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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lovely Letters, An Interview with Mary Kate McDevitt

Tucked away in a NE neighborhood of Portland, Oregon sits the studio of the gifted type illustrator and designer Mary Kate McDevitt, and her equally talented partner Fred DiMeglio of Man vs. Ink.  I spent the afternoon getting to know Mary Kate and learning about the impressive journey she’s taken so far that has put her work on and in publications like: Fast Company, Better Homes & Garden, Oh Comely, Women’s Day, Rachel Ray Magazine, The Portland Mercury and Willamette Week.
As a young designer Mary Kate began her career a few years ago, working for a small design firm in Lancaster, PA. It was her late night and personal work (creating sweet little chalkboards sold in her Etsy Shop) that caught the attention of Chronicle Books. This launched her solo career as an independent type illustrator and designer. She hasn’t looked back since!
Mary Kate’s workspace is as sweet and charming as she is. The bulk of her work is created in a spruced up closet that once housed a Murphy bed. To put the finishing touches on many of her pieces, she heads downstairs to build, silkscreen and ship. Both spaces are equally wonderful!
Do you work full time as an illustrator?
Yes. Occasionally I do some graphic design work but mostly I work creating hand-lettering and illustrations for several different clients. 
What is one of your favorite pieces of client work?
I really like the Live Well, Eat Well, Be Well project I did with Women’s Day Magazine and my mom was pretty excited to see my work in a magazine she reads! 
Where does your client work come from?
Word of mouth. I make stuff for my shop and then it get’s featured on blogs. The work with Chronicle Books got a lot of attention but I also post my stuff on dribbble and I think I’ve gotten some work there as well. Many of my projects are editorial driven, I really like doing that kind of work. The Art Directors I collaborate with are pretty easy going and nice to work with. 
What other social media platforms do you use to reach potential clients?
TwitterPinterest, Etsy, and Dribbble. A lot of my Etsy sales are from Pinterest. When I first got on twitter mostly student’s and crafty people followed me, now I see more designers. They all are great.
This project was inspired by a discovery I made when I was 12 years old from a box of handwritten letters my mom and my aunt wrote to my grandmother when they were in college. The letters were kept neatly together with string in a shoebox and I recall admiring the beautiful penmanship. That memory was in my head when I made my  “Write More Handwritten Letters” poster. Shorty after making the poster, I decided it would be most effective to receive an actual handwritten letter in the mail. So, I started the project with a commitment to writing a handwritten letter each day, not a traditional letter but a letter from the alphabet. Using twitter, I collected addresses for people interested in receiving a Handwritten Letter and I got an astounding response! The first day over 300 people responded. I have completed over 115 letters so far.
How do you create the letters?
Everyday I draw a letter, scan it in and post it to the Handwritten Letters blog, then send it out via post. It’s a great way to spark my creativity each day and I enjoy writing letters to total strangers. 
Whose work are you inspired by?
I really like vintage type and get a lot of my inspiration from there. I also love the work of Tom Frost and Ray Fenwick.


Mary Kate will be the next guest illustrator for sketchXchange hosted by WeMake if your in Portland, OR registration begins 4/2/12. Hope to see you there!
#sketchXchagne

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