kiamarie Stone.

What are your 2019 dreams and goals?

I want to work with color a lot more than I have in previous years and incorporate more painting into my work. I would like to develop a daily painting habit. I also want to start entering most of the Minted competitions, not just the holiday and wedding competitions.

What advice do you have for new Minted artists?

Keep going: Even if it’s frustrating, and even if you’re not winning. Look at your own work critically, but also be kind to yourself. We’re all still in the process of learning and developing as artists and designers, and it’s a lifelong process.

If you’re feeling blocked, break the design down to think about other people and their needs. How will they be using your design, and can you solve any problems for them? Be persistent, and don’t be afraid of iterating an idea over and over again until it meets your vision. I love how limitless designing can be: it’s not restricted to one medium, there are so many directions you can go with it. Look for inspiration everywhere.

Also, make sure you get the most out of the Minted community. The Minted community is an incredible, unique resource. Minted designers are so supportive of each other and give great advice. Soliciting feedback from the community can take your designs to the next level.

Julia’s workspace in Queens, New York


MORE ABOUT JULIA HALL

Julia Hall’s Minted Artist Store

Julia Hall’s Website

Julia Hall’s Instagram

Published December 20, 2018

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