Inspiring creativity & illustrating happiness: Katie Holeman of The Lettered Set

17 Aug

We are pumped to have so many new artists on board to  share their artistic skills at this year’s Philly Swap! One such artist is Illustrator and stationary maker Katie Holeman. Here she talks about her life-long love for art-making, her design process, and what motivates her to create.

Philly Swap: Give us some background.  How did you get into DIY work?

Katie Holeman: I was truly lucky that my parents saw and nurtured my creative side early in my life. I still remember painting rocks and working with clay in pre-school. My experience with crafts began during my elementary school days in the 4-H craft club. Decoupage, stenciling, making paper . . . all that good stuff. I was a studio art major in college and did a lot of illustration and printmaking.

PS: What do you like about Philly? Is it a good place to do what you do?

KH: Philadelphia has done so much for my artistic career. I lived in New York City for five years and one thing I noticed immediately in Philly was this sense of community and openness. It’s been really easy and fun to get to know other people in the art world here.

PS: What are some simple steps we can take to be more financially-sound and environmentally-friendly in our creative projects?

KH: As an illustrator and stationery designer, I work with a lot of paper. I do my best to make sure I only use paper made from post-consumer waste. Thankfully it’s easier and more affordable to do that nowadays. All of my printing vendors default to environmentally conscious materials. Aside from making eco-conscious shopping decisions, take a look at your scraps before you toss them in the recycling bin. A misprint or extra sheet could make the perfect bookmarks, gift tag, or wall decoration.

PS: What recycled materials do you use in your work and where do you find them?

KH: I’ve actually started to make my own paper. It’s in the early stages but for now, I am using my handmade paper to make journals. For my Philly Swap workshop, I am going to teach people how to turn regular household items into stamps for handmade note cards and gift tags.

PS: How do you think about the audience for your work? Who is it you want to reach?

KH: I started creating illustrations and stationery for my family and friends. From there I was inspired to start my own blog,, as a way to promote my work and inspire creativity in others. I’m still learning about who my core audience is but I figured out early on that I should create things because it makes me happy. I blog because it makes me happy. If it’s forced, it won’t work. When I make note cards, the ones that sell well are the designs that I really love.

PS: What’s your take on the recent proliferation of the DIY/craft sales online, such as Etsy? Do see this more as a network of support, or as competition for your sales?

KH: I have mixed feelings. As a vendor, it’s really hard to stand out on Etsy. There are so many creative people out there and a lot of us do a lot of the same things. Stationery design is not a niche market so I’ve really focused on my illustrations and woodblock prints as a way to offer a unique product. On the other hand, I follow the Etsy blog and really appreciate the links, tips, events that they do to help artists grow their businesses.

PS: What do you hope the future holds, for you and for the arts and DIY scene in Philly?

KH: I hope that the arts and DIY scene in Philly continues to grow and garner more attention city- and nation-wide. I’d love to see more creative workshops and events sponsored by the city and larger corporations. My hope is that the arts will reach deeper into the communities and nurture the precious, innate creativity in children before it starts to fade.  I want to continue to inspire others and continue to be creative for a living.

PS: Many of us are not as good with tools as we’d like to be.  What are some tips and tricks to fake it till your skills make it?

KH: This one comes from a book called Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain. Flip a photograph upside down and draw the lines of the scene exactly as you see them. When you’re done, flip your drawing upside down. You will be surprised at how good your drawing looks!

Thanks, Katie! To see more of Katie’s work, visit today. You’ll have the chance to meet Katie and learn more about her process at Philly Swap on October 3rd!


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