Discover Alexandra Feo, the Venezuelan Dutch photographer who calls her style ‘busy minimalism’

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, and raised in a family of musicians and artists, Alexandra Feo grew up in opera and ballet theaters, and developed a passion for the aesthetic of stage arts. Now living in Amsterdam, she works as a photographer but is also a trained ballet dancer and studied music for more than a decade.

Minted: How did you learn photography?
Alexandra Feo: I started in 2009 while living in Tokyo, Japan. Photography is pretty much a national sport there, so I got a camera and started playing around with it. I took several online courses and classes to learn about the basics, including photography techniques, studio shootings, postproduction of images, makeup, and styling.

Fullness – I” by Alexandra Feo

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Karly Depew of Oscar & Emma gets real about work-life balance and the ‘buckets of life’

Portraits by Christa Kimble Photography 2017

Minted has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 2008, and Karly Depew of Oscar & Emma has been right there since nearly the very start. The Columbus, Ohio, graphic designer entered and won Minted’s first Holiday Photo Card Challenge, which at the time had a total of only 110 entries and a grand prize of $1,000. Fast-forward to 2015, and Karly won first place again in the annual Holiday Photo Card Challenge—by then, the submissions grew to 4,661, and the prize amount increased to $9,000.

As an active community member, Karly has become somewhat of a Minted celebrity over the years. Not the mysterious, intimidating kind of celebrity, but the well-liked, down-to-earth variety. Karly’s one of those genuine, kind people you immediately warm up to and respect. As a designer, “talented” is an understatement, and as a human, she’s Midwestern-friendly and very real; she’s open to saying, “I’m still figuring out this whole work-life balance thing—who isn’t?”

In this interview, the busy mom talks about how her life has changed since she’s transitioned her business as an independent graphic design company into a full-time Minted artist—with Karly defining “full time” on her own terms.

“Lovely Beginning” wedding invitation by Oscar & Emma

Minted: How many hours per week do you usually work work?
Karly Depew: I average about 20–25 hours per week right now, which is a drastic change from the 50–60 I used to work before my children were born. Before my children were born, I worked for myself, so I never stopped—weekends, evenings … all the time. Now that I focus on designing for Minted, “work” for me is a process of getting inspired and researching ideas for current challenges, creating many rough drafts, playing around with fonts and drawing or painting illustrations.

What’s a typical day in the life for you?
A typical day in my life starts at 6:30 a.m. when my children wake up. Once the morning routine is complete, my husband and I go our separate ways to Kindergarten and daycare drop-offs. By 9 a.m. I am usually off to a fitness class or run through my neighborhood. After a few errands and house chores, I am usually able to be at my desk by 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. I try to stay focused on work until 3 p.m. when I leave to pick up my daughter from school. Once all the kids are home by 5 o’clock, we have our family time, dinner, and bedtime routine. I am lucky if I get to work an extra hour in the evening after the kids have fallen asleep. Usually, by that time I just want to spend some time with my husband on the couch while we watch Netflix.

How do you balance personal life with work?
I honestly don’t know if it is possible to have a true work-life balance. It is something that I am constantly striving to accomplish. Once I became a mother, the “mommy guilt” came full force. If I spend time focusing on work, then I feel guilty about neglecting my family, and vice versa.

I saw an interview with volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings on the TODAY Show and she talked about her “three buckets” in life. If she ever feels off-kilter or grumpy, she knows she needs to re-evaluate and find the bucket that needs to be filled. When I heard that interview, it was an A-HA! moment for me. My buckets are 1.) Family 2.) Work 3.) Self. It is a constant balancing act, but when I am stressed I know it is because one of those buckets needs to be filled.

After my twin boys were born, I knew I had to shift the focus of my business. I’ve put the custom design portion of business “on hold” and focus on Minted at the moment. It has allowed me to have more time to invest in my family and myself.

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Natural disaster aside, Chasity Smith focuses on family + design

When we contacted Minted artist Chasity Smith nearly a year ago about featuring her for a “Meet a Minted Artist” story, she politely declined because she was in the midst of dealing with flooding in her hometown of Livingston, Louisiana, a rural area, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. “It was a complete devastation and the worst natural disaster in my town,” she says of the Livingston Parish Flooding in August 2016. “Our normal flood stage is 13 feet, and it crested at 22.16 feet, a major record-breaker — 75% of our parish was underwater. So many people were stranded in homes and vehicles. No one was prepared for this flood. Schools were closed for over a month.”

