top of page

BIZ CRUSH: Tin Cup Design

BIZ crush

I met Jordan through the local pop-up scene where her bright, loving, down to earth personality was as obvious as her talent. She’s a true creative spirit with a knack for color, pattern, texture & has a style that’s positively recognizable.

She’s also got a really cool story. Keep reading to hear it.

Photo by Anna McParlan

What kind of kid were you growing up?

I was eager to please and be good, but also thrived in weird. I was lucky to have friends and family who, with me, would allow and co-create and enter into imagined worlds and complex and concocted scenarios and creations—made up languages, pretend restaurants, fake news anchor segments, forts in the woods, dressing as pioneers and trying to live the Laura Ingalls life, playing spies around town while riding city buses and taking photos of suspects along the way (this last one was a college-aged endeavor), etc, etc. I do remember coming alive with zany ideas and working hard to make them happen.

How did that affect your creative path?

I guess weird ideas—and creative pursuits—always feel worth it to me. I’ve learned that sometimes the first idea isn’t the best—they can get better with a little work, but creativity births so much fun and life—especially when others get to join in.

If your story could fit into a 30 second commercial, how would it go down?

I’m not sure. But from a casting perspective I really hope Steve Buscemi would be in there. And Amy Sedaris as she was in Strangers with Candy.

What ultimately made you decide to do the lovely thing you do?

It has been a twisty journey (and still twisting). I went to college for German and Writing, tacking on an art minor and almost a Russian minor. Upon graduating I knew enough about myself to know I was maybe built for art or ministry (prior to that I wanted to be in the FBI…self-awareness was pretty low at that point). I initially got to pursue both art and ministry through an internship at the Vineyard Church, but ended up focusing much more on ministry and the possibility of planting a church. All along the way I still did bit of graphic design here and there.

Eventually an opportunity came along for me to move to Sweden, which was a dream (a culture I love, language was a bit underway already and it was the awaited possibility to help with a churchplant). I sold everything, quit my jobs and moved into my parents’ basement to prepare to leave. But it all fell through. At that point, out of the ashes, little Tin Cup Design was born. Friends and family had started paying me for some graphic design work (wedding invitation here and there, business postcard, etc) and I decided to try to grow that a bit while I went back to working at the church.

Seven years ago I quit my job at the church, as it wasn’t the best fit anymore and I was also sensing things to tend to in my interior life. I carried on with Tin Cup Design, which also evolved into more and more illustration work and less graphic design.

Who’s positively influenced your path the most?

A village of precious people has been so influential for this path I’ve been on so far…from my Grandma who is an unofficial artist herself and would color with me for hours and whose art I always was (and still am) in awe of…to my mom who recognized I had some artistic gifting at an early age and celebrated it…to my middle school art teacher, Tom Rauschenfels, who gave me so much encouragement—and art supplies—as I tried out my little junior high ideas on paper…to Michael and Brenda Gatlin at the Vineyard who taught me basic art stuff (Michael was previously an art director and watercolor artist) and walked with me through healing and spiritual formation through my 20s…to my husband, Adam, who teaches me to get stuff done and to do hard things even when I don’t feel like it and who also has a good eye and can offer criticism (it may or may not be received :)…and onward, of course.

How did the name “Tin Cup Design” come to fruition?

Initially the idea was two tin cans connected with string (like a rudimentary telephone), expressing how design is a way to communicate. But a couple years into the work and under the name, I had a dream one night about the name Tin Cup Design that resonated with way more weight and sort of explained it for me.

In my dream I was sitting on the side of the road as a beggar holding out a tin cup—yet I wasn’t begging for money, I was begging for ideas. As I sat there, every now and again an idea—a spark of creativity—would land in the cup and something entirely new could emerge from these creative droplets that seemingly came from thin air.

I woke up knowing there was truth in this and that creativity, while it can be jogged and helped a bit, cannot be mustered on our own. It really is a grace—a mysterious gift with a start from somewhere bigger and wiser and more creative. It’s humbling and exciting at once to receive.

How would you describe your style?

Quirky, curious, layered, textured, perhaps scented with cardamom (meaning, a touch of Scandinavian influence)

Favorite part about working for yourself?

I have so much freedom to say yes or no to work and work paths that I know are right or not right for me. Authenticity and integrity are a big deal for me and getting stuck in work that does not line up with my heart is gut-wrenching. I’m very glad to be able to steer that ship.

Most challenging thing about working for yourself?

I hate self-promotion. I believe my four year old daughter’s made up word best describes how I feel about this: Gurrrg.

How do you get your creative juices flowing?

