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Interview with Hollie Chastain: Artist and Treasure Hunter

Thursday, February 4, 2010 · 8 Comments

Hollie Chastain is a found paper and collage artist who pounds the pavement for the perfect (i.e. stained, ripped, doodle-covered) books and ephemera for her mixed media pieces. Her work is currently for sale at Nahcotta’s ETA 7 (one of her pieces was included in this week’s picks) and through her etsy shop, Dr. Kennedy Jones. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her husband and two children.

AH: Tell us a bit about your artistic process. Do you start with a specific idea for a piece or are you inspired by the found objects you use?

HC: It varies. Sometimes I will have a composition in mind and go scavenging for exactly what I feel is right for that particular piece.  Only about 10% of the time will the end result portray the initial idea exactly but if something has been hanging around in my mind for a long time, never changing, then i stick with it. The composition and subject for some of my pieces were imagined months before I stumbled across the perfect scrap of paper that it required. But most of the time i start with one really great sheet of paper or board and start building up, pulling shapes and ideas and characters from the different scribbles and splotches and colors i find. Some of my favorite pieces have started from nothing but a coffee-stained book cover and an amazing scrap of blue from a geography book that accidentally overlapped in a great way at the bottom of a crate.

AH: What inspires you to create?

HC: Oh man, so much! A shelf of random old junk in an antique shop where each item just seems to naturally fit with everything else as a whole, anthropomorphism, really brightly colored chipping paint on abandoned walls.  I’m drawn to natural textures and patterns caused from aging in any context but there is nothing like opening the cover on a textbook from the early 1900s and seeing water damage and speckled mold spots and scribbles. Music is a huge inspiration for me. I constantly have something on the ipod or stereo all the time especially when i’m working. and live music, of course. I come back from a show with lots of ideas. Most of all it’s simply people and the things they come up with when they’re only trying to entertain themselves and no one else. The silly and great things people do when they’re playing and exploring, moving from moment to moment with no end result in mind.

AH: Are you part of a local artist community?

HC: Chattanooga is a very creative city and in the last few years there have been many galleries and art spaces popping up especially in the downtown area, one being a fantastic handmade shop where I had a recent show. There is a passionate and wonderful community built around several nonprofit arts organizations dedicated to public art and bringing more creative individuals into the area. The opportunities to show work and experience others’ work are almost limitless. I have only been able to pursue my art full-time in the last year and also have two school-aged children at home so I’m slowly making my way in and experiencing as much of it all as I can!

AH: What’s the significance behind the name of your blog, Dr. Kennedy Jones?

HC: It’s a bit of a roundabout story. A few years ago I bought a sheet of handwritten prescriptions from the late 1800s that I just fell in love with. It’s full of this beautiful calligraphic writing that seems alien with symbols and abbreviations. In the upper right corner of one slip there is a square of symbols, measurements, that I loved more than anything else and had it tattooed on myself not too long after that. The design of it was just too perfect. Dr. Kennedy Jones is printed at the top of that particular slip and i started joking about how it would be the most wonderful alias. There is a great cadence to it. When it came time to name my Etsy shop I chose that as the title, after thinking of then rejecting names for four days, and the blog followed.

AH: You’re on etsy and flickr. What’s been your experience with these online communities and selling your work online?

HC: I’ve really had a great experience with both of these sites. A friend of mine just pointed out a great statement by the illustrator Frank Chimero about getting started as a creative, “You breadcrumb your audience along like Hansel and Gretel did, leading your fans along a trail of small bits of information and tiny, tasty morsels of output. It’s important that these tasty morsels have a clear point of view and a consistent flavor. Then, every once in a while, deliver a house of candy. Something big. A complete idea. Something lasting. A full thought.” This is so true and I think having the right network of platforms, in this case sites like Flickr, Etsy, etc, really makes this concept available and possible without devoting your life to marketing yourself. It’s a way for artists to shape a brand and look completely on their own and also be a part of a larger whole with other artists in the same field, with a similar vision, individuals that inspire and encourage each other. Etsy is such a wonderful starting point for artists. I have had great success so far with online sales through Etsy but also I have had many galleries and individuals contact me for showings and other events and jobs through my shop on Etsy that maybe they initially found through a blog or Flickr group.

Tags: People

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 belinda/gretchenmist // Feb 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    thanks for the interesting interview ~ it’s great to learn more about hollie 🙂
    i love her work.

  • 2 Janelle // Feb 5, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Hollie’s work is so gorgeous and I love the behind-the-scenes peek into her processes. Thanks for this!


  • 3 kelly // Feb 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    what a great interview! very engaging. i love hollie’s work so much and i’m lucky enough to have some of her pieces. i can’t say enough about how incredible they are in person; like a century-old storybook coming back alive.

  • 4 natalie // Feb 6, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    sweet interview. hollie’s art is beautiful and inspiring, and i loved reading what inspires her.

  • 5 Annamaria // Feb 9, 2010 at 12:56 am

    Thank you for this interview- I have been an admirer of Hollie’s artwork for a long time now- This is very inspiring-
    Annamaria 🙂

  • 6 Christina // Feb 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    This is a great interview and you have a fantastic blog, too!

  • 7 Mary @ FOUND // Feb 27, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    thanks for explaining the Dr. Kennedy Jones moniker – love the medical snippets on your web pages

  • 8 Hollie/The Dusty Caravan // Apr 4, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Great interview! I love the quote Hollie references by Frank Chimero, seems like pretty good advice to me : )

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