Leah Ragain’s start in design is very Pinteresting

Talk to creative types, designers, artists—heck, anyone who loves pictures—and they’ll likely tell you it’s nearly impossible not to get sucked into the eye-candy rabbit hole that is Pinterest.

Leah Ragain, a 37-year-old Minneapolis mom of four, was no exception. Every day during her kids’ naptime, she got into the routine of holing up on the couch and Pinning her favorite photos of food, home decor, and fashion, including those from her faves Smitten Kitchen and The Fauxmartha. But with the thought of earning supplemental income at the front of her mind, one day in 2015 her outlook completely changed. “I distinctly remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to spend my life just pinning other people’s ideas. I want to be the one creating something beautiful and have people Pin my work!’” Three years later, the rest has become history for hers in the making.

“It was like the light clicked and started a shift in my thinking,” Leah explains. From there, she purchased fonts, learned Adobe Illustrator, starting dreaming, and began entering Minted Design Challenges. “I decided to really go for it,” she says. And though Leah still loves Pinterest, she now uses it as a tool instead of an obsession. Here she tells more of how her life and creative path are evolving.

Love to You” Valentine’s Day card by Leah Ragain

Minted: Did you tell anyone about your a-ha! moment to become a designer, or did you keep it a secret to yourself?
Leah Ragain: I talked to my husband and a couple friends—it wasn’t really something I wanted to announce to the world in case I wasn’t good at it. My husband has been so great from the very beginning and has always encouraged me to keep moving forward. I don’t think he realized how much of his life would be listening to me talk about fonts, color palettes, and Christmas cards! I’ve also had a few friends cheering me on and have encouraged me every step of the way.

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How Minted artists around the world express their creative independence

Minted celebrates the strength, vision and resiliency of independent artists around the world, and the vast majority of our artists are women. They are business owners and stay-at-home moms, lifelong artists, and those just discovering their creative identity for the first time. Our artists live in all 50 states and more than 90 countries. They share a deep love for creative expression, personal growth, risk-taking, and most importantly, paying it forward by helping each other.

In celebration of International Women’s Day—and the empowerment of women every day—we’re honored to share some of the stories of the many remarkable women in our global community of artists.

Lauren Packard of New York City
After overcoming brain cancer, the teacher rediscovers her passion for abstract art

I used to come home from elementary school, play my record player, and make art. From then on, art has been a love affair. After college, I drifted away from art because of the demands of being a new teacher and the constraints of New York City apartment spaces. Then, in February 2014, I unexpectedly had brain surgery to remove a large tumor. During recovery, word communication was difficult, and I suddenly had this urge to make art—I had to paint. I think for some reason that part of my brain felt more “alive”—it was my form of communication. Painting is what made sense at a time when a lot of things didn’t. My surgery also put a lot of things in perspective for me, and I knew there would never be a perfect time to start making art again. If I wanted to make art, I just needed to do it, so I made it a priority. I was no longer inhibited or insecure as I was in my younger years. It was just something I needed to do for myself, by myself. In a lot of ways, I feel lucky for that brain surgery.

How Minted fuels my independence
My work celebrates an independent way of seeing and thinking, which I hope to engage the viewer in. Creating work for Minted also has helped fuel financial independence, allowing me greater freedom to create art. Minted Design Challenges encourage me to keep pushing myself as an artist to create unique work.

Read more of Lauren’s story



Zhi Ling Lee of London, England
The IT consultant strikes a balance between the financial world and the arts

If you had told my younger self that I would have tens of thousands of my cards sold around the world, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s exactly what’s happened since I began designing for Minted in 2014. Minted has been the biggest driver for me to improve my skills and experiment with new approaches and techniques.

While I’ve always had an interest in art, I took a more traditional path, majoring in software engineering. After graduating university, I started a corporate IT career, and I now work in the financial services industry in London. I’m glad I took some time to learn design, and my mantra is “Never stop learning.” I’m always trying new techniques by following online tutorials, and if I’m participating in a Minted challenge, I set out specific hours after work to research, sketch, and complete my designs.

How Minted fuels my sense of independence in life
Minted gives me the freedom to pursue design while keeping my day job. So many of us have varied interests, and Minted has allowed me the opportunity to celebrate my creative side. Independence for me is living without the constraint of pursuing only one path, as having two tracks to run in life is much more interesting and fun.

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Behind the Design: ‘Urban Sophisticate’ wedding invitation

Minted artist Carol Fazio, who’s based in Philadelphia, shares the vision and creative process behind her bold and modern brushstroke wedding invitation “Urban Sophisticate.”

Minted: What was the inspiration behind “Urban Sophisticate”?
Carol Fazio: I always say, “You never know where a doodle will end up,” and that’s exactly where this design began. The original drawing was pink! I knew the feelings I wanted to convey: energized, painterly, abstract. I also had some tear sheets on my inspiration wall that influenced me. The juxtaposition of the hand-painted artwork with very clean typography appealed to me. It felt organic and sophisticated at the same time.