As Chasity explains now in retrospect, her family was lucky and didn’t experience flooding as badly as many others in her town. “Thankfully, our whole community came together and helped each other as much as possible. It was scary and something I never want to experience again.”

When we asked her to share more details about the flooding, she steered the conversation away from doom and gloom, talking instead about the brighter side of life, her family, and the Minted community. As you’ll read in this interview, we discovered how the 34-year-old artist has taken an unconventional path to become a successful work-from-home designer and mom.

“Balloon” children’s birthday party invitation by Chasity Smith. She describes her design style as “mostly simple, but I love to try new things like bold, unique patterns and designs that are different.”

Minted: How and why did the flooding happen?
The flood happened because of a slow moving low-pressure weather system that dumped rain for 39 hours straight. We knew we had a lot of rain coming, but we were never warned what was about to happen. 

How long did it take to recover, and did you have to move into a new home?
So many people in my community are still recovering. It’s such a long process for everyone. I do still live in the same home. We had family that had to be rescued. Since we didn’t get it as bad as others, we had family come stay with us. At one time, we had 10 extra people staying in my house. After they came to my house, water started rising in my area. The hotels and shelters were full. My aunt just moved back home last month.

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Greek-Mexican-L.A. artist Aspacia Kusulas finds creative bliss in letterforms

After quitting her day job as a graphic designer in May 2016 to enter an intensive type design program at Cooper Union in New York, Aspacia Kusulas traveled to Iceland, Russia, and Finland among other cities for several months with her brother. In September 2016, she returned to her home base in Los Angeles to make the leap into creative self-employment. At first, she was nervous about securing enough freelance gigs to stay afloat, but things turned out better than she expected. In fact, she’s constantly busy flexing her lettering and type design skills for branding projects, in addition to catalog work and teaching calligraphy workshops—not to mention her Minted designs. “I really enjoy the freedom,” she says. “Sometimes it feels a little bit like I’m not working, but I am.”

Abstracciones Vol. 3” wall art by Aspacia Kusulas

At 35, she’s accomplished a lot, but we have a feeling she’s just getting warmed up. Aspacia’s ultimate career goal is to establish herself as a letterer, calligrapher, and type designer. “I really want to focus more on type design—it’s a personal dream of mine,” she says. Having grown up in Mexico, with Greek heritage, she has a worldly view of how art and culture collide. As for her design style, Aspacia thinks it’s hard to define. “Sometimes I feel whimsy and playful, sometimes I feel edgy and bold, sometimes nostalgic and complex. I would say my work is the result of juxtaposition of my favorite things which translate to an eclectic style,” Aspacia says. “I strive to place the old in a modern context.”

Here Aspacia talks about what drives her, scares her, and the little things you wouldn’t know about her unless she tells you right now.

Photo by Alyssa Gonzalez

Minted: You have Greek roots but grew up in Mexico. Can you tell us more about your family’s heritage?
Aspacia Kusulas: I was born and raised in Zacatecas, Mexico, a colonial city known for its old, pink buildings, baroque churches, and silver mining. It is a small city, but full of culture and the arts. Growing up with Mexican and Greek customs was really enriching. I was exposed to a wide range of cuisines—something I still love very much—and attended many unique and vibrant art festivals. My dearest aunt took me to a lot of plays, concerts, and exhibits and those experiences imprinted on me deeply, so much that I knew I wanted to do something artistic when I grew up. I moved to Los Angeles in 2005, and I have been living there since, but nowadays I’m spending time in both Mexico City and L.A.

“Baby Bistro” baby shower invitation by Aspacia Kusulas

You received a B.A. in Graphic Design from Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico. Do you think there are any differences between studying graphic design in Mexico and the U.S. or other countries?
One of the major differences in studying graphic design in Mexico is the strong cultural foundation you receive that informs your practice. Mexico has a unique cultural identity, and there is a long-standing design heritage that reflects that. What I learned in my alma mater was that instead of this hindering the creative process or boxing you in aesthetically, it can actually teach you to understand the implicit parameters of visual culture more formally and thus help you to use those principles to adapt to any design situation while still asserting myself as a Mexican designer when it makes sense.

