How do your surroundings inspire your creativity?

The launch of Minted Home got us thinking about how our surroundings inspire creativity, so for this edition of #WhatInspiresMe, we asked three Californians to talk about how their workspace and play space affects their creative process.

Kayla King
Arroyo Grande, California

I’ve always had a deep love for reading, and to this day I often feel like a big kid at heart. I collect vintage children’s books, my favorites being from the 1950s and 1960s. I love the bright colors, the simple shapes, and the sense of wonder they still bring me when I read them again and again. My workspace is filled with mini collections that bring me joy—out-of-print magazines, photos with my husband, train tickets from a recent trip, simple color studies, and my two little dachshund buddies, Indy and Fritz, who never leave my side when I’m home working.

Cycling Sausage” by Kayla King

12 Days” wrapping paper by Kayla King

Aspacia Kusulas
Los Angeles, California

My creativity is fueled by memories, travel experiences, and everyday life. To preserve these moments, I collect objects, pieces of paper, and photos that inspire me and remind me of the remarkable places I’ve visited or things I’ve seen that have left a strong impression. I like to gather these objects in a clean, organized space and sketch out anything that comes to mind.

Eventually that clean space becomes a bit disorganized—actually, a mess—but the confusion of memories sparks my imagination, and my ideas take on a more cohesive form. I use my sketch book, pencils, and markers to explore my ideas and test concepts, but when I finally hit on something that resonates, my Wacom tablet is essential in helping me shape it into a final product. It’s important for me to have all my tools easily accessible and in one place. I also find it fundamental to create a soothing ambiance through muted lighting and my essential playlists.

I’d rather wear flowers” by Aspacia Kusulas

Abstracciones Vol. 3” by Aspacia Kusulas

Shannon Chen of Four Wet Feet Studio
Sacramento, California

I keep an inspiration board above my desk to help spark my imagination. I like to put anything related to what I’m working on up on the broad, such as watercolor doodles, postcards, and photos for ideas.

Part of my creative space is the outdoors. To me, traveling, hiking, and immersing myself in nature is a great way to get away from the computer and find inspiration. I usually take photos of the scenery and plants for reference for my work. I also like to burn incense in my studio—I find the smell relaxing and calming while refreshing the energy of the room. There are usually piles of sketches and watercolor doodles on my desk. Sometimes, when I get stuck, I paint a bunch of random sketches that I might revisit later. Once I have something that I think is worth developing, I paint more sketches to refine the idea.

Birchwoods in Winter” by Four Wet Feet Studio

Blue Blossoms” by Four Wet Feet Studio

How about you—how do your surroundings inspire your creativity? Share your answer in Comments below and on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with the hashtag #WhatInspiresMe.

#WhatInspiresMe is published every other Monday. This is the third edition; read the second edition here.

Learn how to become a Minted artist here.


What is your most memorable creative moment or epiphany?

Have you experienced a creative a-ha! moment—an instance when your artistic lightbulb turns on? That’s exactly what happened to these three Minted artists. For Eric Comstock, Megan Kelley, and Laura Bolter, trusting instinct, letting go, or taking a risk triggered an epiphany.

Eric Comstock of ERAY
Austin, Texas

About four or five years ago, I was sitting at my desk and drew these little rectangular shapes. I added pie chart–shape things and little bowties and clouds with fun shapes falling from them. I looked at all the drawings and thought, Hey, this could turn into a pretty cool illustration. So I considered color and composition, and the result was not just one illustration but two—Glink Glunk and Globetrotter. Funnily enough, the pie-chart idea from Glink Glunk and Globetrotter has found its way into my first children’s book, Charlie Piechart, and the Case of the Missing Pizza Slice (HarperCollins, September 1, 2015). I worked with Marilyn Sadler, a wonderfully talented author and creator of very successful children’s books and children’s television.

Globetrotters” by ERAY

From left: “The illustration of Triangle Man represents me mainly because it represents my curiosity of shape and color,” Eric says. | The cover of Charlie Piechart, Eric’s September 2015 book | Glink Glunk

Megan Kelley
Midland, Texas

My work is continually evolving as I try new techniques and materials, but I feel like I experienced my biggest creative moment seven months ago. I received a devastating diagnosis for my unborn son, and I needed an outlet for all my emotions. I put brush to canvas and just tried to let my strokes flow without too much interference from the controlling side of my brain. I tend to overthink and overwork my pieces, but the result I got from this experience was beautiful, simple, and raw. I knew this was the direction in which I wanted my art to go.

 “Concord II” by Megan Kelley

After Loss” by Megan Kelley

Laura Bolter
Lenexa, Kansas

I had been doing freelance graphic design work for many years when I decided to stretch myself creatively and start painting, beginning with very symbolic types of imagery. After some time, I enrolled in an abstract mixed-media workshop taught by a talented painter and teacher. I learned how to paint in a very layered, freestyle manner, reacting to each previous mark, but still using the concepts of balance, composition, line, and color that I had been using in my design work for so long. This was my creative epiphany—realizing I could continue to paint the same meaningful themes but with a more expressive and interesting approach. Ultimately, the class inspired a painting technique that resulted in a broader audience for my work.