Being alone, journaling, going on walks, looking closely at wildflowers, swimming in the lake, taking up a discipline for an hour (like sketching what is in front of me, finding rocks at the beach in every color of the rainbow, exercise).

Fill us in on your design process.

It usually begins with ideas dropping in my little cup through one of the activities above. I then come back and do sketching, put together a color palette and then either create new textures (of paint, ink, pencil, paper, etc) and scan them into my computer or pull up some old scanned textures and change them or their color. I then begin creating the work in Illustrator by cutting apart these textures and layering them in such a way so different colors and depth are formed. Eventually, it all becomes a digital print.

If you could be a fly on the wall to anyone’s creative space {dead or alive} who would it be?

I really, really have loved the poet, Mary Oliver. But I wouldn’t want to be a fly, I have wanted to be her friend! I think one of the reasons her poems are so weighty and connect to us so deeply is because she didn’t strive and push and perform to craft words together that appeared one way, while she and her life were another. She was just herself, writing her experiences from a true place--and a very deep and reflective place. I would have just liked to meander with her in the woods and listened and asked and shared meals with her and just enjoyed the beauty of her being her.

Talk about a failure you’ve learned from.

A handful of years ago I was asked to paint a large piece—something like 3 feet by 9 feet on some complicated three piece canvas situation. Even though I’m not really a painter (I work almost entirely on the computer) and they seemed to be requesting a style that was not really mine, I said yes because I was afraid of disappointing them with a no and also, out of fear, established no agreement regarding payment. I became paralyzed with fear of failing and took a very long time to finish it, breaking loosely planned deadline after deadline. I finally buckled down, burnt a few weeks of childcare hours to complete it, delivered it and let them decide how much they wanted to pay me (this is not recommended). I received a check for $100 (this is bad).

I learned a lot about the importance of saying no when you know the job is best suited for someone else; about being clear from the start regarding timeline and money expectations; and that when things go bad, you get feedback from the people, not from solitary hiding (I did the hard work of calling and saying, “So…I got your check. It seems you were unhappy with the painting. Tell me more…” which was very hard for me because I was so afraid of their disappointment, but it gave me their real perspective, not a wonky, resentful, self-pitying one I would have made for myself…well, that was there for a bit, but it left sooner than later. :)

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments in business?

Emerging with a style truly of my own feels really good. I actually think there’s more of that to come—alert! expect more earnest and interesting things ahead!—but it feels right to not be looking so much at everyone else’s work and trying to keep up with their stream of style and trends that feed a false need to be liked or successful. I’m learning we each have something to offer—it takes work for that something to emerge—but it’s in there and it’s good!

What do you wish you knew when you first started that you know now?

Knowing that none of the discovery or bumps or hard work can be skipped. When I started I didn’t have the ability to understand or take in what I know now—and I’m sure in five years I will feel the same about these days. Instead of pining after ideals, I know I must simply do the daily work that grows me over time.

What has been your favorite project to date & how did it come to fruition?

There’s been a few! I did a series of seasonal illustrations for our beloved and important Superior Hiking Trail last year; I got to illustrate a cookbook along with three other great illustrators; Saffron and Grey (the great flower shop in Duluth) invites me to let my freak flag fly and asks me to create annual work for them doing “whatever I want” and it is always so fun.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or experienced thanks to your career path?

I once saw a squirrel hanging on the screen of one of our windows, holding an entire flour tortilla in its mouth. That couldn’t have happened had I been working outside the home and I thank my lucky stars for that.

What’s next / what are you most excited about?

My youngest brother and I are working on a children’s book together. He’s writing the words (and they are really beautiful) and we’re starting to make some real plans. I just finished a drawing class to help me grow some people-drawing skill and am taking some time to try to get to know this interesting girl in the book and picture what she might look like. There’s a lot of work to come, but it’s so fun to do this with my brother and to see a really good story coming alive.

Time of the day you are most productive:

2pm - 9pm

The app you couldn’t live without:

Definitely can live without all of them!

Social media outlet you love most:


Favorite account to follow on this outlet:

Carson Ellis, illustrator fanstastika

Favorite podcast/internet radio station at the moment:

Been listening to a lot of Richard Rohr on various places and podcasts

Favorite Netflix binge:

Lady Dynamite

Go to piece in your wardrobe:

Black and white striped shirt

Favorite Adobe tool:


The best “hidden gem” in the community:

A clump of rocks that stick out of the side of Observation Hill—prime for the finest of picnics overlooking the lake.

See more from Tin Cup Design here: Online | Instagram | Facebook | at The Big Lake Gallery


bottom of page