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After Building Her Style on Minted, Roxy Cervantes Tries Her Hand at Illustration

When Roxy Cervantes joined the Minted artist community in 2010, she was fresh out of college and hadn’t developed her own design style. Eager to learn and gain real-world experience, she entered her first Minted Design Challenge for business cards. Seven years on, she credits Minted Challenges with helping her develop her aesthetic, which has evolved into what it is today: clean, simple, typography-driven cards and stationery with a dollop of white space.

Now 29, Roxy works by day as a graphic designer, and by night, she’s steering herself in a new direction with her Minted design work. “I am not an illustrator by any means; in fact, I am very intimidated by illustration, but recently I’ve been trying to push myself to develop my own illustrative style,” she says. “Illustration is definitely challenging and outside of my comfort zone, but that’s one of the things I love about the Minted Challenges—you can put anything out there and the community is always supportive and incredibly helpful.”

In this Meet a Minted Artist interview, Roxy talks about how fellow Minted artists’ talent inspires her to grow.

“Big News” foil-pressed save the date card by Roxy Cervantes

Minted: How are you trying to push your illustrative style?
Roxy Cervantes: Illustration was never one of my strengths. I don’t draw or illustrate, but seeing amazing designs by other artists inspires me to try. There’s not just one way to do illustration; I’m trying watercolor, painting, and drawing. I’m working on figuring out how I can take my style in a more illustrative direction and grow myself as a designer to get outside my comfort zone. I signed up for a Skillshare and take classes online, and I’m also learning how to do hand-lettering, which is very challenging. I’m practicing on my own to see how I can incorporate my own illustrative style into Minted Challenges. Even if I think my work is terrible, you can get great feedback, and it’s encouraging. I feel comfortable putting myself out there on Minted, and I know I will improve.

“Stable” wedding invitation by Roxy Cervantes


Lena Barakat balances Minted, freelance design + family with grace

When we asked Lena Barakat how to strike work-life balance (if there is such a thing) for this blog post in February 2016, she said “Learn to say no.” Forty weeks pregnant with her third child at the time, Lena was (and still is) a longtime Minted community member and super mom who also works as a freelance graphic designer. Life is as balanced as it can be now, but when Lena first began freelancing, things were different. During a down economy, she felt the need to take on every opportunity to help grow her business, build experience and her portfolio. As she describes it, her hours were all over the place, from late evenings to weekends. “Over the years, I’ve learned many lessons, one of which is setting boundaries,” the Indiana designer says. “I do my best to not overwhelm myself by taking on more than I can handle, as well as shutting down all aspects of work when I am with my family.”

With experience and success under her belt, Lena says she’s still disciplined when it comes to work, but her children will always come first. In this “Meet a Minted Artist” interview, Lena talks about how she makes quality time for the things that matter most to her, including creative development, finding inspiration, and trusting her gut.

Minted: Would you give the same advice now as you did more than a year ago?
Lena Barakat: My sentiments are definitely the same. In a sense, having children changes your identity, so finding a balance, without losing yourself, is key. My children are still very young, and I think it’s imperative to focus on nurturing my family, while fulfilling and preserving my creative pursuit.

What kind of freelance work do you do?
Logo work, annual reports, branding, advertising. As a freelance designer, you wear multiple hats and need to be able to quickly jump from one project to the next. Every week my schedule changes, but on average I’d say roughly five hours a day on design work and a few hours a day maintaining and managing life at home—errands, doctor appointments, laundry, tons of laundry, groceries, did I mention laundry? All three of my boys love to dig in the dirt. I strive to have everything taken care of, so when my husband, a physician, comes home from a really long day, we can relax and enjoy our time with the kids.

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Nikkol Christiansen simplifies the complicated in design + life

Nikkol Christiansen eagerly awaits the completion of the home she designed in Utah.

Nikkol Christiansen’s minimalist design aesthetic works hand in hand with her approach to life, which centers around the beauty of simplicity. Which isn’t to imply that her life is simple. Nikkol has accomplished a lot during her short time on earth: She’s developed a career as an editorial designer and stylist, while moving around the country several times with her musician husband and raising four children. In addition to her Minted work, she creates backdrops for editorial and brand photo shoots, and designed the home she’s soon to move into. I think the most important thing to remember is that there are many seasons in life and that you can do lots of things, but you can’t do them all at once,” says the Minted artist who lives in Logan, Utah, about 20 minutes south of the Idaho border.