Landscape Study III” by Laura Bolter

City Approach” by Laura Bolter

This is the second edition of #WhatInspiresMe. Read the first edition here.

How about you—what is your most memorable creative moment or epiphany? Share your answer in Comments below and in Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with the hashtag #WhatInspiresMe.

Learn how to become a Minted artist here.

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Top tips for designing self-launch notebooks

Bold Statement Notebook by Sandra Picco Design

“No one can own too many notebooks,” says Minted artist Jennifer Pace, and we couldn’t agree more. That’s one of the reasons why we invite Design Challenge–winning artists to self-launch non-customizable notebooks in their Stores.

With self-launch notebooks, artists are able to easily create products with production options and construction that are ordinarily reserved only for those with access to specialized machinery. Self-launch notebooks come in three formats: day planners, address books, and notebooks, and customers have two binding options (spiral or grommet). Unlike Minted’s fully customizable products, notebooks only come with lined paper.

Overall, self-launch notebooks are similar to Minted’s other self-launch products, but the primary difference is that you upload four files per colorway—a front of the notebook, inside front cover, inside back cover, and back of the notebook.

With two successful notebook designs in Minted’s collection, Jennifer is eager to create a line of new self-launch notebook designs for her Store. Here, we share the Arizona artist’s design tips along with insights from Minted’s Product Development team.

Chalkboard Dreams Notebook and School’s In Notebook by Jennifer Pace | Photography by Rachel Solomon Photography

Jennifer starts the notebook design process like she does all of her projects—with a moodboard. She begins with one inspirational component, such as a color or photo. “That inspires the moodboard, and then I sketch multiple rounds of ideas,” she says. For example, for her School’s In notebook, she was inspired by retro illustration and colors.

Photos of Jennifer Pace by Rachel Solomon Photography

While it’s important to study what’s on trend in the stationery world, it’s equally important to find ways to flip the trends and put a new spin on them. “Minted customers love the variety of notebook designs, so make sure your concept stands out as unique,” she says. Ask yourself, Is there a specific niche that’s missing from the collection?

To generate fresh ideas, Jennifer recommends combining different forms of art with traditional design concepts. “Don’t be afraid to launch an idea—you never know what’s going to be the next big design,” she says.

Beyond selecting colorways, customers cannot personalize self-launch notebooks, so we recommend excluding fictional dates, names, and personal photos in designs. That said, non-custom design doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be personalizable. For example, you may want to consider including elements that allow customers to pencil in their personal details via a book plate element or fill-in-the-blank start and end dates on the front inside cover.

Keep in mind that the product images show the front, inside front cover and back covers, so the inside artwork can be just as important as the outside.

As marked in these templates, some areas of the files will be obscured if a customer chooses a grommet-bound notebook. This is an option that will be available for all notebooks, so keep this in mind while creating your design.

Because self-launch products are not reviewed by the Minted Production Team, we suggest making your own test prints.

Ready to dive in? If you’ve won a Minted Design Challenge and therefore have created a Minted Store, log into your Minted artist account and navigate to your “My Projects” page. Then create a “Self-Launch Notebooks” project. Be sure to use these self-launch notebook templates.

Download our Notebook Self-launch Guide.pdf
The Self-Launch Process
Store Basics

What are your insights and advice about notebook design and self-launch products? Share your thoughts in Comments.

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, and NYLON. Connect with Amy on Instagram @thevenuslady.

Published July 30, 2015 | Learn how to become a Minted artist here.


Minted Artists Visit West Elm Stores to View Winning Work

For our third collaboration with West Elm, the home decor company selected 106 of their favorite Minted prints from more than 5,000 submissions. Now that the winning art is appearing in West Elm locations around the U.S., Minted artists are stopping by to see their work on display.

Here, four Minted artists share photographs of their work at West Elm locations, along with their thoughts about the experience.

West Elm in Denver, Colorado (Photos by Holly Royval)

Holly Royval of Denver, Colorado | “Fire Grass

“The original is only a 5” x 7,” so it’s really cool to see it blown up so much larger. West Elm is my favorite store, and the first West Elm + Minted collaboration is what made me aware of Minted and got me involved. To see my art hanging in the store is a dream come true.”

Monica Cheng of South Houston, Texas
Photo taken at West Elm in Dallas, Texas
Let Go and Soar” (orange balloon) | “Let Go and Hope” (blue balloon)

“When I received the announcement email, I scanned the winners’ list for my name, felt my heart leap, and then returned to changing a poopy diaper and putting my 2-year-old down for his nap. (Insert happy dance.) This pretty much sums up the overlapping worlds of a mommy artist, and I love it. It still feels pretty surreal and humbling to know my work is on display among those of beautifully talented artists. I feel super thankful for the opportunity that Minted has extended through this partnership.”

Hi Uan Kang Haaga of Washington, D.C.
Pink Moon” [ 1 ]  | “Blue Moon and Orange Sun” [ 4 ]  |  “Moonlight Rain”  [ 6 ]

“My husband and I took our three kids to the store on a Sunday afternoon, and the kids loved jumping around on the furniture and kept asking if it was really my work on the walls. I’m really pleased with the print quality of the work. Although the West Elm prints are larger than my original work, the colors are accurate and crisp, and look great in West Elm frames.”

