I’ve been a fan of Hartland Brooklyn for quite sometime, not only for its quality but for the beautiful illustrations with soft punches of color and of course humor. It’s not hard to see why their line is expanding into stores like Anthropologie and Paper Source. Heck, If I were a card, I’d want to be a Hartland Brooklyn card. It’s basically my spirit animal I’ve had the opportunity to get to know a little bit about the founder, Emily Johnson and she hasn’t disappointed. She’s like her cards: super sweet, humble, pretty and funny. I was honored that she agreed to a Q&A with 8balloons and here it is:
What led you to create Hartland Brooklyn in the first place? Did you ever think you would experience the kind of demand that you’ve seen to-date?
I was always illustrating and doodling, but never knew how to make a career of it. I fell into fashion design, and the lessons I learned from working in this field were so important. From small companies selling at market week, shipping product, building line sheets, and organizing seasonal collections, the experience was incredibly valuable.
I was working in an office in mid-town manhattan, and the girl who made the office birthday cards moved back to England. I was given the task, and made a few for coworkers, then started to get special requests for husbands, family members. There were a few changes in my office, and I became unhappy with my job situation so would distract myself by drawing in my cubicle. With some encouragement from colleagues, I looked into how I would reproduce the hand drawn feel and quality of my card.
I got together a small collection and brought it to the beautiful shop, Papel, which was around the corner from my apartment. She purchased a few, and this is where someone from Anthropologie found my card. I couldn’t dream up everything that happened after that.
Your illustrations are simply beautiful but without me interpreting your style, how would you describe it?
First of all, thank you! I would describe my illustrations as fun and graphic, with pops of neons.
What are your favorite colors to work with?
A muted palette with pops of neon! (pink and red)
Where do you get your inspiration from? Is it from people, experiences, or just things you see out in the world?
I get my inspiration from day to day life. I recently went through a food phase of cards. I also went through a plant phase (which may be from growing up around so many flowers). When I traveled to California and went camping, I designed the “camp postcard set”.
It has to be something that I would want to send, or I sometimes have a particular use in mind. I love that greeting cards don’t have to be so serious, and you’re sending a little happiness.
With the plethora of different art mediums out there today, why did you choose paper?
I love that it’s so small! It’s also recyclable and inexpensive so you don’t have to feel bad about scrappying an idea and starting again. I love that there is a graphic and textual element. It’s also available to people in all walks of life. There isn’t anyone who can’t afford a $5 card, which doubles as a tiny piece of art.
It was the phrases on your cards (for example, “You’re a little slice of heaven”) that initially caught my eye. Do you start with a phrase and then create from there or is it vice-versa?
That quote for the pizza card took a week or two to choose! It had to be something unique, but also something that would resonate with the sender. I knew I wanted to make a pizza card but I couldn’t seem to find the right sentiment. It finally came to me, and was a phrase that I would want to send. Usually the art comes first, then the words, but for cards such as “I love you a yacht” that was an idea that came from the phrase.
Do you ever feel “artists block?” How do you get over it?
Not especially. If I’m feeling uncreative, I do one of my many other tasks that need to be done that day. It’s never good to push creativity, it should come naturally. I’ll pack wholesale orders, tidy the office, or maybe take a walk. I actually get most of my new ideas on the subway or Amtrak train, because it is the only place where I am forced to sit uninterrupted.
Do you use paper more so than online communication in your personal life?
Oh I wish! I just sent out all my thank you notes, which was really nice. I have started to send more birthday cards (I feel there is so much pressure now!). But texting is still just too easy.
I discuss artist’s “creative spaces” a lot on the blog, can you describe yours and how you like to keep it?
I just moved out of my home office. It was kind of insane, in a tiny NYC apartment. But our new space is clean white, and I keep adding more and more plants. I am trying to find the perfect place for my neon sign, and then there are shelves and shelves of boxes of cards…. spaces can get pretty full pretty fast!
What is your favorite card you have received? Do you keep all the ones you receive?
I got married in July, and with that comes cards! One memorable one was from one of my favorite brands, the Great Lake Goods. Her stuff is so great! I also bought myself some cards from Sycamore Street Press because I am in love with their indigo printed cards with copper foil. I have one of hers by my bed.
But otherwise, I don’t keep my cards! I am trying to keep my space as minimal as possible. Unless something is really really special, I’ll try and keep the memory not the thing!