In the thick of a global journey, Minted artist Shari Margolin feels braver, inspired, and slightly homesick

Minted artist Shari Margolin floats in the geothermal mineral water of the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, Iceland. (Photo by Josh Meister)

“We have no clue where we’re going next or how long we’ll be in Colombia—we’re flying by the seat of our pants,” says Shari Margolin, a Minted artist who’s on a stopover in Los Angeles for a few days before embarking on the final leg of a global trek culminating in Latin America. The graphic designer and her husband, photographer Josh Meister, have concrete plans to meet up with Shari’s sister and brother-in-law in Nicaragua in a few weeks, but the rest is sort of up in the air.

After spending eight months trotting around Europe and Asia as part of a “year-long experiment,” the couple’s not too concerned about the unknowns of Latin America. Which isn’t to imply that they embarked on this journey with a completely laissez-faire attitude. They began “loosely planning” and daydreaming five years before they set sail in June 2017 from their home base in Atlanta, Georgia. Shari and Josh saved money, minimized their stuff, found tenants to rent their home, researched the heck out of everywhere they wanted to go, and launched SocietyofEverywhere to document the trip. The impetus? “We’re both slightly obsessed with travel and, technically, we can work from anywhere in the world,” says Shari. She’s a self-employed graphic designer, and Josh is a photographer.

With three months left to go, here’s the story of what they’ve seen, how they’re feeling, and what they’ve eaten so far.

Skógafoss, a waterfall in Iceland that Josh Meister shot at midnight. “We had light almost 24 hours a day when we were there during the summer of 2017,” Shari says. (Photo by Josh Meister)

Minted: You just spent about four months in Europe, four months in Asia, and now you’re about to explore Latin America for the next four months. If you could do it again, would you do anything differently?
Shari Margolin: I’m glad we started with Europe because it eased us in to full-time travel—a lot of people spoke English, and it felt comfortable because we’ve traveled there before. But it was the most expensive region, and if we were to plan the trip again, I’d spend a little less time there and also visit more of Eastern Europe, for the cost savings and to get off the beaten path a bit more.

I’ve heard super good things about Sri Lanka and am bummed we didn’t make it there. A year seems like a crazy long time to travel, but somehow it’s just not long enough, and inevitably, we’re going to miss some good places.

A view from above of a section of falls at the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. (Photo by Josh Meister)

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What’s it like to be a Minted artist for 10 years vs. 10 months?

Minted has come a long way since the company’s humble beginnings in 2008. What started as a bud of an idea—and Founder Mariam Naficy’s quest to unearth hidden creative talent everywhere—has blossomed into a marketplace that now surfaces the world’s best emerging artists.

We invited two Minted artists with similar—and yet, distinctly different—paths to interview one another.

First up is Amy Ehmann of Design Lotus, a pioneering Minted artist who joined the community 10 years ago during the dawn of the company’s crowdsourced design competitions. The Colorado artist ignited her freelance design business with fellow stay-at-home mom and best friend Tina Furjanic.

The second artist is Stacey McCarney, a newer community member who entered her first Minted design competition only 10 months ago. Stacey is an Irish designer, mom (who’s seven months pregnant with her second child), and lifestyle blogger. She worked in business for years before becoming inspired in a fabric store to teach herself design.

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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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Sunny in San Francisco: Join me for a tour of the Minted office

Written & photographed by Kamala Nahas

Photography has always been the way I explore the world. Whether it is a connection between people, a dance between light and water, or the grandeur of a sprawling landscape, I’m always looking for beautiful stories to tell. And I pretty much always have a camera or two attached to my hip, so it only made sense to take photos of my experience at the Minted office when I visited for a couple of days in October with a group of fellow Minted artists from around the U.S.

Here’s what I saw.

When we arrived outside the Minted headquarters on Front and Broadway, I was nervous. Incredibly. I’m accustomed to working at home with dogs at my feet and a computer screen that buffers me from the world. It was a bit surreal to think I’d be walking into the world that up until now had only existed online, in my mind.

This is the first thing you see, when you walk up a flight of stairs to the second floor: Minted’s reception area, with a striking copper wall. It is even more beautiful than the posts you see on Facebook—the light pouring through the windows is amazing.

I met Minted Engineer Gabriella Grandilli while she was coding in the comfort of one of Minted’s impromptu living rooms.

The Minted greeting card collection that’s currently carried in a number of Target stores is also on display in the Minted office. This was my first time seeing the Minted greeting cards upfront—they’re really beautiful, funny, and inspiring.

Megan Davis of Toast and Laurel, Lynn Knipe of Griffinbell Paper Co., and Amy Kross looked at a selection of Minted fabrics. I can’t emphasize enough how energizing it is to be able to touch, feel, and see the products that all of us Minted artists are designing. It really brings home that we are part of putting something real and beautiful into the world.

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