Kelsey McNatt of Denver, Colorado
From top: “Directional Arrows” | “Native Bison” | “The Antler

“It was so exciting walking in the door and seeing my art front and center. I have a couple other personal pieces in the West Elm Denver local section, but I felt really proud to see these three pieces together. Knowing that they were handpicked is really special.”

Are you a West Elm + Minted collaboration winner? Share your experience in Comments below.
Published July 27, 2015 | Learn how to become a Minted artist here.



What’s one of your surprising sources of inspiration?

Where does creative inspiration come from? In the eyes of Minted artists, it comes from everywhere. That’s the impetus of our new #WhatInspiresMe series—to spotlight the inspirational who, what, when, where, why, and how of the Minted artist community.

Every other Monday, we invite three Minted artists to answer a different question about the inspiration behind their work. To spark an ongoing dialogue, we invite you to share your own answers with the hashtag #WhatInspiresMe via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

To kick off #WhatInspiresMe, we asked Erin Beutel, Oanh Tran, and Angela Simeone to answer this question: What’s one of your surprising sources of inspiration?

Erin Beutel
Mount Vernon, Ohio

The mundane moments of life. When I walk into the kitchen to make dinner and the sun is falling through the lace curtains just so, or the kids and I are heading to the car to run errands and find a fallen leaf covered with perfect water droplets. The more I notice these tiny moments, the easier it gets to find inspiration everywhere. Every day becomes pregnant with possibilities no matter how routine it may seem at first glance.

“After the Rain” | “Summer Bliss” by Erin Beutel

Fly With Me I” by Erin Beutel

Oanh Tran of lulu and isabelle
Zurich, Switzerland

I grew up in Vietnam’s largest city and went to university in Singapore, so I’m naturally interested in buildings and the urban environment. That’s why I chose architecture as my career. Since moving to Switzerland two years ago, I’ve found myself surprisingly drawn to and inspired by nature, especially the Swiss Alps. My husband’s family comes from a small village surrounded by mountains in Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, and every time we visit, I have the chance to immerse myself in this magnificent landscape. I hope my photos can inspire people the same way the landscape has inspired me.

winter in monochrome” by lulu and isabelle

“Almost Heaven” by lulu and isabelle

Angela Simeone
Nashville, Tennessee

I’m always surprised how my children bring ideas and concepts my way through materials that make it home in their backpacks. I’ve found materials and concepts through their textbooks, school-supply packaging, and art projects. My boys did a Chuck Close–style abstraction of their school portraits using overlay and grids. I also did a Sharpie art series using school folders after labeling all of theirs—I liked the flow of the pen off the surface, which allowed for a looser illustrative style.

The Definition Of Series 2 by Angela Simeone

How about you—what is one of the most surprising places you find inspiration? Share your answer in Comments below or via social media with the hashtag #WhatInspiresMe.

Learn how to become a Minted artist here.


10 Tips for Critiquing Minted Art and Designs

The Minted community is about paying it forward in more ways than one, and because feedback is so critical to the creative process, we award Critique Awards to artists who provide quality feedback on other artists’ submissions. Each Challenge Home has a “Most Constructive” leaderboard, where we track the community members who have received the most “Constructive” votes for their critiques.

Curious about what’s considered the best way to provide and receive helpful feedback? We’ve compiled the following tips, with the help of seasoned Minted artists.

Mad About Pencils by Olive and Me Studios

Mad About Pencils by Olive and Me Studios

1. Be Specific
When asking for feedback on your submission page, don’t be vague by asking questions such as “Do you like this?” or “What do you think?” Instead, focus on specific points such as color, style and fonts. “If you feel something is not working in your design, you should have some idea where the problem is,” says longtime Minted artist Phrosné Ras. “For example, ask something like, ‘Do you think the script font is working as the heading or should I use sans serif?’”

Same goes for providing feedback to others—aim to be the opposite of ambiguous. Thoughtful observations and pointed suggestions for improvement are more helpful than saying, “I don’t love it.” And keep in mind that basic pointers mean a lot to new designers.

2. Start a Poll
Minted artists are busy during challenges, so a quick way to give and get feedback is to start a Design Poll, which allows artists to upload up to four versions of a design, and invite others to rate each version. You’ll receive the feedback below your design in the Comments section.

“Giving someone a broad critique of their work takes a lot of time,” says Jill Ellis. “But helping them choose one typeface over the other or vertical vs. landscape or red vs. green in a poll—that’s much more manageable.”

In the above poll comments, Kelly Schmidt shares her poll pick and critique of Simona Cavallaro’s award-winning “Bold Dots” design. “While the feedback is all positive, I like that Kelly explained the reasons why she chose this,” Simona says. “The fact that she pointed out ‘hey baby’ is more unique than ‘oh baby’ solidified my decision to use it. I like to do things differently than the crowd, so this feedback helped me feel more confident about that.”