Take a closer look at Holli Conger’s found-object art to find the hidden surprises.
Holli Conger is a found-object artist, graphic designer, and children’s book illustrator living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. With a career spanning 20 years and clients ranging from Barnes & Noble to IKEA, she approaches each project with the goal to put a smile on your face. In an inspiring interview, the prolific artist shared insights on building a creative life you can be proud of.
How do you describe your art?
Whimsical and a little funky. My background is children’s illustration, and I love the playfulness and silliness of it, so that is a constant in my found-object pieces. I love creating art that engages the viewer and forces them to look around the entire piece to find a myriad of objects repurposed into something else. I tend to hide things in my pieces that you can see only if you’re right up on it.
How did you develop your personal style?
I love lots of color, and I’ve always loved finding interesting objects and things that could be used as something else. I had a large found-object project in college, and that got the ball slowly rolling in creating that type of work. It wasn’t until years later where I needed to break away from the computer and try and do some work that could still be marketable to children’s publishing. The style evolved from there into creating digital found-object art for publishing and art licensing into creating full wall pieces for galleries, businesses, and homes. I love thrifting and antiquing, so I’m able to find lots of items to work with and incorporate in my pieces (both digitally and physically).
What are your everyday inspirations?
Probably my kids. They are homeschooled, so they are usually with me 24/7, which makes it fun but also a balancing act work-wise. Both of my kids are creative, so I try and make learning fun, and I’m able to be creative with it.
What are the greatest rewards and challenges of your artistic work?
The greatest reward would be having an end product that I’m proud of. I was able to take it from just a floating idea in my head to a rough sketch and into a physical piece I was able to paint and assemble with glue and screws.
The greatest challenge would be having the space to store them all, and also waiting for pieces to sell. Unlike commercial art, I don’t have an end client for most of the found-object pieces I create, so finished work can’t be emailed or stored on a computer. As I finish pieces, I usually hang them in a gallery space I have in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina, enter them in different juried shows, or hang them in my studio waiting to find their permanent space.
What’s one truth you’d like to share with artists?
Know that your style is not for everyone, but don’t give up. You’ll tend to have more critics than compliments, but keep going. Just keep doing you. If you love it and have such a passion for it, other people will too, and that makes it worth it.
What advice would you give to someone entering a creative career?
Promotion is number one. Stay active online and in the studio. Motivation will lead to creativity. Creativity will lead to creating more work. Creating more work will fine-tune your style; therefore, you’re more confident with your work. The more confident you are with your work, the more you will share (self-promote). Do some type of promotion every day. Email a potential client, connect with someone on LinkedIn, post to social media. Self-promotion can be that easy. Just get your work out into the world.
One other thing: Social media has made us all self-conscious of our work, and we compare our work with others’ on a daily basis. Comparison kills creativity. Limit your time on it and others’ work you look at. Your worth is not the number of people who follow you or number of likes your art gets.
That’s excellent advice! Before we go, is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I love what I do and am very thankful that my art is able to make someone else cheerful and happy!