“Metallic Branches” wedding invitation by Nikkol Christiansen

Nikkol describes her artistic style as rooted in the masculine with graceful and feminine details. Both Nikkol’s and her husbands’ ancestors are from Denmark, and she’s always loved the minimal, textural aesthetic of Scandinavian design. She craves clean lines and natural textures, and white space is a must. “Someone once asked me why I leave all the white space in my designs, because it made them feel like something was missing. To me, it’s the exact opposite. I need it,” Nikkol says. “I told them to just breathe it in because it feels amazing.”


Meet a Minted Artist: Shirley Lin Schneider

Although Minted artist Shirley Lin Schneider was always drawn to the world of art and design, she took a bit of an exploratory detour to study one of her other interests—marine biology—as an undergraduate at UCLA. After graduating in 1999, she took a year off to apply for graduate school. During that year, she took evening classes in graphic design, and the rest is creative history. After getting her degree in design, one thing led to the next, and Shirley built a career designing things you’ve likely seen on TV.

From 2004–2010, Shirley worked in the entertainment industry as an art director and designer for various broadcast networks and design studios, creating style frames for networks ranging from Sundance to AMC. Fast-forwarding to now, Shirley’s current path combines her experience in science with motion graphics and parenting: She’s a self-employed designer for Minted and beyond. Here, the Manhattan Beach, California, artist talks about how she made it happen.

Minted: Why did you originally major in marine biology?
Shirley Lin Schneider: I’ve always loved the biological sciences, especially marine biology, since I was young. It made sense for me to major in a scientific field, and I had amazing opportunities studying in Hawaii and Tahiti (where I met my husband), scuba diving, camping, research boat trips, etc. I believe these experiences have definitely shaped me as a designer. While I enjoyed studying biology and had planned to go to graduate school for marine biology, there was always a part of me drawn to the arts and design. Venturing out beyond the sciences and into the arts was daunting, because I had never been encouraged to pursue design.

After getting your undergrad degree in biology, where did you learn about graphic design?
I studied graphic design at Art Center College of Design. Prior to Art Center, my initial graphic design courses were through UCSB’s Extension Program. I worked as a production designer in the Education Abroad Program at University of California Santa Barbara, designing travel brochures for college students wanting to study abroad. I decided I wanted to pursue design formally and included an application to an art school. I ended up being accepted to Art Center and majored in graphic design with an emphasis on motion graphics design. I chose to focus on motion graphics because I had always loved sequential design—books, magazines, etc. The art of film titles really spoke to me because of the integration of various mediums—film, typography, illustration, animation, photography and sound—all into one piece.

You were drawn to design from an early age; how have your interests changed?
In high school and college, I was really into punk/ska music and the DIY scene. I loved album covers and self-published zines. The whole DIY mentality was very inspiring and motivating. Once I started taking evening design classes as a hobby, I saw the realm of what was possible in design. I’m sure I thought of how cool it would be to design album covers for a living. The funny thing is that my interests shifted over the course of being at art school, and I never pursued that avenue of work once I graduated.

Wildflowers” save the date card by Shirley Lin Schneider

What was your first job out of art school?
My first job was a Jr. Designer at G4, a video game network. I also freelanced for VH1. Through various design studios in Los Angeles, I have worked on projects for Bravo, AMC, FX, TLC, NBC, E!, ABC, CMT, etc. I really enjoyed working on on-air projects like opening show titles and promos for TV networks. I also liked designing for network branding projects, commercials, and film titles/trailers. I made the difficult decision to take some time off after having my first born because the long hours were not conducive to family life.  

Above: Shirley (on the right) with her coworker-producer while working on a shoot for a promo for TLC’s summer lineup. “We were responsible for directing and designing all on-air assets related to the promo as well as the graphics that wrapped around the ice cream truck,” Shirley explains. “The truck drove around that summer promoting TLC shows and gave away free ice cream.”
Shirley Lin Schneider designed these storyboard for Always Sunny in Philadelphia (above) and the Sundance Channel (below.)


Meet a Minted Artist: Susan Asbill

When we asked Minted artist Susan Asbill to describe a typical day in the life, she explained that as a working mother with two small children, the real constant in her life is chaos. “As a type A personality, this has been hard for me to accept, but I’ve found that no amount of planning will keep things from going awry,” the Dallas designer says. “For now I’m just settling into the chaos with these two little humans and soaking up all the mess and magic while it lasts.”

