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CREATIVE OF THE WEEK

Heather Miller of H Miller Ink

This is the latest installation of my Creative of the Week series, where I interview and spotlight the artists, writers, creative business owners, makers, and freethinkers I admire. Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Heather Miller—an amazing illustrator in Detroit. I had the good fortune to work with Heather at a previous job, and she’s every bit as colorful, effervescent and talented as you see here. 

Heather Miller smiling for the camera with a sketchbook on her lap.

Note: I had to compress some of Heather’s images for site speed/SEO purposes, so any graininess or blurriness is entirely my fault. Her artwork and photography is as you would expect — flawless.

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What is your name, age and location?

Hey friends ✌️ I’m Heather Miller. I’m an Art Director, Illustrator, and creative human behind H Miller Ink. I’m in my mid-30s and based in Detroit, Michigan.

 

What’s your business called? Where can people find you online? 

My business is called H Miller Ink and you can check out my portfolio and learn more about my creative offerings at hmillerink.com

If you’re into creative resources and want to stay connected sign up for my newsletter where I share stuff I find inspiring and what I’m up to.

See what I’m making through IG: @hmillerink

What is the focus of your business or your creative output?

My focus is: Illustration + Art Direction
I partner with: Companies, brands, small businesses, and publications
I work on projects like:

  • Editorials
  • Ad Campaigns
  • Packaging Illustration
  • Food Illustration
  • Illustrated Maps
  • Picture Books


How long have you been pursuing this creative business, or related creative endeavors?

I launched H Miller Ink this past year. It’s a culmination of a decade in the advertising industry and a lifetime pursuing art. While my offerings focus on illustration-related work, I approach my projects with the same precision and thoughtfulness as an art director.

An illustration of a sun at a breakfast table and a photograph of the illustration on a bag of coffee beans.

When in life did you first realize you were creative? And what prompted you to adopt that as an identity?

I was into drawing at a young age…one of my earliest memories is scribbling with crayons on one of those small yellow and orange plastic picnic tables with my mom – I was maybe 2 years old.

It wasn’t until I was in school, around peers, that I learned that drawing didn’t come naturally for everyone and some kids didn’t really like doing it. Art gave me a point of reference to compare my skill sets to because it was something I liked a lot and felt easy for me whereas reading, math, and science never felt easy.

When I was in 8th grade, my teacher, Mrs. Sweet (Hi Mrs. Sweet 👋) told me about art school. I thought that sounded like the best thing ever and from there started telling people I was going to go to art school. I think after learning art could be more than just a 1-hour weekly class you go to I started to realize I could make this a bigger part of my life and really adopted it as an identifier. 

 

Tell us about a time when identifying as a creative person caused a problem or difficulty in your life.

This is a tough one because I’ve been fortunate to have teachers and family that have always encouraged me to pursue an art-related path. One challenge I’d consider is that I grew up in a small town and didn’t have access to art programs that other larger cities had (this was also pre-internet days).


Tell us about a time when being creative was a major asset in your life. 

In my life, creativity has acted as a compass for me. It’s given me direction and purpose. Everyone’s brain works differently, but in my case – I make sense of challenges with visuals. Sometimes that can be useful to others. I like that this is something I can share while I’m hanging out on this planet with people (in general) and my clients too.


How do you use your creativity to help run your business?

My business is built on my creativity – that’s what I offer to folks and what keeps it runnin’. From an operational lens though, projects and plans are all very visually mapped out, color-coded, and labeled. Organizing my workflow this way helps me stay on track with client deadlines and personal goals.

A Heather Miller mural on an outdoor wall featuring frogs on lily pads and dragon flies and the words "lift each other up."

There’s this long-standing idea that creative people are eccentric, disorganized, “type B.” In what ways do you identify with those stereotypes? In what ways do you feel like they’re total nonsense?

I am very much a Type A human. Pursing a creative path professionally takes so much dedication and perseverance — it’s tough out there! It’s because I’m highly organized that I’m able to tackle hurdles of being a small business owner and maintaining creative output on top of that. Creating lists, checkpoints, and project outlines for myself is a part of my creative process just as much as the art-making. 


What was the hardest part about starting your creative business? What was the easiest?

The easiest part was knowing that I wanted to pursue illustration full time and I wanted to build a business around that focus. The hardest part was (and still is) figuring out all of the steps from where I was to that goal. 


What was the best advice you received when you were starting out?

Make the work you want to get hired for. People aren’t going to hire you for something that’s not in your portfolio.

An illustration of two women at The Commons, a Detroit coffee shop and laundromat.

I love this drawing of The Commons, a real coffee-shop-slash-laundromat in Detroit. Check it out at thecommonsdetroit.com and see what Detroit is actually made of.

What are your favorite resources for continuing your personal growth or business knowledge? 

PODCASTS
The Great Discontent

Interviews with artists, makers & risk-takers via print & online mag, live event series & podcast.

Creative Pep Talk

The Creative Pep Talk Podcast helps you build a thriving creative practice.

BOOKS
Draw Like a Child
by Haleigh Mun

Steal Like An Artist
by Austin Kleon

VIDEOS
The Gap by Ira Glass
| Short video by Daniel Sax

PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Notion
for notes and briefs.

Airtable
I use this for all sorts of things, but essentially it’s a more visual way for me to replace anything I would do in excel.

ONLINE LEARNING
Skillshare
I have learned so much from this platform and hope to contribute my own class one day. If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, here’s my link for a 30-day free trial.

"Make the work you want to get hired for. People aren't going to hire you for something that's not in your portfolio."

Where do you hope your business will be in a year? In five years? What will be different and what do you have in place now that you’d like to expand on?

Here are a few business goals I’d like to work towards:

In 1 YEAR…
+ I’m continuing to strengthen my art practice, voice, and style.
+ I’ve built some good relationships with clients that enjoy my art and working together.
+ I’ve collaborated with another creative from a different discipline and we’ve worked on a passion project together.
+ I’ve licensed my art for a greeting card.
+ I’ve painted a mural.

In 5 YEARS…
+ I have a solid art community that I’m a part of, share with, and contribute to.
+ I help mentor young creatives.
+ I’ve illustrated a picture book.
+ I’ve licensed several art collections and partnered with companies I admire.
+ I’ve painted 10 murals.

The more I do, the more I learn, and get better so my plan is to keep showing up and not give up.

 

What advice would you give another Creative who’s thinking about starting a business or just starting to build one?

1. Save that money.
If you can, build a financial cushion for yourself before making the leap into your business full time. And, there is no shame in working a 9-5, part-time, or in a completely different field while you work to build your business.

2. Get a mentor.
Find educators you admire and learn from them. Take courses from them if they offer one.

3. Get on out there.
You will learn quickly by doing. Don’t let the possibility of messing up stop you from taking a job. You can do it – go for it!

 

Two illustrations: a car driving on a giant H that's a bridge over a river, and a bunch of orange cats looking playful.

Is there anything else you’d like to say or leave readers with?
If no one’s said this to you lately, in all genuineness — I believe in you.

And thanks Lana for having me and thank you all for reading this far.

Also, if my story/path resonated with you I’d love to connect.
IG: @hmillerink
Email: heather@hmillerink.com

A white woman sitting outside, smiling at the camera.

Hi, I'm Lana.

I’ve spent 16 years in advertising, and now I’m using that knowledge to help creatives grow their own small businesses. Will that include you this year? 


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