Interview with Maggie of No Mommy Brain

Today in my Fellow Artist Series I am featuring a Nashville local Author and Children’s illustrator Maggie Day Conran. Maggie is known for her well written-witty-every mom can relate blog No Mommy Brain launched in 2007 which also appears in The Tennessean.  She calls East Nashville her home along with her husband and two sons where she creates paper craft as used in her book Christmastime from A-Z and illustrated Just Right Julia.

Hi Maggie! I love your blog! Tell me about your current line of art creations? What inspired you to start? 
I make cut paper art, usually in the form of illustrations for children’s books. I got started a few years ago when I tried to make a simple ABC Christmas book for my son, Liam. Once I began cutting and pasting, the ideas started pouring out of me and the project took on a life of its own. Now I love creating cut paper art – something I didn’t even know existed a few years ago!

Tell us what makes your process unique? 
I’m not sure my process is unique! When I started, I chose this medium because it was the only way I could figure out how to make the ideas in my head come to life. It was only after I had been doing it for a while that I discovered there were other cut paper artists out there. From what I can tell, most people probably use fancier equipment than I do. I’ve done most of my cutting by hand, usually with a pair of scissors. I can’t say this won’t evolve as I learn more but for now, I’m pretty old school.

I would think the detailed process of your paper craft takes a lot of creativity. Were you always creative as kid, or did you find it later in life?  
I was always creative but never felt like I was very good. In college I took tons of art classes (English major/art minor) but they usually left me feeling more frustrated than inspired. Nothing I tried made the ideas in my head translate to paper the way I wanted to. Discovering a medium I could control was so exciting – but I definitely had to wait until later in life for that to happen.

As someone with an art minor do you have favorite style of art?
I like all kinds of art. Photography, letterpress, watercolor paintings, collage, you name it!

How do you come about your ideas? Is there anything particular that inspires you?
I use a lot of different patterns and textures in my work so a trip down the scrapbook paper aisle always gets ideas flowing.

What is your favorite piece you’ve ever made and why?
I like the cover of my first book, Christmastime to Me from A to Z, because it was the first time I attempted to recreate a character (the cover features several of the children from inside the book). I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it; that up until that point it was just dumb luck every time something turned out looking good. But I did it! And from then on I had the confidence to create whatever I wanted.

Whatʼs the best compliment you have received about your work?
Seeing a kid pull one of my books off a bookshelf and get instantly engrossed in the pictures is an incredible feeling. There is no better compliment.

That has to be amazing to see, you must be proud! 

Do you have a particular work space that you can get such a craft accomplished?
I created an office for myself in the laundry room! I have a long desk in front of a big window that overlooks our backyard. I can close the door which helps keep little ones out of my stuff (at least, that was the plan…) and allows me to get as messy as I need to without having to clean up when I’m in the middle of a project.

With the blog, paper cutting, and kids, what is a typical day in your life?
I stay home with my two sons, Liam is 7 and Finn is 2, so my days tend to revolve around them (we started homeschooling this year). I try to fit in some creative time for myself every week but there’s definitely not a typical day at this point. At this time, my full time “job” is my family. The pay is awful but I love my work. : ) I would LOVE to make a good living writing and making art but at this stage in my life I’m not ready to dedicate as much time and energy to it as I would need to to succeed. I think when my kids get a little bigger, I’ll be able to dedicate myself a lot more to my work.

What are some interests or hobbies other than your work discussed here?
I like to read, write, hang out with my family and friends and spend time outside.

What goals are you trying to accomplish right now?
I’m sort of in an in-between period right now – still settling in to the homeschool thing I guess. But my near-future goal is to do something big with my books – like get a publisher or an agent or start hustling or something! It’s the part of the process I don’t really like – the selling myself bit. I’d much rather sit around making art all the time.

So there you have it! Maggie Day Conran blogger, mommy, and paper-craft artist! You can find Maggie and follow her fantastic blog: www.nomommybrain.com. Also, find her on Pinterest, Instagram: nomommybrain, and Twitter nomommybrain.

Check back for future artist interviews coming up soon and if you missed Sarah from monster in the closet last week you can see it here.

Interview with Sarah of Block21 and monster in the closet

 
Today starts my Fellow Artist Series ! I have chosen to start with one of my personal favorite block printers: Sarah, the owner of monster in the closet  and her newest addition Block21 Prints. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two kiddos.
I don’t actually know Sarah “personally”, we somehow connected on Instagram, and she was the winner of one of my give-a-ways! I love her monster in the closet Alphabet Prints (esp E is for Emu) and her recent Block21 Print  Mason Jar Series (which the print shown to the right is a future purchase of mine for my kitchen!)
From what I know of Sarah she is the kind of person I could go grab a coffee with and talk shop like… ”I am working on____ next what do you think? and ”My kid did _____ this morning can you believe it!” and such things as ”Wanna compare carving knife scars?” Maybe someday, but for now I got to have an up close and personal virtual chat. Here is a little bit about who the gal who loves little monsters:
 
Describe you current line of creations? What inspired you to start?
My current line of creations are block prints. I’ve always loved stamps and can actually remember getting my first set!  (which I still have!)  I started getting serious about linoleum carving when I was doing my masters of education with a focus on printmaking.  My thesis show was a series of reduction prints with food as the subject.
 
What makes your process unique?
I’m not so sure my process is unique as relief carving has been done for centuries but I suppose what I bring to it is what every artist does, their own visions and personality.
 
