Dinara Mirtalipova had a stable, well-paying job at American Greetings. But she also had freelance projects flowing in and had made a substantial investment in a bulk order of tea towels for her Mirdinara Kitchen line. She especially regretted leaving her 2 1/2-year-old daughter each workday. So she quit the card giant last January and transitioned to running her line of folksy tea towels and making fabrics, book covers and coloring books full time for national retailers such as the Land of Nod, Scholastic and Usborne. "It forces you to think outside of the box and take risks, knowing that every mistake is yours," she says. FOLK LURE: While growing up in Uzbekistan, Mirtalipova doodled constantly, inspired by the country's brightly colored floral textiles. "My grandma had this very different carpet on the wall," she says. "I would trace the design with my little finger." CARD BUSINESS: She started at American Greetings in 2006 making prototype cards and learning design techniques by studying books from the company's library, YouTube videos and Adobe Creative Suite tutorials. Eventually, she got promoted to hand-lettering and illustrating. "It was my college," she says. TEA TIME: To brighten a gloomy winter, Mirtalipova painted pink, red and orange blooms. She turned it into a cotton tea towel for her kitchen. After friends praised it, the Multicolor Flowers Towel went up on Etsy and her Mirdinara Kitchen business blossomed. LATE NIGHT: The self-described night owl often creates her personal illustrations with gouache, a method of painting with opaque watercolors. She is experimenting with new techniques such as linocut, a printmaking process using linoleum. "Some people when they come home, they like watching TV or playing sports or working out," she says. "This is my type of sport."
Buy Mirdinara Kitchen tea towels at Epiphany in Hudson, Mulholland and Sachs at Eton Chagrin Boulevard and Blackbird Fly Boutique in Cleveland. MORE INFO: mirdinara.com