We’re really excited to introduce you to our September teafluencer, Mindy Carpenter. Mindy is a truly inspired artist with a very interesting background and, we’re pretty sure, a spectacular future! From her paintings to her note cards to her “Mindalopes,” we fell in love with her charming art -- much of which is inspired by Paris and our Paris tea! Read on to learn about this self-made artist and small business owner.
Harney: Tell us a little about you. Where are you from, educational background, where you live, family, etc.
Mindy: I was born and raised on Vancouver Island in Victoria, BC. I went to a well-known local high school, Oak Bay High School; both my parents and many family members also graduated from there. I studied at University of Victoria (UVic) and graduated with a Major in English Literature and a Minor in French Language. I’m an only child but have lots of cousins and wonderful aunts and uncles. Even though I don’t live there, I still consider Victoria my home away from home. My dad and step-mum live there, most of my family, and I’m there frequently. My mum and step-dad live in Mexico, so I’ve got two fabulous places to visit.
I live in Ashland, Oregon with my long-time partner, Carlton. We have two fur kids, Bella, a Brittany Spaniel and Hazel, a long-hair tortie who our vet recently said had “a lot of tortitude.” It’s a full house!! I moved to Ashland from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Harney: Let’s start with the basics: when did you first start painting?
Mindy: I started painting for fun about 12-13 years ago. I had taken a few lessons previously but nothing stuck, too busy with work, life...but I was always interested in art and painting specifically. I found an artist/teacher I liked in Sausalito, CA where I was living at the time and committed to painting on Sundays with her. Something clicked!! It was a combination of the routine, commitment and wonderful location that made it something I looked forward to. I was literally painting while looking out “at the dock of the bay.”
Harney: Before we dive fully into painting, you’ve had an interesting life outside being an artist. Tell us about what you did before you made painting your career.
Mindy: I’ve had a colorful career in art-adjacent careers! I taught English in Tokyo for three years through the JET Program, I was a nanny in San Francisco, I worked in a historic event place in the height of the dot-com party-throwing era and then landed in a 10-year job that paved the way for today. I worked for a gift and stationery company doing sales, trade shows, product development and art direction. It was a pivotal job in that I experienced you could love what you’re doing and making...beautiful paper goods, gifts, stationery and with people you enjoyed working with! I worked there for almost a decade.
Harney: And now, back to painting: when did you decide to turn your art into a small business?
Mindy: Like any good plot, I was at a crossroads. I had relocated to Ashland, OR for a new job, new path and a fresh start after a divorce. After just two years at this new job, I was laid off. It was in a new town, new friends and didn’t really have a foundation for staying...but something in me told me I needed to. I had started a painting project for fun, 100 Paintings in 100 Days. I didn’t complete it in 100 days, but I did complete all 100 eventually. I had read somewhere that no one really knows what kind of artist they are until they’ve completed at least 100 paintings….I felt a relief somehow that there was hope in developing a style! I posted all 100 paintings on my blog (even when I didn’t want to share) and the accountability of posting kept me going.
I always had a faraway fantasy of having “my own thing” whatever that looked like, but I didn’t have the artwork or concept for a business. Lying awake one night thinking about “now what,” I had a flash that I knew how to print cards, I had an inventory of images from my 100 paintings project, and I was close friends with many of my contacts in my long career in the stationery industry. The next day, I made myself business cards and committed to doing one thing every single day toward getting up and running. I haven’t stopped.
Harney: Did you always know you wanted to turn your paintings into greeting cards? How did that evolve?
Mindy: Definitely not at the beginning!! My 100 painting project was strictly for fun, a creative outlet that gave me the space to improve, mess up, fall on the artistic banana peel and get back up. It wasn’t until I formatted a few of the images into cards that I thought...hmmm….these are different, maybe even different good. Leaving my job necessitated the speed in which I had to move to really get it going...it might otherwise have remained a daydream doodle in my Moleskine.
Harney: Nature, travel, nostalgia, animals and food are featured prominently in your paintings. Share what inspires you, and why.
Mindy: A breakthrough in my painting came when I started painting parts of life that were everyday charming and beautiful. I had felt a little paralyzed that I wasn’t painting grand landscapes or meaningful historic pieces...It just wasn’t me. My artistic heart wanted to paint lemon tarts, tea tins, the cappuccino shared at a café, boats in the bay, furry friends (sometimes in clothing), floral arrangements and all the charming sweet minutiae that make life lovely. The second I started painting from my heart, what I resonated with, what I had collected for so many years, everything changed. Being true to your inner croissant pays off!
Harney: You’ve written a book entitled CARPE DIEM An Illustrated Life that’s about following the artistic and small business path. Did you know anything about starting your own business before you did? What have you learned? And does being an artist and a business owner require you to access two different sets of skills? If so, is that difficult?
Mindy: This question could be an entire book! I knew very little about small business. All my experience was on the artistic, marketing and sales side within a larger company. I have learned….A LOT. My business teachers are YouTube, Google, podcasts, books, magazines, fellow artistic entrepreneurs, friends and family. Wearing all the hats in a small business is complicated and requires some strategy. I’m no expert in this but have learned a few tools that help. I dedicate certain days to certain tasks and don’t stray. For example, Sundays I paint, Mondays I pack orders or if it’s a bookkeeping day, that’s the only thing I concentrate on. I took what I had learned in my professional experience and used that as a jumping off point. I’m very dedicated to excellent customer service, so I made that my mission. I figured if all my decisions were made around my customers having a good experience, I would at least be going in the right direction.