That perfect combination of life’s beautiful mess and magic shows in her Minted work, a bold, colorful collection of designs that celebrates life’s major moments. After asking Susan about her goals, how’s she’s developed her career, and what she does for fun, we’ve learned that she’s a hard-working Texan with a heartwarming sense of humor, and she’s committed to the Minted artist community.

Minted: Did you study art or design formally in school?
Susan Asbill: I’ve had my heart set on an art-related career as far back as I can remember. As a child I drifted in and out of other activities, but art was my constant. In high school, I was taking so many art classes that I was short on regular credits needed for graduation—oops. I had to make these up in summer school and correspondence classes. I got my bachelor of fine arts in design from the University of Texas at Austin. I initially spent two years in studio art before moving into their design program. It was a difficult transition at first. I was used to the looser world of fine art, and it took me a while to get my footing. I had wonderful teachers who kept me challenged—and sometimes overwhelmed—throughout the program. I’m grateful for that push today. They also kept the class size small, and our group really bonded through the years. We stay in touch to this day. The bonds I’ve made in the Minted community remind me of those early designer friendships.

What was your first design-related job?
My first design job was as an art director at a small agency in Dallas. They had a lot of home goods clients: surfacing and tile companies, gourmet ranges, roofing, etc. Since then I’ve worked 10 different jobs, both at agencies and also as an in-house designer. Working with such a wide variety of clients has been interesting, and I’ve been able to bounce between different brand styles, everything from Dom Pérignon to the WWE. It’s been a wild ride.

Do you think 10 jobs is a lot, or not necessarily?
Ten jobs may sound like a lot, but it’s common in marketing and advertising. There is always employee turnover when agencies win and lose accounts. I’ve also moved around to learn new skills, like switching to an interactive agency at one point to learn web design. My most recent job change was to focus more on my family.

Pegasus” children’s custom art by Susan Asbill for Minted

How many hours per week do you usually work? And what does “work” mean for you?
Currently I work three days a week in TGI Fridays’ corporate office, primarily designing their menus. The other two days I work at home on freelance clients, Minted, volunteer work, and of course the toughest and most rewarding gig of all, being a mother.

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Meet a Minted Artist: Gerrie Magnani of Chocomocacino

Gerrie Magnani’s life sounds like a dream. Having grown up in Indonesia, she now lives in Ravenna, a beautiful historical town in Italy, and strives to work no more than 20 to 30 hours a week as a freelance graphic designer. Going by the moniker Chocomocacino, Gerrie lives and loves creativity, food, and travel. She found her design footing as a teen, and after studying graphic design in San Francisco, took a hiatus to become a yogi in Bali. While on hiatus, she met her husband, an Italian bodybuilder, who took her back to his hometown.

Much as her life story so far is a winding journey, Gerrie views her design and art as a constant evolution. You can’t quite pinpoint her signature style in a few words, and that’s what she’s going for—for the moment. “I like things that either have elegance, uniqueness, modernity, and adorable/cutesy quality to it, so that’s where I’m directing my designs, too,” she says. “I haven’t found the right combination or balance between all of these. Maybe it’s because my work is so different.”

Minted: Why did you move to Bali after college?
Gerrie Magnani: I lived in Ubud for almost two years, to pursue my yoga life, both teaching and studying. I got a scholarship and studied my yoga teaching right before moving to Ubud, also in Bali (Canggu) with Australian Yoga school. I taught yoga mostly privately in villas and hotels for guests who came to Bali, and some retreats. I also attended yoga-related workshops like astrology and meditation. My husband was my neighbor in Ubud; he managed an online rental accommodation. As a bodybuilder, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s completely the opposite of a yogi.

Before living in Bali, you attended Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and majored in graphic design. What was your first design job after graduating college?
I went back to Jakarta after school, and my first job for almost 10 years was as a wedding invitation designer—very much my dream job. I’ve always had a passion for paper and stationery, and I liked going to card stores to look at the illustration, lettering, and how cards are printed. Creating beautiful cards was really not a job for me; I had so much fun that it felt more like a hobby. I learned so much about printing processes—from laser cut to embossing, foil stamping, creating boxed invitations, and even printing with velvet texture. Dream world!

Amalfi – New York City” save the date card by Gerrie Magnani of Chocomocacino for Minted

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