Artist Profile: Esther Clark
Hi Esther! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hello! My name is Esther Clark, and I'm an illustrator and calligrapher based out of St. Paul Minnesota. I have always been passionate about art and am so grateful I get to do what I love! I'm happily married to my best friend and biggest supporter, Aaron, and together we are opening a coffee shop called Botany Coffee in July. We also have a sweet pet rabbit named Cromwell! When I'm not working, you'll find me going on a long walk, baking, reading Harry Potter, or repeat-watching a British period drama.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a hostess at a buffet in South Dakota called The Royal Fork! It was the perfect job for a 15 year old, but I'm grateful I'm not in the restaurant industry anymore!
When did you begin design, illustration and calligraphy?
I got my Bachelor's Degree in Visual Art, and I've drawn and painted for as long as I can remember. But I didn't start actively pursuing illustration or learning calligraphy until the autumn of 2015 - I'm still a young business! I started doing botanical illustration a few months after I graduated from college.
How did you know that illustration and calligraphy was a career path that you wanted to take?
I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in art, but I didn't ever think it was a realistic dream. My degree was simply in visual art - not art education or graphic design - so I knew there weren't many viable career paths open to me. I loved the idea of working for myself and half-heartedly tried to build my portfolio, but it wasn't until we moved to a brand new city in 2015 that I took the idea seriously. After our move, I had lots more time on my hands due to a very part-time job and the initial lack of friends. I put my energy into creating a lot more work and posting about it on Instagram to try and gain exposure. I knew I loved botanical illustration, but realized that I would be much more marketable if I had another skill like calligraphy. I taught myself in the extra time I had, and the business grew from there!
How has your work evolved over the years?
I did my Bachelor's Degree in two and a half years instead of four, so I didn't give myself as much room to grow or explore as if I had done the degree in the normal amount of time. When I graduated, I really didn't have a style or a particular emphasis in my work. I had studied printmaking the most, and I especially loved the look of black and white relief prints. I carried that with me into my art post-college. My first botanical line drawing was for a tattoo I wanted; as I drew that piece, I knew I had finally found something I was highly passionate about. My style has developed naturally from there, and has changed a lot since I first started my business. My calligraphy skills have also been refined over time as I've practiced! When I first started out, almost 100% of my clients booked me for tattoo designs. My projects are now probably about 75% wedding invitations and about 25% branding/logo design, and everything else is few and far between.
What are you trying to learn right now?
I am always working to become better at being a business owner. I was well-prepared for the art side of my work, but I started out with literally no knowledge of the practical business side of things! I am working to learn more about accounting, marketing, efficiency, and organization so I can create the best experience both for my clients and for myself.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I have always been creative, and I am so grateful that I get to express myself creatively every day. I love the materials that I work with! I also love that I get to be a part of so many wonderful wedding days. I am such a hopeless romantic, and I feel so honored every time I get to create invitations for a couple's special day!
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face being an artist?
Two main things: maintaining a healthy work-life balance and learning how to say no. My studio is in my apartment living room and my job is my passion, so it has been very hard to learn how to set boundaries and stop working. I also tend to be a people-pleaser and want to make everyone happy, so it has been a real challenge learning how to say no to some projects!
How do you manage a work-life balance?
This is definitely a work in progress. A few things I've done to try and keep my work better in check are: starting to say no to jobs I am not thoroughly excited about, sticking to my cut-off time in the evenings, eating three regular meals each day, and requiring myself to get eight hours of sleep a night. I also go on walks throughout the day to give my mind a break and get some exercise. I have a chronic illness that worsens when I am stressed or overworked - which is sometimes difficult to deal with - but overall that helps me stick to my boundaries so I don't feel miserable.
What is it about nature that helps inspire you and your work?
Nature is absolutely beautiful, and I am so drawn to the delicacy and organic grace of flowers and plants. I love being outside! I am a Christian, and I love exploring the nature that God has created and then studying it further by interpreting it in my own style.
Would you like to share any of your long-term goals and creative aspirations?
Since my business is still so new, I haven't thought a whole lot about long-term goals yet! However, I think it would be amazing to someday develop my own stationery line! I have a few art prints and cards available in an online shop, but it would be so much fun to take it further and really put time and effort into that.
What have you learned from owning your own business that could apply to any creative endeavor?
I've learned a lot about being serious about your craft, making sacrifices for it, and being committed to riding through all the ups and downs of creativity without faltering. It's not easy to push past creative blocks, but it's necessary! I've also learned about the importance of always creating for yourself to prevent burn-out. It's so tempting to think of pleasing other people more that yourself when you create (and when you're working for clients, that's obviously a must!), but it's so important to also take time to create for you. That's what helps you brand out into new styles and ideas, that's how to stay passionate about what you do, and that's how you keep learning, growing, and expanding.
Why do you think it is important to support local makers and businesses?
I love supporting small businesses! There is so much passion and effort put into each local makers' product or small business, and the products are often higher quality and more kind to the environment. I think it's very important to live in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way, and a big part of that for me is supporting the businesses in my area! It's also so fun to meet other like-minded people and build relationships through supporting the hard work of local makers.
Your work is stunning and draws in a large social media following. What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of social media?
I love social media because it brings me the majority of my clients. I am able to make connections and work with brides and businesses all across the country, and that's so much fun! It's also very inspiring to see the beautiful experiences and creations people post about. Social media opens up avenues for friendships that would never be there otherwise. On the flip side, it can take up so much time, and it's so easy to fall into the comparison game. It's crazy how much time you can waste scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest, and it can create lots of discontentment!
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
My business literally wouldn't exist without the support of so many wonderful women I've met. I've never been afraid to ask for help - goodness knows I've needed it so often - and I'm so thankful for the ladies who have stepped into my life and supported me when I need it most. I hope I can do this for others as well! Community and relationships are so important.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
There are so many! The work I find most inspiring is usually a combination of organic and minimalistic, such as the work of Emillie Anne Szabo, Gillian Stevens, Share Studios, Tara Spencer, Ashley Fox, and Emma Natter.
What are some of your favorite places in Minneapolis?
Minneapolis is such a wonderful city! I love living here. For coffee, I love Bachelor Farmer and of course Botany Coffee (the shop my husband and I are starting!) Wise Acre and The Copper Hen are two of my favorite restaurants, Mucci's has incredible doughnuts, and the Milkjam has the best vegan ice cream. My favorite home goods store is The Foundry Home Goods and Arlee Park also has some amazing items!