Harney: Let’s talk about the pandemic; two-part question. How did the pandemic affect your work, personally? And did it affect your ability to teach workshops and private classes, or could you continue those online?
Mindy: Like everyone, the pandemic and lockdown came as a terrifying shock, not just for our health but for the survival of business. Within days of the national announcement the world was sheltering in place, every single pending order that I had received at the winter trade shows were cancelled, and all my customers who operated retail shops closed their doors. It was frightening.
Fortunately, I have a comprehensive website that has a retail portal, and after the initial shock of feeling like my business might not survive, retail orders started coming in. People were at home, they wanted pretty cards, original art, fun snail mail. And I delivered! I knew these were some of the bright moments in someone’s day to receive a lovely package, and I went over the top. It was the one thing I could do to put a smile on someone’s face.
All my workshops and classes were cancelled, including a week-long painting trip to Paris. That was a big disappointment, but hopefully it will reschedule or the trip will take form in a new way. I didn’t teach online during the pandemic; I received many requests for this so I know it’s an avenue I’ll pursue in the near future.
Harney: We love your small calling cards and find the set with the USPS truck particularly endearing. You’ve written that you just love the post office. Tell us why the USPS has a special place in your heart.
Mindy: Thank you! I have always loved the post office, stamps, mailing things, receiving things in the mail. I still find it so amazing that a postage stamp can deliver something around the world! I wouldn’t have a small business without the USPS, so I am so grateful for their service. I live in a town where I know my mail carrier and the people at the post office, and they are so dedicated. Every small business needs to ship, and we would be lost without the USPS. They’re an integral part of the small business team!
Harney: You have another item that we find interesting: envelopes. Just envelopes for sale, no card included. How did this come about? Also, true confession: we are very fond of what you wrote about envelopes when you said, “A great pen, fresh pack of postage stamps and a stack of lovely personally crafted ‘lopes is Sunday afternoon note writing tea drinking heaven.” It does sound like a heavenly, leisurely way to spend an afternoon!
Mindy: My packs of Fancy Envelopes are a passion project. One of my quirky creative habits has always been making my own envelopes. This started years ago when I worked for a company that sold gorgeous calendars on Italian paper, and at the end of the season there would be damages, overages and extra outdated stock that couldn't be sold. It broke my heart to think they would be thrown away. I found a template to make envelopes, and somehow that one template turned into a weekend factory frenzy of making “Mindalopes” in every size imaginable. A few of my co-workers and I would make a batch for fun and were happily stunned by how fun it was to make, send, receive! I went from making my own, to painting directly onto envelopes, to producing my own for Carpe Diem Papers. I am my own customer with the Fancy Envelopes...it’s one of my favorite things to use.
Harney: What would you say to people who think sending an email or text or Snapchat is just as good as sending a card in the mail?
Mindy: Noooooooo!! Of course, email and texting have an important place in our modern communication, but there is truly nothing like sending a handwritten note in the mail. Even just to write thinking of you, thank you for the ______, I miss you, how’re you doing...anything! I often will write a brief note remembering a funny thing the recipient and I experienced together. Remember when…? That one happy envelope in the mail box can turn a day around. What’s Snapchat? (Kidding.)
Harney: We couldn’t help but spy a Harney Paris tea tin in your Paris greeting card collection -- we’re honored! We’ve seen a lot of Paris in your work, along with the other places and things that inspire you. Is there a reason Paris is special?
Mindy: I adore your Paris tea. One of my all-time favorites. Is it black currant that makes it so unique? [It’s that and a few other things, Mindy! - Harney] I’m obsessed! And the packaging. No words for how much I love it.
I do love Paris and all Parisian-inspired imagery. I have visited several times and, like so many people, find it so artistically inspirational it’s literally endless! The food, the pastries, the parks, the cafés, the people watching, the language, the flea markets, the history and architecture.
Harney: While we’ve also noticed that you have “expressoed,” if you will, a fondness for coffee and croissants -- and we don’t judge! -- we’re wondering if tea plays a role in your life. Do you have any rituals that involve tea?
Mindy: Tea plays a huge part in my daily routine! So much so that I’ve been playfully teased about my 3pm tea parties for one. Working from home, I really need structure and routine to keep my schedule on track. I make a pot of fancy tea (and yes, often a cookie) every afternoon. I use the good china, sit down and take a break. It gives me a pause in my day and resets me for the next part of my day. Current fave is Harney Paris. Delicious poured over ice too!!!
Harney: Do you have any favorite flavors or types of Harney & Sons tea, or anything on your list you’ve been keen to try?
Mindy: My two favourites are Paris and Earl Grey Supreme. I also love Vanilla Comoro and Chocolate Mint. I’ve been wanting to try English Breakfast, and I am fascinated by your stunning tins you’ve created for Birthday Party and Mother’s Day. So beautiful!!! Future painting!
Interested in finding out what Fancy Envelopes are, want to check out more of Mindy’s wonderfully whimsical and beautiful art, or just poke around her shop (she has calling cards, we love them!)? Visit her website as well as her Facebook and Instagram pages. We’re so happy we got to know Mindy and introduce her to our Harney fans. (And Mindy, we hope you get back to Paris soon!) All photography was provided by Mindy.
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