Were you always creative as kid, or did you find it later in life? 
I’ve always been creative, I think that has always been my strength. My technical skills have grown and improved dramatically over the years. I have never been that kid in class that could draw like crazy… I’ve worked really hard at it. 
 
What is your favorite style of art and why?
Honestly, I don’t know if I can choose just one style of art…I love relief prints, obviously…I’m a big fan of Hokusai and Japanese prints but I love all kinds of art.  I tend to veer towards bright and colorful art (Matisse), art with tons of texture (van Gogh) but I also seriously love children’s book illustrations.
How do you come about your ideas? Is there anything particular that inspires you?
Ideas come from every which direction…my brain never stops.  I get ideas from music, everyday objects and my surroundings, my children and family, my students, famous artworks…you get the idea.
 
As artist we are tough on ourselves sometimes but we are always proud at least of one thing. What is your favorite piece you’ve ever made and why?
One of my favorite pieces is a reduction print I created of an Artichoke for my masters show.  It was created on a piece of linoleum 18” X 24” and took me a long time and lots of sweat and swearing but in the end I was (and still am) so incredibly proud of myself.  It seemed that it was the artwork that allowed myself permission to call myself an artist.
 
 
That is really amazing! I am actually scared of trying a reduction print it I know what kind of work goes into it. You did a beautiful job. 

Whatʼs the best compliment you have received about your work?
I seriously appreciate any compliment about my works.  I think some of the best compliments come from my mom and my husband because I know they will be totally honest with me and not say nice things just because they think they should.  
 
Describe your work space. 
An organized chaos

          

 
What is a typical day in your life? Up early, get myself and kiddos out of the house, teach 6th, 7th and 8th graders art, pick up my children from school, art if the day allows, put kids to bed, fall asleep on the couch!  It’s always crazy and I’m quite tired by the end of the day.  I wish I had more energy to accomplish work at night but it’s just not a reality.  I do a lot of work on weekends.  
 
 
Wow! you seem like a busy gal! Do you have any other interests or hobbies other than your art we have discussed?
I’ve always loved sports and am a big baseball fan…go Red Sox!  We have a great bunch of friends and lots of family close by so we are always hanging out and having fun.  I enjoy reading, sewing and taking photos.
 
 
So who are some of your favorite fellow artist and why? (click to view their work)
I can’t just pick a few!  ::Heehee…::

Marianne Johansen-Ellis has two fabulous Etsy shops: Art Can Be Fun & Mariann Johansen Ellis her prints are so cool and technically awesome.  I love her work! 

Aidan of Bubbledog has such adorable and well made items!  I have numerous and continue to shop there! 

Zoe Badger of Zeebede prints has amazing linocuts! 

I LOVE strawberry luna’s work! It is so colorful, fun and I would love any and all of them up in my house!

My new favorite is Fiona Humphrey’s work…I just received one of her prints and holy guacamole it’s amazing!

And you know I love your shop 30 Silent Mockingbirds!

 Thanks Sarah! Now I have 6 more favorite artist and I’m going to have to get more walls! 

 
So I can see that from your favorite artist not only do you make prints you LOVE prints! Is block printing your full time job, or do you have a job out-of-studio?
This is not my full time job, I am a full time public school art teacher!
 

Would you ever want to be a full time printmaker? 
Honestly, I don’t know if I’d want it to be my full time job…artistically absolutely!  Financially and stability wise, it scares me.
 
 
I can understand that! I have the same feeling! With that said I know there must be challenges you face doing both jobs. Do you have any and if so, what are they?
The biggest challenge in doing my art as a business is time…not enough time!!  I find it difficult to do something start to finish.  It’s frustrating and at times I feel detrimental.  I wish I had more time to do research, advertise, get my art out there more etc…
My other challenge is “knowing” the business.  I’m constantly learning, trying to be efficient and find ways to sell my art.
 
I love everything you have said here and its been so nice getting to know you! In closing, I would love to know what the future holds. What are some goals are you trying to accomplish right now? 
Goals?  I have lists of them!  My main goal is “get your art out there in 2013” and within that I have smaller goals.  I’m trying to be more social media savvy, research and participate in more “calls for art,” be my own advocate, broaden my line while keeping my own style and am just trying to always make more art. I also really want to write, illustrate and publish a children’s book.  I have start to write and illustrate one but am not finished and am not sure of the whole publishing process.

 

Thanks so much for sharing what you do and answering all of my tough questions! I cant wait to share it with the world! 
Happy to do it!  Thanks for asking me!

 
So there you have it! Sarah of monster in the closet and Block21 Prints! Click to follow links to her Etsy shops monster in the closet & Block21 to purchase her art. Also, “Like’ her Facebook page to keep updated on her work. She can also be followed onPinterest, Twitter, Instagram. Check out her  Blog that has great how tos and behind the scenes post and Website!
 
 
 

Talking about myself gets SO old!

When thinking about writing some genius-ly funny and interesting blog post I had nothing. I realized however, I could interview some of my favorite fellow artist which would be far more interesting and genius to share with everyone! So I sent out a call for interviews and I will feature artist from time to time to get a look inside how and why they choose to create. Mind you, there may be some that don’t fall under the usual “artist” category in the sense of craft or trade but have businesses or go about things creatively. I can’t tell you how excited I am about getting these in!

 Here is a little sneak peak of a few:

 

       

         

       
If you are an artist or you know an artist who may be interested in being featured email me at 30silentmockingbirds@gmail.com