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London artist Francesca Iannaccone credits her style to details and the ‘10,000 hours thing’

They Flew At Night” and “Lined Abstract” by Francesca Iannaccone

Some artists have a hard time putting their style of their work into words, but not Francesca Iannaccone. The London artist and illustrator easily sums it up in a sentence. It’s about bright color palettes, layered textures, and sharp, clean graphics with a Mid-Century influence—breaking down the detail into shape, color, and pattern. Her process is distinctive as well—she usually creates by hand and colors digitally, although recently she’s been drawn to traditional methods, including paint and paper collage to create abstract works. 

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Former actor Mary Gaspar revisits her childhood dream of making art

“If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be a professional artist, I would have said, ‘shut the front door.’”

That’s how Mary Gaspar responded when we asked how she became an artist, as she recalled the twists and turns that preceded her current career path. The Minted painter—whose popular “Plant Cell” series has made an impact in the design blogosphere and led to commissioned work for The Property Brothers—used to work as an actor.

Of “Plant Cell 1” (shown above) and the other prints in the series, Mary calls them the “little plant cells that could” because they’ve been featured on a number of blogs.

In a nutshell, Mary landed her first acting gig at age 13 by singing in the choir in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Chicago Theatre. In high school, she was immersed in both theater and fine art, and grappled with deciding which one to focus on in college. Although she worked diligently on her art portfolio as a teenager, Mary never submitted it to universities and decided instead to study theater at the University of Illinois.

After college, Mary moved to Los Angeles for a few years to pursue acting and worked doing commercials while maintaining a long-distance relationship with her then-boyfriend, Derek, a fellow actor who stayed in Chicago. He later joined Mary in L.A., but long story short, after marrying Derek, getting pregnant with their first daughter, Mary and her young family returned to the Chicago area to be near family in 2008. Fast-forward 10 years, and their family has expanded to three daughters (ages 2, 7, and 9); both Mary and Derek are on the up and up with newfound career paths—she as an artist and he as a restaurateur. But it didn’t happen overnight.

“After I had my girls, my husband was busy with work and school, and I was working for my father doing legal research while being at home all day with the kids,” she explains. “I felt like I needed to make something.” She naturally scratched the itch to paint once again, following her childhood passion for art.

In this interview she tells how the rest is history in the making.


Mary holds the original of “Blue Hearts” painting, which Minted repurposed into a fabric for home decor, such as the “Blue Hearts” table runner below.

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One artist lives in Paris, the other in Omaha. And they’re like two peas in a pod

When Parisian artist Gwen Bedat made plans to travel with her husband from France to California in January, the first person she contacted was Holly Whitcomb, a fellow Minted artist who lives in Omaha, Nebraska. Although the two had never met face to face, Gwen and Holly have become close friends through Minted.

Holly Whitcomb (left) flew from her home in Omaha, Nebraska, and Gwen Bedat flew from Paris to meet for the first time in San Francisco in January 2018. Gwen Bedat (right) thinks she’s likely to find a Minted artist just about anywhere in the world, which is almost—but not quite—true, considering the community stretches to 90 countries. “You only live once, so I figure I should try to meet Minted artists in every city or country I visit,” the Parisian designer says.

Gwen and Holly were connected through the Minted Buddy program in 2014, and began corresponding a few times a week via email and Facebook Messenger. Over time, they began messaging daily about everything from design to day jobs to family life. During Minted Challenges, they shared screenshots of their works in progress to spark feedback and critiques. “We’re always bouncing stuff back and forth,” Holly says. “But we’d never talked on the phone or face to face.”

Until now.

After communicating online for three and a half years, they finally met in the flesh in mid-January. Four months pregnant with her third child, Holly flew to San Francisco for three days to hang out with Gwen. What was it like to meet in person after years corresponding on the Internet? “It felt like seeing a familiar face in an unknown city,” Gwen said, after explaining that Holly met Gwen and her husband at their Airbnb in Haight-Ashbury. Jet lag and swollen feet aside, the two explored Fog City and hit up tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, and Alcatraz. They also stopped by the Minted offices to meet employees and try their hand at watercoloring.

The Minted Buddy program strives to connect experienced Minted artists with newer artists, and when Holly signed up, she assumed she’d be matched with a more experienced artist. But as a longtime member of the community (she joined in 2010), Holly played the role of veteran to Gwen’s somewhat newbie status, considering she’d just joined a few months earlier in 2014.

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39 heartfelt, delicious, and quirky holiday traditions

When we asked the Minted artist community to share their favorite holiday traditions, we knew we’d be in for some good tales, but we had no idea how creative and interesting some of them would be. Whether you’re looking for light reading to get into the holiday spirit or exploring ideas for your own traditions, we’ve got 39 of them. Ranging in theme from plaid pants to nontraditional holiday meals, and spanning the globe from sunny California to the Land Down Under, sit down, cozy up, and enjoy.

