There’s something about mixed media that we just love, the intertwining of two elements you think shouldn’t go together… but absolutely do. That’s one of the things we love most about blending teas: finding a magic combo that you initially think “no way” until you taste it and declare “oh yes!”
It’s also one of the things we find fascinating about our first Teafluencer of 2020, Josephine Ung. A scientist and an artist, you say? After meeting Josephine, we say “oh yes.” Her beautiful, whimsical art has a special chemistry all its own. Meet Josephine, an artist/illustrator who also happens to have a strong interest in personali-tea types!
Harney: Tell us a little about you. Where are you from, educational background, where you live, family, etc.
Josephine: I grew up in Los Angeles, CA and moved to the Bay Area about eight years ago, where I studied chemistry at UC Berkeley. Even though I pursued chemistry initially, I've always been a creative person-- growing up, I dabbled in illustration, photography, graphic design, UX (user experience) design, calligraphy and lettering.
Harney: When did your interest in becoming an illustrator begin?
Josephine: Honestly, I couldn't tell you. I remember always wanting to create as a kid, but never thought about it as a career. After months of going back and forth about what I wanted to pursue after graduation, whether it be in the science field or creative field, I decided I wanted to be in the creative field. In the last couple years, I've moved from doing lettering and illustration as a hobby to actively working with brands.
Harney: What exactly is a digital lettering artist?
Josephine: A digital artist typically utilizes a digital platform, such as a computer or tablet (an iPad in my case) to create part or all of their art piece. A lettering artist focuses on the illustration of individual letters/words and how they fit together with the rest of their piece. Put the two together and you have a digital lettering artist.
Harney: You’ve said that you enjoy creating content for brands and publications. What are some favorite projects you’ve worked on? What excites you about brand work?
Josephine: Earlier this year, I had fun designing two marketing pieces for JOANN Fabric & Craft stores. They gave me full creative control, which allowed me to come up with some clever ways to showcase their message. Since they focus on fabrics and crafts, I made the lettering look like yarn. This was a bit of a challenge, but I love how it turned out, and it reminds me of why I love lettering. You get to figure out the relationship between letters and how to incorporate it seamlessly into your piece as opposed to just having text over your imagery.
Harney: Where do you find inspiration for your work? What other artists do you admire, and why?
Josephine: Is it cliché to say everywhere? I love traveling, so I often find inspiration from nature or architecture in new places. When I traveled to Barcelona earlier this year, I was inspired by Gaudi's work and by all the Art Nouveau lettering and design. Two of my favorite artists are Jessica Hische and Gemma O'Brien because they incorporate lettering and illustration so beautifully together. There is always so much depth to their work, and it inspires me to work harder at what I do.
Harney: You have lots of self-care affirmations, illustrations, sayings, etc. represented in your work. Things like “Do more things that make you forget to check your phone” and “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.” Tell us about what seems like your desire to help motivate people to live more positively?
Josephine: There's always been a stigma around mental health, and when I was younger that deterred me from opening up. As I've gotten older, I've built stronger relationships from sharing thoughts on mental health and advocating for mental health care. I've found that a lot of us have been through similar experiences, but most of us are afraid of sharing them. I think that I'm able to have a strong support system because I'm open about what I'm going through and, likewise, I'm more able to support others if they are open as well. You can't just wait for mental health issues to go away. It's important to address them and actively take steps to help yourself. This is, of course, easier said than done, but I think even just opening up to someone is such a huge step.
Harney: So, Myers-Briggs! Why the strong interest and, most importantly, what are you? Which personality type do you get along with best, and which is a struggle?
Josephine: I'm an INFJ! I'm far from an expert and would never say that we should take personality tests word for word, but I like to think about Myers Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI) more as a directional guide in gaining a deeper understanding of others. I've read that INFJ typically gets along best with ENTP and, coincidentally, my partner is an ENTP (we met long before I started reading about MBTI!). I can't really say that there's a certain MBTI that I struggle with, but I do notice that my closest friends are IN- or EN- so... I think I need to meet more IS- and ES-!
Harney: Any resolutions for the new year?
Josephine: Hmm, I've really heavied up on the drawing hours this year, and I tend to draw on the couch - which is not the best for my back. This year, I'm aiming to get back to yoga so that my back doesn't hate me! My resolution is to actually attend a session once a week. I'll let you know how this goes.
Harney: You’re a taco fan, so help us out: if we come to San Francisco, where should we get tacos?
Josephine: Oh man, the pressure! I actually have better recommendations in Los Angeles where I grew up next to taco trucks and taco stands - I'd recommend Ave 26 Taco Stand, El Ranchero or The Original Carnitas Michoacan. I haven't tried to look for them much in the Bay, but so far my favorite is Tacos Sinaloa in Berkeley.
Harney: We know you love tea because you’ve done an awesome illustration with a Harney Earl Grey tin! You’ve also got a Tea & Benefits piece on Pinterest. What role does tea play in your life?
Josephine: Tea gives me a sense of warmth and comfort. Tea is fitting for all parts of your day - a drink you can wake up to, a drink to share with friends, a drink while you read, a drink before bed. It just makes everything feel a bit more... settled.
Harney: Do you have any favorite flavors or types of Harney & Sons tea (or anything on your list to try?)
Whether you’re an IN-, EN-, IS- or ES-, one thing is clear-- there’s a Harney tea for every personali-tea! If you’d like to learn more about Josephine’s work, visit her Letterpiece website or her Instagram, Pinterest, Dribble pages or Etsy shop. We appreciate Josephine taking the time to talk to us and share her story. All photography has been provided by Josephine.