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Hooray for Kristy Kapturowski’s 1st place win in Minted’s Greeting Card Challenge

Kristy Kapturowski was short on inspiration and time when she first heard about The Better Together Minted Greeting Card Challenge, but as she puts it, once she buckled down and brainstormed ideas, she had a lot of fun with the creative process. Good thing she made time to work on greeting card designs.

As the first-place winner in the challenge, Kristy won $5,000, and her birthday card will be carried in a leading U.S. retail chain (to be announced). She also earned Editors’ Picks for 14 other card designs. “Greeting cards turned out to be one of my favorite products to design,” says the Philadelphia artist who goes by the moniker Hooray Creative. “I really enjoyed the chance to write copy and develop concepts for the front and inside of the card, combining illustration with my love of typography.”

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Texas Minted Artists to Watch

Maja Cunningham

When there was talk of war in Bosnia in the summer of 1992, Maja Cunningham (née Pavlić), then 12 years old, took a bus trip through war-torn Croatia to stay with her aunt for two weeks until things “settled down.”

“No one thought the war would last long—but my short trip turned into eight years,” says Maja, now 37. When Maja became a war refugee as a pre-teen in Mainz, Germany, all she had was a bag of clothes and her homework. Maja’s mother stayed in Bosnia, and they didn’t see each other for the remainder of the war. Maja felt like a stranger in Germany, but gradually built a new life there, learned the language, and began studying architecture as an apprentice at age 16.

Then at age 20, Maja moved to Texas—once again with just one bag of belongings—to live with her cousin who had immigrated there. “When I moved to the U.S., I was basically a mute for the first six months, and my cousin spoke for me,” Maja explains. “After six months, she said, ‘I’m so over this.’” Out of necessity, Maja quickly taught herself English and became fluent within a year. That’s when Maya started studying architectural design at University of Texas at Arlington. Upon graduation, she landed a job as an architect for a prestigious firm and enjoyed learning the field.

That’s one fast bike, said the cloud” by Maja Cunningham

Fast-forward several years and Maja married a Texan, had her son Jack in 2014, and started decorating her son’s room. When she couldn’t find art that felt personal to her, she made her own. She created “That’s one fast bike, said the cloud” based on her honeymoon adventure she’d taken with her husband, entered the painting into a Minted art challenge, and the rest is history—sort of. After working for nearly 20 years in architecture, Maja realized that her heart just wasn’t in it. Now Maja is a full-time parent and artist and couldn’t be happier. “I don’t regret anything because it leads me to where I am now,” she says. “Because I’ve been through so much in the first three decades of my life, I really want to live a stress-free life now. Things that matter to me are health and my family’s happiness. I know it could all be taken away in a second.”


Andrew McClintock

Andrew McClintock is a big guy who makes big art for a big world. “But I also have a passion for little trees.” His words—not ours.

At 6 foot 7, Andrew’s definitely tall, and because he creates illustrations and photographs intended to be viewed in an oversize art print format, Andrew holds true to his claim. As for his interest in small trees, Andrew’s newfound hobby is bonsai. “Maybe I was inspired by The Karate Kid in the ’90s,” he says.

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Florida Minted Artists to Watch

Elizabeth Sanchez of Alex Isaacs Design

Sunny watercolor hues, mid-century modern curves, and la piña are some of the elements you’ll find in Elizabeth Sanchez’s work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can summarize her work as “Floridian art.” Instead, Elizabeth describes her work as a “melting pot of various cultural influences.” The Minted artist who goes by the moniker Alex Isaacs Designs (named for her brothers), lives in Estero, Florida, an area known for white sandy beaches and lush fauna and flora.

My art is heavily influenced by the places where I’ve lived: Colombia, Palm Beach Florida, and Southwest Florida,” Elizabeth says. “From Colombia, I bring on a tropical color palette and Caribbean flair. From my years living in Palm Beach, I get my affinity for all things Palm Beach Chic: Chinoiserie, the revival of Hollywood Regency glamour, and the quintessential preppy chic.”

Semicolon” by Alex Isaacs Design

A full-time artist who lives in something akin to tropical paradise, it’s hard not for Elizabeth to be inspired by the lush beauty that surrounds her. Her work is also influenced by some of her earliest memories, which are marked by family trips to the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta and the Tayrona National Par, a unique area of Colombia with a large mountain and gorgeous beaches. Elizabeth’s father loved traveling to wild, uninhabited locales and exotic locations. “We never had an ordinary childhood vacation,” she recalls. “These strong childhood memories marked my love of color.”

On Elizabeth’s Minted Artist Store, you’ll find art prints that evoke magical realism—a combination of abstract watercolor paintings, illustrations, and digital paintings. “My creative process is ongoing. I always keep a small notepad with me so I can jot down creative sparks that I come upon in unexpected places: A striking color combination while waiting in line, a captivating word that would be perfect for a title for painting. I take snapshots wherever I go.”

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